Low turnout on November 20 poll was being seen as lack of interest and enthusiasm on the part of voters towards election. But those who voted, were apparently more determined. As seals of the ballot boxes are broken and results begin trickling down, those 61 per cent citizens who voted, have sent across; a message, different from the past elections.
There is still no clue as to which party they have elected. But they have certainly vented their anger and frustration in the ballot boxes. The Rashtriya Swatntra Party (RSP) that was registered with the Election Commission barely six months ago, and its programmes and policies were still unknown to average voters, has got limited mandate of the people, especially in the federal capital and urban areas in the country. Its leader Rabi Lamichhane has been elected with huge margin from Chitwan -2, along with eight others from different parts of the country. It’s likely to bag a substantial share under the Proportional representation (PR) system securing at least as much seats as it has won in the First Past the Post system.
Similarly, the Rashtriya Prajatantra Party (RPP) emerged as another favourite that may see its tally go up from 1 to at least 16 when the PR vote count is over. While RSP has been the beneficiary of prevailing frustration, has RPP been endorsed for its agenda? in some way. But the RSP also represents a general wish of the people that they are fed up with the old, inefficient and corrupt leadership, and it is about time that they are replaced and so the lock, stock and barrel.
Along with the RSP, and the RPP led by Rajendra Lingden in his mid 40s, voters have elected young leaders like Bishwa Prakash Sharma, Gagan Thapa and Pradeep Poudel from Nepali Congress, and Gokarana Bista, Yogesh Bhattarai and Bidhya Bhattarai from the UML indicating that the quest for generational shift is a national aspiration. Will the existing leadership of the main parties, all in their 70s, care to listen?
The new House certainly will have youths in substantial number representing a “metaphor” for change, and there are hopes that it will also stand as a threat to unprincipled alliances that parties so far have been building to form governments. If the RSP and RPP act honestly, the future government will also have to be accountable to parliament, and repair their discredited image of the past. The gap between their promises and delivery have cost their credibility.
The new House certainly will have youths in substantial number representing a “metaphor” for change, and there are hopes that it will also stand as a threat to unprincipled alliances that parties so far have been building to form governments.
But that really is a tall order for a new party that does not have much exposure to national politics. The RSP has to first give formal and effective structure, give it life and dynamism by practicing inner-party democracy and tolerating dissent, and then make the government accountable. The fact that people have bestowed their hopes and faith in the new party as the citizenry wants them to first play an effective opposition role, to begin with, without being derailed by this success.
There was in fact, a meeting of mind among the voters across the country. Sagar Dhakal, a little known youth who contested in Dandeldhura against Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba secured second highest votes. Why did people lend their support and sympathy to him? Because, it was the same phenomena and aspiration of the people that gave birth to the RSP.
Yet, politics needs to be gauged with caution as success has derailed many ‘possible alternatives’ too early. Nepal has witnessed how Maoists emerged as an alternative to the system with UML and Nepali congress as principal player, and voted them in a big way. But unfortunately, Maoist has turned out to be one more rotten pillar of the system. Death of a perceived alternative is far more agonizing than that of a system that people distaste.
The history should not repeat or recycle, but the RSP should learn from it. Those who refuse to learn from history are condemned to repeat it, and be vilified like the villains of history. The RSP will be tested by how they contribute to domestic policies on education, health and employment, and more how they formulate the level of external dictate and influence in Nepal’s internal politics.
For RPP, the challenge is even bigger: not to barter people’s faith for transitory power which ultimately discredits the party and takes it years to regain that trust. Kamal Thapa has lost in the hands of Deepak Bahadur Singh of the RPP is both a reward and warning for it.