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Claims and Counter Claims

Issue 11, March 16, 2008

By Siddhi B. Ranjitkar

Most of the Nepalese political leaders make claims and counter claims that they will win the majority seats in the Constituent Assembly (CA) out of the blue. Regular Nepalis have hard time to believe them, as their statements do not base on the scientific opinion poll rather on the hearsay. Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala had to suffer the defeat in the mid-term election he called in 1994 based on the assessment of his sycophants that his party would have a landslide victory. The current practice of some political leaders of boasting of their victory is either based on the results of the past elections or on the regular feedback of the local leaders that do so without making any opinion poll.

On Friday, March 07, 2008, addressing an election rally in Kathmandu, Nepali Congress (NC) Vice President Prakash Man Singh claimed if his party would not win the majority seats in the upcoming election for a CA, the new constitution and the federal republic in the making would not be strong. However, he failed to describe how his party would craft a strong constitution and make a federal republic strong. As everybody knows, he also knows that majority of the older generation of his party leaders want to keep the monarchy in one form or another. Contrary to his claim for making a federal republic if his party wins majority seats in the CA, they certainly will prevent others from making Nepal a republic.

While talking to the reporters in his hometown Biratnagar on March 08, 2008, Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala claimed that his party NC would get all the Madheshi votes; he also said that all those leaders leaving his party would need to regret, as they would not get what they have been getting from his party. Prime Minister Koirala said that the position of his party has not weakened even after a number of senior leaders of the Madhesh origin have quit the party, and joined the Madheshi party.

A number of NC leaders of the Madheshi origin have left the NC, as the lice leave a dead body. They joined the Madheshi People’s Rights Forum, as they did not see any future of staying on the NC. The NC has been antagonistic to the Madheshis’ needs and ideals. So, they believe that this time Madheshis are not going to vote for the NC candidates. Daughter of the Prime Minister and Minister without portfolio Sujata Koirala has a good chance of losing the election not to mention other candidates. Probably, other Madheshi candidates of the NC will share her fate.

You like it or not the rebel leaders quitting the NC party have badly hit the chance of the NC winning the number of seats in the election for a CA. On March 09, 2008, senior NC leader and Former Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba insisted the NC leaders rebelling against the NC and filing their names for the candidates for the seats in the CA on taking out their candidature. Former Prime Minister Deuba admitted the mistake of his party for not giving nominations to competent colleagues. He also assured them of giving them the positions of responsibilities in the party in the future.

Some leaders of the Communist party of Nepal-Unified Marxist and Leninist (CPN-UML) assert that the CPN-UML will sweep the Kathmandu Valley in the election for a CA to be held on April 10, 2008. Their claims must have been based on the results of the elections held in 1994, and 1999. It has been 14 years since the CPN-UML won the majority seats in the then House of Representatives. During this period, the CPN-UML has not been able to do something significant to impress the new first-time voters, as most of the young boys and girls of 1994 must have been eligible for voting this time.

Certainly, the CPN-UML will win a few seats out of the 15-CA seats allocated to the Kathmandu Valley but not all the seats. It won’t come as a surprise if the CPN-UML does badly in the Kathmandu Valley in the upcoming election for a CA. The poor performances of the CPN-UML in its minority government in 1994, and then the coalition government with the Rastriya Prjatantra Party (RPP) in 1997 have disillusioned most of the sympathizers of the CPN-UML and revelers of the victory of the CPN-UML in the past elections. So, most of them have already turned their back on the CPN-UML. It is highly likely that their assessment of sweeping the Kathmandu Valley in the upcoming election for a CA will not come true.

On March 08, 2008, Chairman of the CPN-Maoist Prachanda regrets for not having able to forge an electoral alliance among the left parties particularly with the CPN-UML, and he thinks that the Nepalese people’s aspirations demonstrated in the movement in April 2006 will be difficult to materialize if the left parties do not forge an alliance. He said that the left alliance could secure a two-third majority in the CA, and craft a new constitution of Nepal as desired by the Nepalese people if the left parties could forge an electoral alliance.

Chairman Prachanda failed to understand that he would have the company of the like-minded politicians elected from among the Madheshi community, ethnic groups, and other under privileged people in the to-be-elected CA. He also forgot that the Nepalese people have already materialize two major things such as the federal republic and the proportional representation of all Nepalis in the state agencies following the declaration of Nepal a republic by the Interim Legislature-parliament on December 29, 2007, and by the agreement between the Government of Nepal and the United Democratic Madheshi Front signed on February 28, 2008.

Some small political parties such as Nepal Workers’ and Peasants’ Party (NWPP), CPN-United, and Janamorcha have been against making Nepal a federal state saying it will lead Nepal to disintegration. So, only the members of the seven-party alliance might deviate from making Nepal a federal and democratic republic, and might fail in meeting the Nepalese people’s aspirations. If they do so, Nepalis will need to go for another revolution to sweep away all such political parties and then materialize their aspirations.

Chairman Prachanda also said the upcoming CA election poses a greater challenge to his party than the decade-long people’s war. He also once said that the peaceful negotiations with other political parties are more difficult than the people’s war. The Maoists have realized that practicing the peaceful politics has been more challenging to his party than the use of forces for achieving their goals. Thus, the Maoists have understood the realities of the situation more than the leaders of other political parties.

General Secretary of the CPN-UML Madhav Kumar Nepal said that all political parties have been competing for their majority in the CA election; there would not be the possibility of entering into any electoral alliance with any political party. He also said that his party would not turn over the seats the CPN-UML was sure to win to others. Another leader of the CPN-UML Krishna Gopal Shrestha claimed that the Kathmandu constituency number 10 is a fortress of the CPN-UML; so, it does not need an alliance with any other party for winning the election in this constituency. It remains to be seen how the CPN-UML will fare in the upcoming CA election.

On Tuesday, March 11, 2008, talking to the reporters before returning to Kathmandu from his hometown Biratnagar, Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala said that the government was ready to talk with any protesting group but the government would not call them for talks. He also said that nobody could disrupt the election for a CA; the security situation has improved in Madhesh after setting up a special task force there. Prime Minister Koirala issued a warning note of taking a strong action against anybody that would attempt to take the law in his/her hand to foil the elections. Such a statement made by the Acting Head of State and Prime Minister would provoke the armed groups in Terai to engage in bitter violence to disrupt the upcoming CA election.  Prime Minister Koirala had been a failure in the past due to such an absurd statement.

Chief of Terai Madhesh Loktantrik Party (TMLP) and one of the leaders of the United Democratic Madheshi Front (UDMF) Mahantha Thakur expressed surprise that Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala made the remarks on not holding any dialogue with the armed Terai groups. He said that it would be a breach of the eight-point agreement the government signed with the UDMF on February 28, 2008; and such actions would cause uncertainty of the election for a CA. The article six of the eight-point agreement says that the Government of Nepal and the UDMF urge all the protesting armed groups in Terai on holding talks for a peaceful political process and for resolving all problems through talks peacefully; to this end, the Government of Nepal will immediately take necessary steps to create an environment conducive to talks.

Political leaders have been making claims and counter claims for the victory in the upcoming election for a CA. No agency is holding any nation wide opinion polls; so, it is hard to tell whose claim comes true. However, one thing is clear that Nepalese voters have been more aware of the performances of the political leaders and their parties than used to be. So, none of the political parties would be able to trick the Nepalese voters to vote for them. The voters will make judgment based on whether the political parties are pro-people or pro-somebody else, for change or for status quo.

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