Move to field Gautam in Kathmandu-7 ‘may backfire’

- SANJEEV GIRI, Kathmandu
Preparations for by-poll in Kathmandu-7 don’t go down well with party cadres and general public

Oct 11, 2018-Members of the public, party cadres, and leaders from the opposition as well as the Nepal Communist Party (NCP) have come down heavily against the ruling party after Kathmandu-7 lawmaker Rambir Manandhar announced on Tuesday to resign so that senior NCP leader Bam Dev Gautam could contest the by-election there.

From social media platforms to local tea-shops, voters expressed outrage at the decision, arguing that it is against the spirit of democracy and that political leaders have spared no effort to challenge people’s supremacy in the multi-party democratic system.

“We feel cheated on,” said Ridhma Joshi, a resident of Kathmandu-7 who had voted for Manandhar in the federal elections with the hope that someone native to the community would focus on the development of the area.

“While there is no improvement in basic necessities even after the election of a local leader, there is no hope if Gautam, the senior NCP leader, takes charge of this constituency.”

She questioned whether Gautam would even have time to figure out the constituency should he be elected.

There are many like Joshi who feel that the latest developments represent the ruling party’s attitude towards ordinary citizens who had voted for stability, development, and prosperity of the country.

“Is this what you call stability?” Pawan Karki, another resident of Kathmandu-7 who runs a private company in the same area, said. “How can someone who lost vote from another constituency think of getting re-elected through by-poll?”

The outrage is not limited to the general public. Party cadres and leaders, too, have taken to Facebook and Twitter to vent their ire. NCP leader and Defence Minister Ishwar Pokhrel, who registered his dissatisfaction at the move in the party’s Central Secretariat meeting, posted a vague statement on Facebook.

“We have become united and more powerful. But for converting this power to actual strength, we need to uplift ideology, process, values, practice and conduct that we have established in the past,” Pokhrel wrote. “We should also understand that with greater heights, there are possibilities of greater challenges to counter.”

Bhim Bahadur Rawal, another prominent NCP leader, tweeted to urge the NCP leadership to remain cautious about its decision that will have long-term repercussions for the party and the country. “It is important to discuss the process and national interest at the party’s Standing Committee,” Rawal wrote.

Jhalak Subedi, a political analyst, feels that the criticism coming from several quarters of society, including the party itself, is against the latest developments that defy the spirit of political principle. Stating that the NCP has four ex-PMs at the House of Representatives, Subedi said there was no need for making such an unpopular move—one that would dent the image of the party, politicians, and politics in the long run. “The concept of by-election would have been understandable had it been an issue of a top leader from the party. There are four prominent leaders in the NCP who have already become prime ministers. There is no urgency for having Gautam in the federal parliament,” Subedi said.

The major political forces have evolved through a series of political struggles for people’s rights and freedoms, Subedi said, which is why a majority of voters still feel a sense of ownership of, and connection with, the parties. Subedi warned that the leaders should be cautious while making such decisions that impact hundreds and thousands of party cadres.

“When it comes to communist parties, they have this tendency to follow the party leadership’s command even if it is about going underground,” Subedi says. “In that sense, it is okay for a party leader to step down to allow the other to take over. Given that dedicated cadres have the same schooling, it won’t impact them either. And this is where leaders fail to understand the ground reality of the general public not endorsing such things easily.”

Bishwa Bhakta Dulal ‘Aahuti’, a communist ideologue and commentator, argued that education and awareness in Nepal are practised or viewed through the frame of Parliamentary Capitalism. This is why even the general people and party cadres own up the deeds of political leaders, he reasoned. “Kathmandu citizens are definitely more aware and educated compared to those from other regions of the country. Only education and awareness, however, aren’t enough to counter such behaviour wherein people are taken for granted,” Dulal said.

While the NCP leadership, according to a party source, is more or less clear about the possible repercussions and the wrong precedence that would be set, personal motives and egos of some leaders have led to the latest developments.

“If Gautam becomes a member of federal parliament, he will be considered a strong contender for the position of prime minister,” an NCP Central Committee member said. According to the member, while Pushpa Kamal Dahal, the party’s co-chairman, wants to push Gautam as the next PM to gain his support for his own claim to the party chairman’s post at the upcoming general convention, NCP Co-chairman and PM KP Sharma Oli also wants to woo Gautam to check Dahal’s rise in the party. For second-ranking leader Madhav Kumar Nepal, it is more important to counter both Dahal and Oli and take advantage of the chaos within the party to beat his own path, the NCP member told the Post.

The well-informed NCP party source also said that the resistance by leaders like Rawal and Pokhrel is guided by their personal interest than institutional interest.

Though such tendencies may not have immediate repercussions, political pundits say the results would end up hurting their stature. A number of stakeholders inside and outside of the Communist Party who spoke to the Post on Wednesday said that the current move of the ruling party might backfire because NCP has lost the stature it had during the election period, and its figurehead, Prime Minister Oli, who had succeeded in rallying the public, has failed to retain his public image.       

“Established party like NCP may not face a threat if they succeed in addressing social issues through the parliament,” Subedi said. “If they fail to do so, there are several examples in the world where a new power has emerged.”

Published: 11-10-2018 08:18

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