22-28 November 2013 #682

Should we care?

Milan Timilsina, Ujyaaloonline.com, 17 November

After Dasain and Tihar, the country’s third biggest festival is right around the corner: elections for a second constituent assembly. The government, Election Commission, political parties, and organisations have been trying very hard to get Nepalis to participate in the festivities. And the campaigns seem to be paying off as throngs of people are heading home despite the transportation strike called by the 33-poll opposing parties, spearheaded by Mohan Baidya’s CPN-M.

But while hundreds continue to take dangerous bus rides home amidst acts of terror, there are many in the capital who have opted not to partake in elections this time. Most of them are daily-wage earners who say they are not opposing the elections, but are simply not in the mood to cast ballots. Some say their dissatisfaction with the previous CA to draft a constitution is the cause for their disinterest, while others don’t want to take risks during the strikes and bear the extra expense of travelling back home to vote.

Twenty-year olds Krishna Rana and Purna Pariyar of Surkhet came to Kathmandu two years ago in search of work. The two earn just enough to make ends meet and are now looking to migrate abroad for employment. Even though many of their friends from their village have returned home to vote, Rana and Pariyar are staying back. “We didn’t want to vote, that’s why we didn’t even bother registering for our voter cards,” say both friends.

Prakash Shahi, 23, of Dang has never voted in his life. And he never felt the urge to register for the new voter’s ID. “The politics of this country has left me frustrated. I feel like it won’t matter who I vote for. They are all the same,” he explains.

Sita Lama and Ramila Thakuri of Kabhre make a living running a small roadside shop in Jawalakhel. Like the rest of the nation, election fever has gripped the two. Both are eager to reach their village on time for polls, but are clueless as to how to get there during the strike. “There are very few buses plying on the road and those that are, are being targeted by bombs. Although we want to vote, we don’t want to risk our lives,” they say.

For the past 30 years, Indra Bahadur Maharjan of Siddhipur has been working as a gardener in Tribhuvan University. The 62-year-old is not a keen follower of politics and says he is undecided as to who to vote for. “On the day of election, I will get up early, go to my polling booth, look at the list of candidates, and whoever I like best at that moment, I will cast my vote for them,” he says.

Sixty-one-year old Mankumari Thapa of Kusunti, Lalitpur has been a footpath vendor for the past 29 years. Thapa has witnessed tremendous transformations in her neighbourhood, city, and country, but no matter which party is in power, her condition has remained the same. “Nobody seems to care about the poor, those on the footpath always seem to stay there,” she laments. “My vote will go to the candidate who genuinely cares for poor Nepalis.” Although she is bitter about political leaders, she still manages to muster some enthusiasm for the upcoming polls: “Let’s see what happens this time.”

It has been 20 years since Ganga Dhakal of Dolakha first moved to Kathmandu. Since then she has been living in a rented apartment with her family. The money that she makes selling nanglos is just enough to pay rent. Although Dhakal would love nothing better than to make use of her vote, she cannot afford the Rs 500 bus ticket to her hometown and won’t get to exercise her democratic right.   

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