Lahan Municipality: Misuse of authority upon possession of majority
What if a Mayor possessing a majority, misuses his power by wronging his adversaries at a time when people and parties concerned have control over their own affairs? Lahan Municipality is one such example of misuse of power. UML-Maoist alliance has discriminated in allocating budget to the wards where they have lost the elections.
Surendra Kumar Kamati: Centre for Investigative Journalism-Nepal
Mayor of Siraha’s Lahan Municipality, Munni Sah, has been discriminatory in disbursing budget to the wards on the basis of political proclivity. He has been accused of being compassionately generous to the wards led by CPN-UML chairpersons while he is tightfisted towards the wards led by other party chairpersons. A meeting of the municipality had, on January 25, 2018, endorsed a total budget of Rs. 1 arab 47 crores for the municipality.
As a gesture of discrimination, Sah has allocated a budget of 25 to 65 lakhs to the wards headed by UML and Maoist chairpersons while the wards led by Nepali Congress and Sanghiya Samajbadi Forum have received Rs. 5 to 20 lakhs.
Chairman of Lahan Municipality ward-7, Rakesh Roshan Gupta alleges Mayor Sah of being guided by political prejudice while allocating budget. Gupta, who was elected from Sanghiya Samajbadi Forum, said, “This is discriminatory. Allocating budget on the basis of political ideology is unfair.”
However, brushing aside allegations, Mayor Sah defended his move saying that the allocation of the budget was according to the recommendations of ward committees. “The disbursement has been made analyzing the geography and necessity of the wards.” He said that wards such as 6, 7 and 8, which are market-places, received Rs 5 to 10 lakhs. He, however, preferred to remain silent about the allocation of budget for the ward no 5, which too, is a market-place and has a UML Chairperson.
The municipality has not allocated sufficient budget for the wards, including 15 and 16, which are underdeveloped and inaccessible, mainly because these wards do not have UML Chairpersons. Mayor Sah has allocated 20 and 15 lakhs respectively for these wards, which have Nepali Congress Chairpersons. Meanwhile, adjacent to these wards are Govindapur, ward no 17 and Bhadaiya, ward no 18, which have, however, received Rs 50 and 45 lakhs respectively merely because the ward chairs of these wards represent the UML party. All these wards, which fall near the Chure range, have similar population and geographical features. In some cases, wards getting more budgets are populated. According to 2068 BS National Census, ward number 15, which received Rs 20 lakhs, has a population of 4,841 while the ward no 17, which received Rs. 50 lakhs, has only 3,146.
Mayor Sah has allocated a budget of Rs. 50 lakhs for his ward, which is no 5 and has a UML chairperson. However, wards 4 and 6, which are adjacent to the ward no. 5, have been allocated Rs. 10 and 5 lakhs respectively. In fact, his ward gets the highest budget of Rs 50 lakhs. Among the 24 wards in Lahan Municipality, 11 wards have been swept by Left Alliance candidates in the local elections.
A meeting of the Lahan Municipality City Council on January 25, 2018, had unilaterally endorsed the budget citing “majority” of Left Alliance despite other political party representatives’ dissatisfaction. Fourteen representatives of different parties, other than UML and Maoist, boycotted the City Council citing inappropriate allocation of budget. As a follow-up approach, the disgruntled representatives on January 28, 2018, drew the attention of Ratneswalal Kayastha, Governor of Province 2 about the issue of inappropriate disbursement of the budget on the basis of ‘political bias’. The letter addressed to Kayastha has alleged Mayor Sah of ‘inciting politics of vengeance’ by infringing the democratic norms and values. However, no concrete measures have been taken so far.
Twenty members of the 34-member municipality are in favor of Mayor Sah and Deputy Mayor Sariyar Chaudhary. Sariya is also a CPN-UML representative. Nepali Congress leader and Ward 6 Chairperson, Arun KC said, “This is a ploy to defame us before the people to portray that we could not work for them. Despite my proposal of more than crore rupees for my ward, the ward received Rs. 5 lakhs only.”
Likewise, Bijaya Mahato, chairperson of ward no 8 who represents Sanghiya Samajbadi Forum, alleged Mayor Sah of being discriminatory while allocating budget. “Sah is hell-bent on defaming us to prove that we could not work. This is also meant at alluring voters towards UML party.”
Rakesh Roshan Gupta, Chairperson, ward 7 came down heavily on Mayor Sah of fixing a budget ceiling on the basis of political ideology. “This is discriminatory,” he said accusing the mayor of making unilateral decisions by ignoring opponent’s views.
Chairperson of ward no 16, Gadul Bahadur Jarghamagar of Nepali Congress, also came down heavily on Mayor Sah of being prejudiced in budget allocation. “Despite geographical remoteness and its size, our ward has been discriminated,” he complained.
However, those getting comparatively better budget too are dissatisfied with the allocation of budget terming it as insufficient for the development of their respective wards. UML representative, Kamal Dev Yadav, Chairperson of ward no 24 said, “The budget that we have been allocated is insufficient.” His ward has been allocated a budget of Rs. 65 lakhs.
Lahan Municipality budget politics
|Ward no.||Household||Population||Female||Male||Budget Ceiling||Victorious Party|
|Lahan 1||950||4951||2504||2446||10 lakhs||Congress|
|Lahan 2||475||2509||1266||1243||10 lakhs||Congress|
|Lahan 3||845||4411||2263||2148||10 lakhs||Congress|
|Lahan 4||823||4360||2281||2079||10 lakhs||Sanghiya Forum|
|Lahan 5||905||4443||2316||2127||50 lakhs||UML|
|Lahan 6||537||2688||1387||1301||5 lakhs||Congress|
|Lahan 7||456||2346||1254||1092||5 lakhs||Sanghiya Forum|
|Lahan 8||540||2940||1529||1411||10 lakhs||Sanghiya Forum|
|Lahan 9||398||2172||1040||1132||30 lakhs||UML|
|Lahan 10||550||2833||1446||1387||30 lakhs||UML|
|Lahan 11||541||2885||1284||1601||40 lakhs||UML|
|Lahan 12||606||3188||1547||1641||20 lakhs||Congress|
|Lahan 13||752||4042||1950||2092||25 lakhs||UML|
|Lahan 14||406||2319||1178||1141||20 lakhs||Congress|
|Lahan 15||979||4881||2370||2511||20 lakhs||Congress|
|Lahan 16||474||2441||1173||1278||15 lakhs||Congress|
|Lahan 17||576||3143||1537||1606||50 lakhs||UML|
|Lahan 18||1017||5739||2730||3009||45 lakhs||UML|
|Lahan 19||745||4449||2157||2292||4o lakhs||UML|
|Lahan 20||676||3470||1709||1761||40 lakhs||Maoist Center|
|Lahan 21||740||3796||1838||1958||40 lakhs||Maoist Center|
|Lahan 22||993||5673||2800||2873||15 lakhs||Sanghiya Forum|
|Lahan 23||878||4788||2288||2500||15 lakhs||Congress|
|Lahan 24||1320||7289||3668||3621||65 lakhs||UML|
Source: National Census Survey 2011 and Lahan Municipality Office, Siraha (FY 2074/075 Annual Policy, Program and Budget Book, Pg 37/38)
Other municipalities of Siraha have, however, maintained uniformity in allocating budget to the wards.
Budget allocated by 7 other municipalities of the district to the wards
|S. No:||Municipality||No. of wards||Allocated budget|
|1||Siraha Municipality||22||82 lakhs|
|6||Kalyanpur Jabdi||12||86 lakhs 50 thousand|
Source: Municipality/Village Municipalities’ Annual Policy, Programs and Budget Book for FY 2074/075)
Municipal Assembly power-sharing
The Left Alliance has 20 members, including Mayor, Deputy Mayor, 11 ward chairpersons and 7 elected executive members in the 34-member Lahan Municipality. Nepali Congress and Sanghiya Samajbasi Forum have 14 members in the municipality. Likewise, out of the total 125-member Municipal Assembly, the Left Alliance has 67 members, while Nepali Congress and Forum have only 58 members making it easier for the Mayor to make unilateral decisions on the basis of majority. The meeting of the Municipality has not been held for the last two months because of the protest from the Congress and Forum members.
Municipal Assembly Structure
|Dalit Nominated Members||11||6||5||2|
|Elected Municipality Members||2||1|
Source: Election Commission
CPN-UML’s Munni Sah and Sariyar Chaudhary were elected to the post of Mayor and Deputy Mayor in the Asoj 2 third phase of local elections. Among the 24 wards, 9 UML, 9 Nepali Congress, 4 Sanghiya Samajbadi Forum, and 2 Maoist Center representatives were elected as ward chairpersons.