Lahan Municipality: Misuse of authority upon possession of majority

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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.”

Munni Shah, Mayor, Lahan  Municipality

“Geography and situation of all wards are nonidentical, therefore budgets are allocated without mistakes.” 

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
2 Mirchaya 12 70 lakhs
3 Golbazar 13 50 lakhs
4 Sukhipur 10 82 lakhs
5 Dhangadimai 14 50 lakhs
6 Kalyanpur Jabdi 12 86 lakhs 50 thousand
7 Karjanya 11 32 lakhs

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

Post UML Congress S.S. Forum Maoist
Mayor 1      
Dy. Mayor 1      
Ward Chairperson 9 9 4 2
In. Members 22 14 9 3
Female members 11 6 5 2
Dalit Nominated Members 11 6 5 2
Elected Municipality Members 2     1
Total 57 35 23 10

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.

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