The revolt, betrayal and realignment that took place on the eve of filing the candidacy for the federal and provincial elections slated for next month are sure to deliver unpredictable electoral shocks to the political parties.
The ruling alliance has set itself against the CPN-UML led alliances, making the poll contest fierce and exciting. But, formation of apolitical alliances just for the electoral gains has exposed parties’ deep-seated power-centric penchant and underestimated value-based politics. The unethical poll pacts do not only fuel people’s disenchantment with the federal republic but also turn upside down the much-touted democratic nation-building process.
The UML’s poll alliance with Janata Samajbadi Party (JSP) and Rastriya Prajatantra Party has surprised the political spectrum. By bringing the JSP into the fold, UML chair KP Sharma Oli has finally succeeded to break the alliance but it came with a cost. The party’s co-in charge of Madhes Province Prabhu Shah has deserted it, protesting the alliance with the JSP.
Shah ditched the party’s ticket to contest the poll and filed candidacy as an independent candidate in Rautahat district. Shah has been accusing JSP chair Upendra Yadav of sowing the seed of ethnic conflict between the Madhesis and hill-origin people through the Madhes movement.
This is a blow to party chairman KP Sharma Oli, who wanted to employ former Maoist leader as a political pawn to clip the wing of his number one nemesis - Madhav Kumar Nepal, who is now standing in the poll from Rautahat, his hometown district. The political observers view UML-JSP alliance as height of political opportunism because there is no rhyme or rhythm to it from ideological point of view.
The UML has been describing JSP as ‘communal’ and ‘reactionary’ force. On the other hand, Yadav always derides Oli as regressive, anti-federalist, anti-republican and anti-inclusive leader.
When UML had sought support from JSP to form the government in the aftermath of the split of the then NCP and collapse of its government, Yadav had called for the removal of UML from power and forming a pro-federalist and pro-republican government under the leadership of the Nepali Congress. Yadav himself was at the forefront of ‘anti-regression’ movement after the dissolution of House of Representatives by Oli himself.
Ironically, both Oli and Yadav have teamed up against the ruling alliance in the election. This shows anything is possible in politics but the leaders must not forget that the deals struck to make short-term goals by dumping the party’s stand and policy will erode its image and support base in the long-term.
Ahead of the crucial polls, the UML suffered desertion and rebellion of its high-profile stalwarts. Standing Committee member Ghanashyam Bhusal has quit the party after his two-year nasty intra-party fight with chairman Oli. When he was denied the poll ticket from Rupandehi, it was the last straw that broke the camel’s back. “With a hope and faith of reinstating the UML glory, I have been struggling to establish principle and method in the party by tolerating extreme insult and discrimination ... I decided to leave the party for which I spent all my energy for 45 years after I saw no possibility of reinstating principle and system, and couldn’t be sincere to the left movement and myself under the present leadership,” he wrote on his Facebook page.
Bhusal, who is contesting the poll as an independent with the backing of ruling alliance, has been holding a different view in the party after Oli unconstitutionally dissolved the lower house. However, he is known as an ideologue inside the party and credited to have added vigour to it with his critical ideological discourse at the crucial moments of party life.
Its 9th convention had endorsed Bhusal's political and ideological programme and elected Oli as the new chairman. Bhusal had refused to join Madhav Kumar Nepal, who led a splinter and formed CPN-Unified Socialist. He was one of the architects of the 10-point agreement that had saved the UML from further damage but many of das bunde wallas (followers of 10-point) were not given their due in the distribution of poll tickets. In Bhusal's exit, the UML forfeits critical voice and risks turning into an ideologically barren entity.
However, Bhim Rawal, another drafter of the 10-point accord, has decided to remain within the party although he was denied a ticket in Achham where his candidacy was unanimously approved.
By making public a 20-point charge sheet against Oli, Rawal insisted that the country began to plunge into political crisis following the meeting of Indian intelligence chief with former prime minister Oli. As Rawal's serious allegations are likely to hit the UML' electoral prospect so the latter requires clarifying them.
While the UML veterans like Rawal and Bhusal have been deprived of poll ticket, a host of non-UML leaders - Kamal Thapa, Ek Nath Dhakal and Hridayesh Tripathi - have jumped UML's bandwagon to secure their political future. Thapa, chairman of pro-Hindu Rastriya Prajatantra Party-Nepal (RPP-Nepal), is fighting election for the HoR member from Makawanpur on UML's poll symbol – Sun.
Interestingly, Thapa has discarded the poll symbol of his own party – arrow - and decided to stand in the polls on UML's symbol. This sort of incongruous practice is rarely seen in parliamentary democracy. Dhakal, who heads a controversial organisation working to promote Christianity in Nepal, has made it to the UML's proportional representation list submitted to the Election Commission.
Voting is not just one-day ritual but a moment to overcome malaise that hampers the consolidation of democracy and good governance. Electorates need to demonstrate their wisdom and make informed decision through the ballot.
In the upcoming elections, they must not shy away from teaching a lesson to the politicians who often berate basic democratic norms and play flippancy towards the popular sovereignty enshrined in the constitution.
(The author is Deputy Executive editor of this daily.)