A spate of bomb attacks in the past few days on candidates for the federal and provincial elections are suggestive of a few troubling trends. One is the extent of criminalization of Nepali politics, as election candidates are increasingly relying on all kinds of tactics, fair and foul, to win. They extract big donations from rich businessmen for lavish feasts for their cadres and prospective voters. If they cannot put together at least a few million rupees, they cannot be elected a municipal chief, forget booking a ticket to the federal parliament. Anecdotal evidence suggests they also increasingly rely on goons to prevent certain parties and candidates from campaigning freely. Given that all kind of criminally-minded people have gotten election tickets this time, it is not farfetched to assume that at least some of them would look to physically harm their chief competitors. The only way to know for sure is for the police to apprehend the culprits. But it will not be easy. All these goons have, more often than not, ironclad political protection. Without a thorough clean-up of our dirty political culture, improvement on this front will be hard, and it is not something that can be achieved overnight.
The other way to make sense of the recent bombings during election campaigns of leaders like Narayan Kaji Shrestha, Sherdhan Rai, Ram Saran Mahat and during some other political rallies is to link them with those whose interests will be best served by putting off the elections. Some political forces like Netra Bikram Chand’s Nepal Communist Party, those advocating for secession of certain territories in Nepal and those who want to revive monarchy and Hindu state are the chief suspects. Yes, in a democracy, anyone can protest. But no one has the right to use violence. Likewise, if certain elements don’t like some parts of the new constitution, they again have the right to protest. But if they are actively trying to undermine the sanctity of the sovereign constitution, by disrupting the elections stipulated therein for example, they deserve no mercy. Nepal has traditionally witnessed some violence before every important election, and it has been no different this time. But if a big-ticket candidate were to now be injured, or worse, in one of the bombings, the resulting chaos will be hard to manage. In fact, this is exactly what some vested interests want.
This is why it is up to the big political parties, primarily the Big Three, which have together shepherded all post-2006 progressive changes, not to give these destabilizing elements a chance to expand their influence, by keeping their election campaign within civil bounds for instance. If those responsible for the bombings in the past few days are quickly apprehended and jailed, they will act as a big deterrent for other likeminded criminals. The Election Commission also has a vital role, of strictly implementing election code. The security agencies must also be on high alert. The upcoming elections are not something that can be done by one or two state entities. Successful election will entail a coordinated effort of all those who believe in the democratic process.