Lessons to learn by new Nepali political parties

By Trilok Sharma (KATHMANDU, 16 May 2017) – In democratic country like Nepal if you really want to make some big changes, you cannot stay away from politics. Political power is must for this. This is the reason behind the establishment of Bibeksheel Nepali (or Party of Rational Nepalis), Sajha Party, Naya Shakti, United Nationalist Front, Rastriya Jagaran Aviyan- Nepal and more than other two dozen political parties in last few years.

As almost all major established Nepali political parties have repeatedly failed to meet the popular aspirations of common Nepalis and by this time have proven themselves as beyond repair, it is obvious for new alternative force to rise and fill that vacuum. In this context, Bibeksheel Nepali and Sajha Party have come in front row and have successfully grabbed the public attention in capital city Kathmandu in short span of time. While the counting of May 14 local election is going on now, both the parties are eagerly waiting to know the extent to which their candidates have challenged the candidates of established ones. Till now the result is fully satisfactory as the lead is only by small margin to them.

Bibeksheel Nepali has four-year long history and has already taken part in 2013, November 19 second Constituent Assembly election. However, Sajha is the newest one founded just two-and-half month ago by Rabindra Mishra, BBC Nepali service chief and renowned journalist, after resigning from chief post on 28 February in 2017. Mishra in his final press statement before getting out of office has expressed his serious concerns on prevailing dirty politics. He is of opinion that without the foundation of cultured politics based on four pillars- system, transparency, integrity and meritocracy- transformation of Nepal in his lifetime is impossible.

Not to mention as Mishra is widely admired and respected figure for his more than two decades long struggle to bring off-track Nepali politics to on-track via journalism, he does not have to work hard to convince people behind the rationale of forming Sajha party and to welcome them in party. Nearly one dozen prominent tested public figures have already joined his mission. However, for Bibeksheel whose founder members are common Nepalis with no big names, it was truly an uphill climb to come to this level.

Unlike former Prime minister Dr. Baburam Bhattarai’s Naya Shakti and Mishra’s Sajha, from day one Bibeksheel has exclusively focused on untested and dynamic youths of new generation who can be easily taught and trained to take leadership of nation. This is reason why except few most of the cadres and well wishers of this party are mostly youths of below 30. Ranju Darshana, the mayor candidate of Kathmandu city, in presently held local election is of 21 and a bachelor studying student.

The two main force of Bibeksheel, Govinda Narayan Timilsina, the founding chair and Ujjwal Thapa, the present chair are determined to produce capable leaders rather than to catapult themselves to power at the expense of youth power.  Till date none of the political party has adopted this strategy of increasing the direct participation of youths to brush up national politics. For major established parties, youths have always been tool to protest and carry out undemocratic practices like strike (bandh) and assault to party unfriendly elements. The past trends reveal   hardly few who are close to top level leadership or are extraordinary in performance have privilege to hold executive post in party or are likely to get tickets to contest in elections to be parliamentarians.

Transformation via youth power strategy of Bibeksheel is absolutely commendable. It is far better to welcome energetic fresh youths than to a tainted man with money, power and experience. Of course money and power is needed to make party grow but sometimes it may harshly backfire if timely precaution is not taken. For instance- unchecked entry of defamed faces, undisclosed source of funding and short sighted leadership eventually lead to the collapse of Dr.Bhattarai’s Naya Shakti in less than a  year of its establishment.

Naya Shakti party was founded in 12 June 2016 and had enjoyed huge popularity in first half its establishment. Dr.Bhattarai’s day in and day out effort for campaigning resulted in quick formation of sister wings in many districts along with entry of notable persons like Rameshwor Khanal (former secretary of government of Nepal) and political analyst Mumaram Khanal, and for the time being the party was roaring.   Many political analysts had even started to argue in the same line of Dr. Bhattarai that this is the only existing major alternative political force that could push  sick Nepal to next level as all other parties are outdated and conservative.

Life time communist leader Dr. Bhattarai who founded Naya Shakti based on ideology of democratic socialism, is now intensely lobbying for merger of  his party with Upednra Yadav led Federal Socialist Forum- Nepal, a southern plain based regional party, whose top leaders hardly have understanding of jargon ‘democratic socialism.’ For them welfare of people living in their region is the only goal.

As founders of Bibeksheel and Sajha, are not political scholars, their party lacks strong foundation of political ideology. For them political stability, rule of law, good governance, civilian supremacy etc or in other words dignity as Nepalis and betterment of lives of common Nepalis is the ultimate motto. As today’s Nepalis are desperately in search of result oriented parties, the founders of these two surely don’t have to bother to do research on such deep political discourses to prove why their party is better.

Like Dr. Bhattarai Naya Shakti, in India the popular Aam Aadmi Party (AAP or Common Man’s Party) is also having the same fate. Formed in November 2012 on the base of popular anit-corruption movement led by veteran anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare that began in 2011, the party has already succeeded to take in-charge of Delhi government twice, including the current one.

However, the in last three years the party is getting unpopular in the same speed as it had once become popular as the party leadership is severely failing to keep the promise made to common folks of Delhi. Also, the number of prominent leaders quitting party blaming ‘monopoly’ by top leadership has become common phenomenon.

Shazia Ilmi, one of the founding members, in May 2014 made her way out of AAP citing “lack of inner party democracy and domination of cronyism.” In March of same year Ashok Aggarwal, the party’s national executive member, also quitted reiterating the same thing- the party has now become “private limited company” and is promoting elite individuals for its sustainability.

Surely, the upcoming elections in India will show the future of AAP. However, for newly emerged parties in Nepali political landscape, especially to Bibeksheel and Sajha, the downfall of Naya Shakti and decreasing people’s faith in AAP, is indeed a big lesson to learn from. As both are in their initial phase, they do have ample time to learn from the faults of AAP, Naya Shakti and from the established but declining Nepali political parties, to guide their parties in right direction.  Otherwise it won’t take long for today’s politically aware and strongly connected via social media  Nepalis to show thump down and label as another AAP or Naya Shakti and reject them.

Sharma is an executive member of Nepal-China Mutual Cooperation Society (NCMCS).



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