Unequal representation in Nepalese politics


It is a fact that high caste male politicians, typically with a higher level of income and education, are over-represented in all representative bodies, as well as in the bureaucracy. An old study from the 1980s shows that this is, of course, not a new pattern. It’s part and parcel of Nepal’s political history (Seddon, 1987, p. 232ff). This fact is also central to a book by Dor Bahadur Bista much cited on this issue, “Fatalism and Development”, which is all about the dominance of one of the high castes, the Brahmins (Bista, 1989).

How over-represented are the high castes? Well, UNDP counted the numbers at different levels of government in the late 1990s. Sure enough, at DDC and VDC level high castes and locally or historically privileged castes and ethnic groups were over-represented. Not least, around 60 precent of all DDC Chairmen and VDC Chairmen were Brahmins or Chhetris while constituting only around 30-35 percent of the population. If excluding women, who were are all but absent at these levels, it would be half of that – arond 15 percent. Check out the data on pages 143-146 in the UNDP Human Development Report 1998.

High caste males remain over-represented while notably the lower castes and traditionally excluded ethnic groups are under-represented in all representative institutions in Nepal. This is also discussed in more recent UNDP Human Development Reports (2001, 2004, and 2009) as well as in many other reports and papers. Check out, for instance, Forms and Patterns of Social Discrimination in Nepal (2006), Caste-based Discrimination in South Asia: A Study on Nepal (2008), a local case study (2007), and a World Bank paper (2005).

Book references above:

Seddon, David, 1987, Nepal – a State Of Poverty, New Delhi, Vikas Publishing House PVT LTD.

Bista, Dor Bahadur, 1991, Fatalism and Development – Nepal’s Struggle for Modernization, Calcutta, Orient Longman Limited

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