The Ratriya Swatantra Party(RSP) had a mixed result in the recently concluded by-election. Whilst it come back with a bang in the Nepali political arena with splendid performance in two of the constituencies Chitwan and Tanahu, it ended up losing the deposit in the Bara constituency. It has also given the indication that the image of the party alone cannot achieve victory and the personality of the candidate also is determining in the elections. However, the embarrassing loss in Bara has been eclipsed by the grand success in Chitwan as well as Tanahu. The win in Bara by Coalition candidate Upendra Yadav has provided some consolation to the Government but again it has been totally enveloped by the losses in the two other places.
The general impression was that RSP will not receive as much votes as it did especially in Chitwan nor would it have such an impressive showing in Tanahu. It was based on three assumptions. Firstly, the lapse of Rabi Lamicchane on the citizenship issue was unbecoming of a national leader. His unusual haste to join the Government amidst the peoples' verdict of remaining in the opposition was observed as his attempt to camouflage his citizenship misdemeanor. Secondly, the flash out of the video citing corrupt dealings by its Member of Parliament Dhaka Kumar Shrestha when it claimed out to root out corruption from Nepali politics was thought to damage RSP's image. Thirdly, RSP is banking on imports from other parties thereby encouraging political defection instead of relying on its own. It was glaringly seen in the whole hearted acceptance of Swarnim Wagley of the Nepali Congress(NC). But all the assumptions were proved wrong.
These would have been right had the parties in the Government and particularly NC an iota of political thinking.
These would have been right had the parties in the Government and particularly NC an iota of political thinking. Had it been so, it would not reject candidacy to Swarnim Wagley. In fact, it worked as a double edged knife of disappointment to the well-wishers of NC. Firstly, it was because of the denial of the party nomination to Dr. Wagley. Secondly, it was owing to his escapade to RSP because people in NC circle had looked upon the likes of Wagley as a savior of the otherwise dwindling NC. They were expecting him to display more patience than making a haste to join other party.
New political parties have made dramatic emergence in the political arena. When US achieved independence, its architect President George Washington wished to create an “enlightened administration” devoid of political parties with the appointment of two adversaries to his cabinet, Alexander Hamilton as treasury secretary and Thomas Jefferson as secretary of state. He hoped that the two great minds could work together in the national interest. Washington’s vision of a government without parties, however, was short-lived with the emergence of two political parties- the Federalists and the Republicans. Republicans though led by political luminaries like Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and James Monroe were on a warring spree and the Whigs entered into political scene.
In the United Kingdom, Politics was run by yoking of two political parties, the Conservatives and the Labor. However, John Russel founded the Liberal Party in the year 1859. This was the time when Junga Bahadur regained part of the lost territories in the 1816 Anglo Nepal War after supporting the British in the 1857 Sepoy mutiny.
In India, the Swatantra Party was formed by Achray Kripalani after it suffered a humiliating defeat in a war against China in 1962. Like tigers hunting in pairs, the loss was accompanied by inflation sweeping the length and breadth of the country. It registered victory in few seats in the following Parliamentary elections and also went to form opposition in some Provinces.
The RSP in Nepal emerged from virtually nowhere riding on the crest of the abysmal failures of the old parties one after another. Whether it be NC, the United Marxists and Leninists(UML) or the Maoist Central(MC) all the three have been alleged to be neck deep in corruption. Bad Governance became the norm and the leaders became rich overnight in stark contrast of the people mired in the morass of poverty.
Dr. Wagley made an exit from NC after being dealt a double blow by favoritism and nepotism underway in NC. The leaders' unresponsiveness can be seen in the absence of departments in the NC.
What are the factors that lead to the emergence of new parties? These are the favoritism and the nepotism, the unresponsiveness of the leaders, the insignificant role of individual members and the absence of a sense of community within the party. Dr. Wagley made an exit from NC after being dealt a double blow by favoritism and nepotism underway in NC. The leaders' unresponsiveness can be seen in the absence of departments in the NC. The individual members have been rendered so insignificant as if they do not exist. This has led to an absence of sense of community within the party. If this is the situation in NC, the other parties are also not far behind which has led to the present loss of face in the local election. The ignominy of being the distant third by UML has raised serious questions about the political leadership.
The timely action taken against the alleged corruption acts of Dhaka Kumar Shrestha also contributed to the present state of affairs. While the front line parties are more intent on the cover up of the corruption acts of its members, such as Wide Body scam, Corona Vaccine procurement and several others, RSP immediately fired the erring Shrestha from the party including from ordinary membership. It sent a political signal that corrupt persons can be in all the parties, but RSP is unlike others and it takes stern action under such circumstances.
The result of the by-election also appears to have woken the old parties from deep slumber.
The result of the by-election also appears to have woken the old parties from deep slumber. It has been reflected in the recent outburst of Sher Bahadur Deuba. Like a proverbial tube light meaning glowing seconds after switching on instead of instantly by other lights, Mr. Deuba appears to have realized the harsh reality of the disillusionment that people have developed against the front line parties albeit belatedly. He should have addressed the slide that had appeared after the Local Election where the independent candidates had defeated the party candidates, the most glaring being the victory of Balen Shaha in the Kathmandu Metropolitan City.
What is the way forward for this depressing state of affairs to the old parties then? It should address the corruption menace which has entered into the veins of the national life. The political parties should immediately set up a commission of inquiry to look into the acts of the top three leaders. If they get a clean chit like Nara Simha Rao, the former Prime Minister of India, who was sentenced to rigorous imprisonment of 3 years and a fine of Rs 100,000 but released on bail and subsequently cleared of the charge, it will reach them to the political heights never scaled in the past. But they may even end up behind the bars as did Lalu Yadav accused in Fodder Scam, to take the name of a few. But in either cases the parties will rejuvenate as never before. The big three should venture to this end instead of shedding crocodile tears by seeming to worry about the deteriorating image of the old parties.