Rebellion and anti-corruption tirade may unsettle the ‘leaders’

With General elections less than 90 hours away when this article is posted, the curiosity is now naturally focused more on the electoral outcome and the likely Prime Minister to lead the government. Despite each of the three major political parties—Nepali Congress, Maoist Centre and the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist—seemingly under dictating monolith leadership, there are signs of defiance from within when it comes to letting the leaders continue.

Nepali Congress, that leads the current coalition government, should ideally have projected Sher Bahadur Deuba as the Prime Minister in case it won majority of seats in the 275-member House of Representatives, 165 to be elected under the first past the post and remaining 110 under the Proportional Representation system. But there are half a dozen challengers from among the contestants, vying for the Nepali Congress Parliamentary leadership.

Gagan Thapa has expressed his low opinion not only about Deuba, but all the likely contenders for the post from all the major parties, and declared that he is definitely in the race for the Chief Executive’s post. That may be a way of enhancing self-importance and telling voters that they are not simply electing a Member of Parliament, but the future Prime Minister of the country. How much will that work? Will all the anti-Deuba ‘congressis’ rally round Thapa?

Obviously, the answer is no. Bimalendra Nidhi has learnt enough not to express his suppressed ambition. Prakashman Singh has said that people want him to see as the Prime Minister. Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ has projected Ramchandra Poudel as future PM, that also sends across a mischievous message that Maoists will want to dictate the Prime Ministerial candidate from the Nepali Congress side as well.

Nepali Congress is not the sole Party that seems to trudge along a route that will see in bigger disarray post elections . K P Oli  has shown all the megalomaniac and totalitarian traits when he took over as the Prime Minister second time  in 2015. Not only did he brought under him all the nine investigating agencies under various other ministries, but snatched away any kind of residual autonomy of constitutional bodies—from election commission to the Akhtiyar Durupayog Anusandhan Aayog. President’s office lost its expected autonomy and sanctity as it time and again aligned with Oli.

Absence of inner party democracy and all-in-all status usurped by the Chairman is the reason for this silence which seems just the lull before storm.

While the Nepali Congress has got multiple number of contenders for the post, leaders within the UML are happy having their silent ambition under bridle. “But once, party fares badly compares to its current position in parliament , you just  watch, even I may stake my claim,’ a former Minister and a candidate for the House of Representatives, says. Absence of inner party democracy and all-in-all status usurped by the Chairman is the reason for this silence which seems just the lull before storm.

Given the electoral system that Nepal has adopted, chance of one Party getting absolute majority is almost nil. That will force one or more parties with contradictory ideologies coming together to form the government. In any case, Nepal has witnessed that the past 16 years of political change have seen making or unmaking of the government not on the basis of common minimum programmes, but just by deciding a rotational chart for the Prime Ministers, now and later.

Nepali Congress is in alliance with the Maoists that killed many of its cadres and leaders during the insurgency. Oli is in alliance with Rashtriya Prajatantra Party that is campaigning for restoration of Nepal’s constitutional status as a Hindu Kingdom. Is it death of ideology in politics or a new approach that politics is all about securing or acquiring power by hooks or crooks?

The outcome of this poll in that sense will be crucial. Leaders may be focused more on retaining power, but there is some silver lining in the horizon that in a Parliament, that most likely will be a hung one, independents and small parties may hold the key for government formation, and ‘disqualify’ the leaders right at the beginning by demanding investigation into major corruption cases that have taken place post 2006 political change.

That way, there is something to cheer about.