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Political Parties And First-Phase Local Elections

Issue May 2017

Political Parties And First-Phase Local Elections

Siddhi B Ranjitkar


It is too early to say which party will be the first between NC and CPN-UML but one could confidently say the CPN-Maoist-Center has at least managed to secure its third position in the first phase elections. The political alliance did work in some areas, and it has also endured the betrayal of the partner in alliance. The Federal Social Forum-Nepal has anticipated winning certain seats but it has not, yet. Naya Shakti Party of Dr. Baburam Bhattarai has a single seat so far. The hardest hit party has been the RPP Mr. Kamal Thapa has led and he has anticipated winning a substantial number of seats even claiming for the third position.


The election results so far have shown that NC and CPN-UML have been neck and neck in winning the number of seats. It indicates that both parties have the deep-seated roots at the grassroots level or they might have selected the best candidates at the local level reading the minds of the local people. Most of the voters are for voting the best persons than the party persons. So, they could have succeeded to extract so many votes at the local level.


NC was in alliance with the Maoist-Center for the local elections, CPN-UML with RPP, Upendra/Ashok with Baburam. In how many cases, the alliance made at the center did wok remains to be seen but RPP has complained that CPN-UML betrayed the partner’s commitment to support each other. In some cases, the alliance probably did work, as the alliance candidates won the elections.


President of NC Mr. Sher Bahadur Deuba went to Chitwan to persuade his cadres to vote for the Maoist candidate. The NC candidate for the Mayor of Chitwan metropolitan refused to withdraw his nomination forcing President Deuba to send a letter to the chief of the local elections in Chitwan for withdrawing the nomination of his party to the mayor. The elections results in Chitwan have shown that NC voters did not vote for the Maoist candidate, as the Maoist candidate for the Mayor of Chitwan has been facing the challenge to keep up with the CPN-UML candidate. They have been running with a difference of a few votes only.


Neither the duo of Upendra and Ashok nor Baburam has been able to cash in the alliance they have forged to win the local elections. Baburam has suffered the defeat even in his home district: Gorkha. Upendra/Ashok also could not show any influence in the hills in the first phase elections. So, the alliance of the Upendra/Ashok party with that of Baburam has hardly worked in the local elections.


Most probably, Upendra knows that his new party set up in cooperation with Ashok will have a hard time to reach the voters in the hills; so, he has forged an alliance with Naya Shakti party of Dr Baburam Bhattarai. Their alliance did not work either because Upendra, Ashok, and then Baburam have been out of the touch with the grassroots level people. They must have lost the track of what the local voters want from the political party leadership.


Chairman of CPN-Maoist-Center and current Prime Minister Prachanda had once said that no matter whether his party would lose the elections or not he was sure to hold the local elections. So, the Maoist leadership has not high hope for the win of a large number of seats in the local elections. Even the third position for it might be the matter of great satisfaction given its current position of having a number of fractions that have rather opted to vote for some other parties than the Maoist-Center. It has at least not gone done from the previous third position it has secured in the second elections to the Constituent Assembly. That might be the satisfaction the Maoist-Center could draw from the local elections.


The Federal Social Forum-Nepal of Upendra Yadav and Ashok Rai probably has high expectation for winning a large number of ethnic votes, and to show the presence of their party in the hills. However, they could not materialize their expectation, as they did not have the grassroots level support for the party. Probably, most of the voters have not even heard of the name of this party.


Upendra has strayed a long way from his parent party to form a strong Madheshi People’s Rights Forum-Nepal and even managed to win a large number of votes during the first elections to the Constituent Assembly. Since then he has been falling down from his towering figure to a below ground level because of his not matured political maneuvers starting from immediately after the first elections to the Constituent Assembly.


Upendra’s partner Ashok Rai was one of the influential leaders of the CPN-UML. He quit the CPN-UML despite the top CPN-UML leaders trying to persuade him to stay on in the party, and he set up a new party called Federal Social Party.


As Upendra and Ashok, Baburam also has left his mother party: UCPN-Maoist for setting up his own new political party with the objective of taking the power in 2018. The goal was not a bad one but Baburam needed to match up his actions with his goal. Instead of having very dedicated cadres he assembled the political deadwoods that would rather rot than learning a new technique to make a new political party a success.


Baburam has been swimming upstream against the prevailing political current flowing so fast to a new direction. He was the most ambitious politician no doubt about that but he needed to have the capability to make his ambition come true. That was what he did not realize. Now, it has been too late for him to realize it. He had been at least a number two in the hierarchy of the Maoist party in the past and he had been the prime minister riding on the shoulders of Prachanda. Now, he is the boss of his party without much recognition from the voters.


Setting up a new party is not a game anybody could play with. However, political leaders having failed to understand their real capability often ventured to set up a new party only to fall in the political chasm.


Both Upendra and Ashok have the same political ideological background. So, they did not have difficulty to come closer and ultimately set up a common political party: the Federal Social Forum-Nepal. Upendra was to get elevated to a national leader from the regional Madheshi leader while Ashok was to have the access to the Madhesh area. However, that might work for both of them, as Upendra has been the political opportunist while Ashok has been the sincere political cadre that really wanted to work for the people. Both qualities are not sufficient to be a national leader.


Probably, Upendra did not find a common political language with his Madheshi colleagues of the United Madheshi Democratic Front that has been fighting for the rights and benefits for the Madheshi people. Upendra broke away from the United Madheshi Democratic Front to participate in the local elections as the newly formed Rastriya Janata Party of six Madheshi political parties did not want to take part in the local elections until the parliament passed the constitution amendment bill.


However, Upendra thought that these guys of the Madheshi front have no presence in the hills so they certainly would stay out of the elections in the name of not participating in the elections because of not passing the constitution amendment bill. It has certain truth but even Upendra also has no presence in the hills the election results have shown.


After the setting up of the threshold for the political parties to cross for getting recognition as national level political parties, small political parties have started off merging with the like-minded political parties. Rastriya Janata Party (RJP) is such a party of six Madheshi political parties making the party’s name sounds national.


Even though the RJP’s name sounds as a national one it has to make tremendous efforts to be so. Currently, it is still in Madhesh only. It has to climb to the hills, then cross them to reach the mountains to be really a national political party. How long it would take to do so remains to be seen.


So, it is natural, RJP did not participate in the first phase local elections as the elections have been mostly in the hills where it has no presence at all. RJP has correctly did not take part in the elections otherwise it would have been a laughingstock, and it would lose its stand on not participating in any election without the parliament passing the constitution amendment bill.


Chairman of Rastriya Prajatantra Party (RPP) Kamal Thapa tweeted that his party would accept the people’s verdict means the election results. He has no choice but to accept the election results. He had a great dream of moving his party from the fourth place at least to a third after the local elections. To this end, he had put his party RPP-Nepal and the mother party RPP together making it: the fourth largest party in the current parliament.


Most probably, his grand mistake might be pulling out of the government in protest against the coalition partners such as NC and Maoist-Center in the government for not consulting him before filing a motion to impeach the chief justice. It has served his ego but it has not served the interest of his party. His last minute alliance with the CPN-UML also proved to be a failure, and probably a political mistake, too. Thapa has become a political pendulum swinging from the coalition partners in the government to the opposition CPN-UML. Both parties mistrusted Thapa.


So, the current election results have adversely hit his party so mercilessly that the unified RPP might have been like one of other fringe political parties making his rivals breaking away from his party and setting up a new Unified RPP to laugh at Thapa to their satisfaction. Speaking to the anchor of the Radio Nepal morning program called “antar-sambad” on May 19, 2017, his rival Dr Prakash Chandra Lohani that broke away from his party to set up a new Unified RPP said that he had told Thapa that his political actions would ruin the party. To the most chagrin of Thapa, Lohani’s prophecy has probably come true.


Thapa’s political ideology has not been acceptable to the people the election results have shown. That might be the reason for the defeat of the RPP at the local elections. The results of the local elections have clearly indicated that voters want the water taps at their homes, rural roads in their villages, schools, health posts and centers. Obviously, voters did not care about what the political parties want to reinstate.


Kathmandu metropolitan city has seen two political clowns that have successfully garnering a significant number of swing votes and causing the embarrassment to the NC that has the deep-seated political roots in Kathmandu. One lady of Bibeksil party and another gentleman of the Sajha party have been collecting a number of votes even though they were no where near to grabbing the prestigious positions of Kathmandu mayor and deputy mayor. What they are doing in the elections is a total freak.


So, Thapa’s RPP as other political parties of Madheshis, Upendra and Ashok, and Baburam would be better off to focus on socio-economic development of Nepalese if they really want to stay on in the mainstream of the Nepalese politics. This is the message the local elections have sent if they really want to understand it. For example, a newly elected chief of a village council in the outskirts of Kathmandu has immediately after taking the oath of office, signed off a document to connect every home with a water tap, according to the local media..


Most of the fringe political parties have a chance of getting to be extinct if they were not able to cross the threshold set up for them to be national political parties. They have to secure at least three percent of the total votes to remain in the political race. The time of a one-man political party has gone. The politics of the fast economic development has begun. Political leaders need to understand it if they want to continue to be in the mainstream politics.


May 19, 2017

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