EC Takes Wind Out Of RPP’s Sails

Narayan Upadhyay


The newly unified Rastriya Prajatantra Party (RPP) staged a street protest against the Election Commission's move to strike down the two 'vital' terms- "constitutional monarchy" and "Hindu nation" from its party statute.


What is so surprising about the RPP's protest is the party is one of the constituents of the present government and its chairman, Kamal Thapa, is a deputy prime minister in the cabinet and several of its members have occupied ministerial portfolios.  Many have criticised the party stating that instead of sitting for a meaningful dialogue to address the problems that arose after the EC's removal of the terms from the statute, the RPP chose to stage protests and tried to picket the commission.


The protest from the ruling coalition partner does indicate that the EC move has enraged the party to the hilt. A party of the pro-Panchas, after its recent unification, must have thought it proper that it could win the votes of the electorate who still support the idea of reinstating constitutional monarchy in the nation while reverting the nation back into a Hindu state, as was the case during the 30-year long single party rule, controlled by the then Royal Palace.


We know that the sovereign constitution of the nation has discarded the two terms after the nation was turned into a republican and secular state soon after the resounding success of the people's uprising of April 2006. In fact, the 2006 movement had thrown out the then autocratic king from his throne and later the leaders and the parties who had led the popular movement had agreed to turn the nation into a secular one.


The constitution states that Nepal is a republican and secular state and the two declarations is an irrevocable part of the constitution.  It must have spurred the Election Commission, itself a constitutional body, to remove the two terms from the RPP statute.


As a true purveyor of the spirit of the constitution, the constitutional body's move to strike down "unconstitutional" clauses from the statute of the party before it gets registered appears to be justified. No party, whether big or small, should sport the ideas and principles that openly contravene with and flout the spirit and values of the very constitution that seek to protect the people's achievements gained through the popular movement. The constitutional bodies like EC have a responsibility to give high respect and they must adhere to the clauses of the constitution. No party that wants to be included in the EC's scheme of things, should be flouting the ideals and principles enshrined in the constitution.


However, there is a certain section of society that believes that no one, whether it is a person, leader or political party should be barred from exercising their democratic rights in a democratic country. Adherence to any principle or idea falls purely into the domain of the people's democratic rights and therefore they should not be stopped or discouraged from following the idea or principles. If their ideas and principles are wrong, let the people decide their fate through their mandate.


Some constitutional experts and political analysts, on the other hand, say that the RPP's inclusion of the two very "unconstitutional" terms in its statute was a wrong step. They further say that the RPP could have made these two ideas their elections planks but cannot make them as the basic ingredients of their statute as a political party of the nation.


There are some sections of the populace that adheres to the two ideas strongly and the RPP, especially the one led by Thapa, has gained from it. The party can still gain from its showdown with the EC and the security organs because it can bring new wave of sympathy from the pro Kingship and Hinduism voters. But its present posture- being a part of the ruling coalition, and staging protest against the EC and the security organs, has not gone down well with many. It may, on the other hand, prove detrimental to the party.


Despite all the criticisms that the RPP drew for its move, many still believe the party has not done any wrong by keeping the two terms in its statute. The present democratic republic constitution of the country has not been implemented in full force. Certain elements like Madhesi Morcha and some ethnic parties have not accepted various clauses of the constitution. The Morcha has demanded amendment of some clauses of the constitution regarding the redrawing of the provinces and other issues. The protest from Morcha has not allowed the full implementation of the country's statute. At this backdrop, the RPP's demand for the reinstatement of constitutional monarchy and reverting the nation to a Hindu state should not be looked down upon. 


Given the present ruckus and EC's move, the RPP is certain to move the court. However, no one is sure that RPP will give continuity to the idea of keeping the two terms in the statute for long. If we look at the party's past activities, especially its chairman, we find that this is the party that is ready to change its positions in return for the plum posts in the government.


But one should not forget that the Pushpa Kamal Dahal led government can not infuriate the former Panchas' party because of the government's delicate position in the parliament. The erstwhile supporter to the government, the Madhesi Morcha, has withdrawn its support to the government, forcing the party to invite the RPP and Madhesi Janadhikar Forum to join the government and keep it safe from losing the majority. The RPP, with its 37 parliamentarians, has now become an important ally to the Congress-Maoist Centre led government


The striking down of two terms has indeed taken the wind out of RPP's sails. The EC move has shocked and frustrated Deputy PM Kamal Thapa and his ilk in the party. They must have thought if they lose these two terms from their party statute, they would find themselves at a losing end whenever they have to contest an election.


On the other hand, the EC action to strike down the terms from the RPP statute is a justifiable constitutional move. The RPP therefore should not engage in political theatrics more. The EC's removal of the terms would not harm the party interests if it raised the two issues during the election period through its election manifesto. It has all the rights to seek the judicial answer to the EC move. The staging of street protests merely exposes the fickleness of the party. It also reflects that it is a party of a bunch of leaders who have a strong craving to remain in power at any cost and do not hesitate to protest or cross the floors if and when its position in power is shaken.

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