When in deep water, political parties often resort to political gimmicks to keep their public support intact and their cadres in high morale. Major political parties have engaged in what they have dubbed awareness-raising campaigns against elements and groups that have tried to derail the governance system the nation has embraced through the successful culmination of several revolutions. Although the parties assert that they have undertaken awareness campaigns, some analysts characterise these efforts as these parties' Mission 84, referring to the general elections scheduled for four years from now in 2027.
The true measure of all political parties and their leaders' worth is the five-year periodic election for a new parliament, which coincides with province assembly elections in federal democratic Nepal. Parties, as some examples demonstrate, will stop at nothing to sway and appease people to secure as many seats in provincial and legislative assemblies as possible, since the number of representatives determines access to the trappings of power. This seems to be the main reason behind the current nationwide campaigns that a number of political parties have launched.
As part of its countrywide campaign entitled, Jhulaghat-Chiwabhanjyang: Resolution Journey for Prosperity, the main opposition, the CPN-UML, has been holding rallies and meetings with the participation of its chair and other high-ranking figures. In his speeches, chair KP Sharma Oli has come down heavily on the present coalition administration, the pro-royalists, and the misuse of social media by certain groups to undermine the present system of governance. Meanwhile, Rabi Lamichachane's Rastriya Swatantra Party (RSP) also launched its campaign by extending outreach into the Madhes region, where the party is still attempting to find a foothold. The leader of the RSP and a few party members have gone to many foreign countries where a significant number of Nepali migrant workers currently reside following their campaign in Madhes. These acts suggest that the RSP desires to achieve a positive outcome during the next elections.
Meanwhile, in an effort to strengthen its standing with voters, the Nepali Congress, the largest party in parliament, has organised the "Congress Amidst Communities" programme. A few months ago, it implemented an organisational building initiative to lift the spirits of party workers and keep a hold on its voters. Similar to this, the CPN-Maoist Centre has been running the "Maoist with People: Special Transformation Campaign," while the Janata Samajwadi Party, which is mostly headquartered in Madhes, has recently launched campaigns in hilly regions to strengthen its position there. At various points, the CPN (Unified Socialist) and other political parties are running their campaigns. A number of these parties' top officials have also made door-to-door visits to gather information about the state of the populace.
Why are these awareness initiatives happening now? It is obvious that major political parties, on either side of the aisle, have been afraid of certain organisations' ascent because of the way they have conducted their movements, which they have labelled as regressive ones. The main parties have stepped up their efforts to combat these forces by raising "awareness among the people" about those who seek to undermine the gains made possible by the revolution and the sacrifices of the people.
Durga Prasai, a medical entrepreneur and vocal advocate of Hinduism and monarchy, has recently given the parties a run for their money. With the backing of many Hindus and pro-royalists, Prasai wanted to establish a monarchy and turn the country into a Hindu state. Prasai has become effective in mobilising his people despite his not-so-good personal record. He frequently launches personal assaults on prominent leaders, including the Congress President, the Prime Minister, and the UML chair. He has gained instant popularity by making the most of social media platforms. In addition to Prasai and his antics, other factions, particularly those supporting identity politics, including the Nepal Mongolian Party and other ethnic and regional identity-based groupings, have put the federal democratic republican system in jeopardy.
Prime Minister Pushpa Kamala Dahal Prachanda, NC president Sher Bahadur Deuba, and Oli — all three of these influential figures — have stated unequivocally that the country will never be again under the monarchy. Deuba did, however, say that his party might debate the matter of Hinduism and whether or not the nation should continue to be secular. The remarks made by the Congress chief are viewed as a first step towards igniting a national debate on the matter pertaining to Nepal as a Hindu state, as desired by the majority Hindu population in Nepal, which is predominately Hindu.
Leaders and political parties are afraid for their political futures due to the threat posed by groups headed by Prasai and other controversial figures like Aang Kaji Sherpa, as well as the growing instances of criticism on social media and in other spaces. Furthermore, the situation for these parties has become dire due to the emergence of parties like the RSP and Janamat Party, which are gaining ground on three major parties' vote bases. In light of this, they seem to be left with little choice except to use political gimmicks while getting their voters and cadres motivated for the 2027 general election.
Variety of strategies
It is now evident that major parties have been attempting to stay in touch with voters by utilising a variety of strategies to maintain their support base. By teaching their people about the groups they believe pose a threat to our democratic system and governance — which the country adopted after the adoption of our constitution in 2015 — all of their efforts and initiatives seek to get support from voters.
Ultimately, how well these parties perform in the upcoming four years will determine their level of success even in the 2027 elections. They must be wary that they cannot participate in any activities that encourage corruption, poverty, unemployment, or economic downturns if they hope to experience success and achieve their goals. When discussing the performance of our parties and leaders, the anarchist groups, who are purported adversaries of the current system and constitution, often hype these issues to people. If these groups become successful in influencing through their anti-leader jibes which they have now been making now, then the parties' current Mission 84 campaigns would most likely come a cropper.
(The author is former managing editor of this daily.)