On February 20 when the Pushpa Kamal Dahal led government announced local elections after a hiatus of nearly 20 years, the whole nation sprang up in joy. Like many others, locals of Khotang district too could not wait to exercise their voting rights in the polls originally scheduled for May 14. To their disappointment, the government then decided to hold polls in two phases – on May 14 and June 14, with Khotang also falling in the second phase. After severe objection from the Madhes-based parties, the government, on April 23, again postponed the polls date for the second round in an apparent bid to bring the agitating parties on board. According to the latest schedule the polls are now slated for June 28. But locals of Khotang are disappointed with the date as it falls during peak paddy plantation season.
Voicing his disappointment, Sangram Rai, a youth farmer of Sakela Rural Municipality-1, said many farmers in his area would not be able to exercise their voting right – an integral part of democracy. “Most of us will not be able to cast votes as we cannot skip our agricultural works, on which our livelihoods depend,” said a displeased Rai, who is also operator of Dadakharka Multi-purpose Agriculture Center.
“Although some might manage to caste their votes, many of us won’t be able to do so,” he added.