My paper investigates the reality of participation politics in local level planning process in Nepal’s lowest government units, namely the Municipalities (Nagarpalika) and Rural Municipalities (Gaupalika). The research findings underscore the presence of tokenism in the name of inclusive federal policies. The paper addresses the following question: is inclusion in political leadership enough to ensure participation of local population in the planning process? The analysis focuses on the structure and function of Nepal’s decentralized planning process, which is being implemented since the country has been declared a federal nation. It is a process led by local elected leaders to plan development programs and policies through inclusive participation. The study underlines the challenges of participation, whether it be listing demands at grassroots level or decision-making at the municipal level. The research is a qualitative case study conducted within two newly structured local units: the Dhanushadham and Benighat Rorang municipalities, located in the Dhanusha and Dhading districts respectively and characterized by very different socio-political and economic situations. The findings of the paper are based on semi-structured interviews and observations in selected local units.

The paper inspects the socio-political factors that impact participation in planning process and examines different patterns of participation in various local contexts. It questions the planners’ capacity to ensure engagement of settlement population in the planning process, while highlighting the relationship between the political leaders and bureaucrats and its effect on planning process. This study strives to evaluate and analyze the effect of the changes brought about by post-war federalism on the mobilization of resources.