Space of exclusion: No women, no Dalits, no Janajatis in chief ministers of Nepal’s provinces

Experts say the tendency of the political parties to repeatedly undermine constitutional obligation to proportional inclusion could pose a threat to federalism itself.

Dhanu Bishwakarma

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Kathmandu: After the provincial assembly elections in November  last year, new provincial assemblies have elected chief ministers in all of the seven provinces. But none of the chief ministers are women, Dalits, Janajatis and those from the marginalized communities. All of them are males belonging to Nepal’s dominant high castes. 

Hikmat Karki has been appointed the CM of Province 1, Saroj Kumar Yadav of Madhesh province, Salikram Jamarkattel in Bagmati,  Khagaraj Adhikari in Gandaki, Lila Giri in Lumbini, Rajkumar Sharma in Karnali and Rajendra Singh Rawal in Sudur Paschim.

It’s men who run the show in all of the provinces.

This goes against ‘the proportional inclusive and participatory principles’ of the constitution. This also reflects the complete indifference of  political parties toward the inclusion when it comes to appointing members in top political posts.

Provincial leaders and cadres are unhappy with the way their leadership chooses high caste males in the provinces but they appear to be powerless to change the situation. Rana Singh Pariyar, provincial MP in Karnali from Maoist Center, says that there is a tendency in political parties only to pay lip service to proportional inclusion. “In talks, they talk about inclusion of all communities, castes, gender, geography. Why can’t they implement this in practice?” He said. “I cannot intervene personally and to intervene collectively we have no strength.”

Astha Laxmi Shakya, CPN-UML vice chair, served as the first women chief minister of Bagmati in 2021 for about three months. After the party split, Shakya had to resign. Shakya is of the opinion that leadership does not consider women qualified enough to become the chief minister.

This  happens, according to her, mainly because of the feudalistic and patriarchal mindset that still prevails among the leadership. “Women were at the forefront of the political movements, they suffered torture and they went to jail.  Why cannot they lead?” Shakya Said.  According to her it is unfortunate that none of the CMS are women. If this tendency continues, proportional inclusive and participatory principle itself will face a crisis, she said.

The reason behind all-male CMs in seven provinces is the result of the dominance of one-caste, one gender, one community in the political parties and their character of exclusion, says Rajendra Maharjan, writer and political commentator.  

“Federalism was adopted to ensure inclusive representation. The core principle of federalism is that the underrepresented should be represented.” he said.

According to him, political leadership picks CMs as he wishes, giving no consideration to the idea of inclusion. Maharjan also believes that if this tendency still continues,  it will put federalism and its true essence in crisis.  “This clearly indicates a threat to the spirit of inclusion,” he said.