Nepal Election Scene
Nepal is gearing up for a battle of the battle on Nov 20 with political parties vying with each other on the plank of ultra-nationalism. China and India factor are the two other dominant themes along with issues related to sovereignty and constitutional safeguards to the marginalised. The fight is between the moderately centrist Nepal Congress- led alliance and the Communist Party of Nepal (United Marxist Leninist, UML)-led alliance.
A two-time Prime Minister, Pushpa Kamal Dahal, widely known as Prachanda from his days at the head of Maoist insurgency that had brought curtains down on the Nepal monarchy, is promising presidential form of government and a fully proportional electoral system though he is contesting in league with the Nepal Congress, which, like the UML, is opposed to the directly elected chief executive. Others in the fray include the rightist Rashtriya Prajatantra Party (RPP) and the much-splintered Madhesi parties based in Terai region on the open border with India.
Winnability concerns prompted by the perception that no single party can form the government have given way to alliances minus ideology. The strange bedfellows are more focused on attacking the Constitution promulgated in 2015. The Maoists, and the Madhav Nepal led CPN -Unified Socialist are aligned with Nepali Congress though both had fought the 2017 election in the company of K P Sharma Oli -led UML. Both Prachanda and Madhav Nepal are facing UML barbs.
The UML, while not hiding its China tilt, is harping on developing external relations based on reciprocity. And is raking up highly sentimental territorial issues promising that Nepal’s territorial integrity would be protected at any cost. Five lakh new jobs, food security and ‘Make in Nepal’ culture are the pledge from the Oli camp to sway the electorate.
Rashtriya Prajatantra Party, RPP, is promising a return to Monarchy. It has pledged to make Nepal a Hindu Rashtra (state) with freedom to all faiths. An end to the three-tier federal structure is also its poll promise. Interestingly, RPP has forged alliance with the UML, which is totally opposed to the Royalty. How this alliance could fare if it comes to power is a talk of the town. Many other parties and groups are no less bizarre in their quest for a mandate on promises that cannot be fulfilled, and violate the spirit of the Constitution.
Electioneering started on a low key on Nov 3 but has picked up momentum as the D-day neared for the 165 directly elected seats in the Lower House of Parliament and 330 seats in the Provincial Assemblies. Ultranationalist rhetoric and protection of sovereignty were the main planks of the Communists last time around. Both issues are at the centre stage now besides tantalizing freebees. A stable government without outside interference is also an oft heard poll pledge in the hills and valley alike. Other talking points include right to equality, social justice, and welfare of Janjatis, Madhesis, and Tharus amongst others.
Leaders of the Nepal Congress led alliance are promising good governance while firing on all cylinders at KP Sharma Oli. Accusing him of subverting democracy, and charging him with trampling the constitution, they are promising a new deal to the people of the Himalayan nation. Good neighborly relations with China and India, foreign policy based on national sovereignty and equality, employment generation, poverty alleviation, social justice, and health care are amongst their talking points to win the mandate. To woo the Terai voters, the NC alliance is promising due attention to marginalized communities.
Crystal gazing the ballot swing is a hazardous exercise in any election more so when the two major alliances are grappling with rebels. Analysts, however, expect a key role to the independents in the post-poll scenario. (SAT)
—-*The writer is a seasoned broadcast journalist
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