People voted for stability, don’t squander this opportunity
Left alliance, cobbled together just before the parliamentary and provincial elections, has exceeded expectations to emerge with almost two-thirds majority. The alliance has secured 116 seats in first-past-the-post elections in the parliament while it has landed around 58 seats in proportionate elections. One hundred seventy-four members in 265 seat parliament is an enviable number for the left alliance.
Analysts had predicted that the left alliance would secure a majority but not that it would almost reach the magical number of 184 (two-thirds majority). There were suggestions that even if the top brass of Communist Party of Nepal (United Marxist Leninist) (UML) and CPN-Maoist Centre (MC) had announced electoral alliance that would later pave way for party unity, party cadres and loyalists would not vote for their alliance partners. But cross-voting was absent in the elections and left alliance won comfortably in most of the constituencies.
What led Nepal to turn left this time? Different opinions abound but the scribe believes that people bought into left alliance’s promise at the hustings for stability. Nepalis have been worried about instability ever since Nepal became a democracy in 1990. None of the governments in the democratic dispensation could complete their full tenure. Ugly practices of crossing floor and making unholy alliances for power have been name of the game from 1990s till now.
People were also fed up with the prolonged transition after the decade-long armed conflict. Elections for the Constituent Assembly had to be held for two times as parties with differing ideologies could not tread the common ground. Natural disaster in the form of the great earthquake in 2015 spurred the sparring parties to promulgate the Constitution. It mandated the state to hold parliamentary and provincial elections by February 2018.
UML was able to build electoral campaign around people’s disgust for instability. It campaigned with the theme that the era of political instability is over and the country will now move ahead on the path of prosperity. People were told that electoral alliance with fellow communists MC and party unity with them in the future will help country achieve much-needed stability.
In contrast to the vigorous campaign by the left alliance, Nepali Congress (NC), then largest party in the parliament, was reactive throughout the elections. This resulted in its poorest show till now. It could not even properly make a democratic alliance with non-communist parties. Some of its supposed alliance partners fielded candidates against the party and caused its defeat. It has managed to win mere 23 seats in FPTP elections and around 40 seats in proportionate elections. Its alliance partners have been drubbed in the elections.
NC leaders kept cautioning the voters about communist totalitarian if left alliance comes to power. But voters did not buy this apocalyptic warning as they had already seen communist parties adopting the parliamentary system and being a part of it. NC had no other agenda to sell to the public and it kept recounting its past achievements while speaking virtually nothing about future roadmap of Nepal’s prosperity. Huge number of young voters had no truck with it. Its provincial elections results are even poorer as it cannot form government in any of the seven provinces.
But NC’s poor performance and left alliance’s good outing was the result of nationalist agenda as well. KP Sharma Oli, the eloquent Chairman of UML, was able to brave India’s economic blockade on Nepal during his tenure as the prime minister. He not only stood up to Indian bullying but also reached out to China for trade diversification and new connectivity to reduce disproportionate dependence on India. Common people supported Oli’s stance at that time. He and his party managed to tap into common voters’ dissatisfaction with India’s big brotherly attitude and play the nationalist card skilfully. Oli said that with his reaching out to China, Indian blockade will never take place in Nepal and people bought it.
Oli was also able to point out that he was ousted from power at India’s behest and the current government under Sher Bahadur Deuba (and MC Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ government before that) was able to assume power due to the blessings of the southern neighbour. Moreover, NC leaders were guilty in failing to articulate Indian blockade clearly, let alone condemning it. It can be said that people punished them for this transgression in the polls.
Talking about other parties that contested the elections, Madhesh-based parties Federal Socialist Forum and Rastriya Janata Party have good performances in the southern plains and they constitute the third front. Bibeksheel Sajha party, the new outfit, tried to tap into urban voters’ dissatisfaction with mainstream parties could not garner enough votes to become a national party. Pro-monarch and pro-Hinduist Rastriya Prajatantra Party and its splinter groups too could not pass the 3 percent threshold as people no longer seem to have no sympathy with atavistic ideas.
People’s desire for stability and nationalist feelings has put the left alliance into power. However, the real test for the alliance begins now. New government can afford to lose no time in working for people-centred projects. Stability wedded with prosperity is people’s desire and the alliance should maintain it at any cost. They are advised not to squander this opportunity.