A real estate dealer in Kaski has knocked on the door of every NC leader to try to get a ticket to run in provincial elections next month. Still, he is not sure of success so now he’s relying on a political fixer. The middleman is demanding a stash of cash to get him a ticket, and the man is ready to pay the lobbyist any amount for the chance to run in elections. Also in Kaski is a labour recruiter who is similarly willing to pay any amount to convince party leaders to make him a candidate. The process of criminalising politics and politicizing crime is rife as elections near.
This must be why NC leader Ram Chandra Poudel said money politics was destroying Nepal’s democracy. “We must be able to hold elections for a minimum cost, otherwise cash will finish off not just leaders and cadre with integrity and principles, but democracy itself.”
These days all parties, big and small — including the Maoist-Centre, NC and UML — are busy distributing tickets. There is pressure to change the list of candidates before Sunday’s deadline. An NC leader told Kantipur: “It is the well-heeled who have access to the leaders: honest cadre who have sacrificed for the party are not getting the attention they deserve. If tickets are sold for money the party’s ideology will slowly vanish.”
NC supporters say proof of the criminalization of politics is their own party appointing Khum Bahadur Khadga, who was jailed for corruption, to lead a parliamentary committee, and the UML giving known gang leader Diupak Manange a ticket.
More than 800 candidates will be running for provincial and parliamentary elections. There will be another 59 MPs in the Upper House. The trend towards buying nomination tickets is greater now than in the last polls. Earlier, it was PR seats that were up for sale. This time, because there are fewer PR seats and a 33% female quota, money politics has infected directly-elected candidates as well.
Janakpur intellectual Bhogendra Jha says “money, muscle and caste” is driving the nomination process.