Local Polls Resounding Success For UML
Ritu Raj Subedi
Continuing with its winning streak from the first phase of local election, main opposition, CPN-UML, has become the largest party also in the second phase poll. The UML has knocked down the alliances between the ruling Nepali Congress and CPN-Maoist Centre in several places, leaving them like a shag on a rock. While the NC has lost its many strongholds to the UML, the voters gave a bloody nose to the Maoist Centre, putting its political future in a serious jeopardy. The people had voted for the UML visibly for its nationalistic stand that its chair KP Sharma Oli took firmly in the wake of Indian blockade imposed on Nepal as the latter was struggling to pick up the pieces following the devastating earthquake in 2015. While facing up to a giant neighbour over its coercive measures, Oli’s act not only made the Nepalis hold their heads high but also led his party to a roaring success in the local poll. By awarding the largest number of local units to the UML through the election, the Nepali people have also endorsed the historic agreements, including trade and transit agreement reached with China during Oli’s premiership. No wonder, the poll results bear geopolitical ramification for the federal republic trying to usher in a new era with the promulgation of historic constitution.
The wave of UML’s nationalism has not only swept away the NC and MC in many local level units but also enabled the party to clinch rare victories in the core Madhes constituencies in Kapilvastu, Kailali, Banke and Dang. The UML has constantly been demonized by the Madhes-based parties for its refusal to endorse the constitution amendment proposal. It was labeled as anti-Madhesi force but the stunning poll success in the Madhesi hinterland has helped it cleanse the very negative image.
The UML’s candidate Tapendra Rawal has swept to victory in Kailali Municipality in a dramatic contest among the rival parties. This win has dealt a blow to the ruling alliance as well as some Madhesi parties. The Madhesi groups had staged a gory scene in Kailali to revive the sagging Madhes agitation launched to abort the promulgation of the new charter. A string of Madhesi leaders, including Rajendra Mahato and NC lawmaker Amresh Kumar Singh had delivered inciting speeches, pitting hill-origin people against the local Tharus. This triggered violent clashes between the protestors and security personnel, resulting in the brutal killing of seven security personnel, including an SSP and a toddler. The ruling alliance has been accused of withdrawing the criminal charges against them. To much ire of the locals, the government even decided to provide over Rs 17 million as compensation to absconding Resham Chadhari who is alleged as the mastermind behind the carnage. Now the people have got an opportunity to punish the ruling parties by handing a victory to the opposition.
Likewise, handing a thumping victory to the UML candidates in Butwal sub-metropolis, the voters there expressed their strong disgust at the efforts to split Province No 5. The NC and MC had pushed the statute amendment proposal to separate Terai from the hill in the province, which caused a sea of protests across the province with Butwal residents leading the movement from the front. Though the NC-MC were forced to retract from the contentious amendment proposal, the scar of divisive politics continues to haunt the people. So, they voted for the UML to punch the carriers of diabolic ethno-centric politics.
Several factors have contributed to the UML’s emergence as the largest party from the local election. It has strong organization base from the centre to the ward level. Its ability to organize and mobilise party-affiliated professional groups during the poll also paid off. When it was unceremoniously removed from the government while defending the national interest, it won a wave of sympathy from the people. According to UML vice-chair Bhim Rawal, the people wanted a unity between the Terai, the hill and the mountain to which UML stood strongly. “The UML has stood for nationality, independence and social goodwill. Besides, the people have reposed their faith in its ability to bring about prosperity by utilizing the means and resources available in the country,” he claimed. Now, after securing victory in the largest number of local units, the UML faces a daunting task ahead. It must not let down the people. Putting aside the euphoria of poll triumph, the UML’s elected representatives should keep their nose to the grindstone so as to live up to people’s faith in them.
Meanwhile, the motive of Rastriya Janata Party (RJP), a merger of six Madhes-based parties, whose political course is often set by the Kathmandu-based Indian embassy, has been exposed to the hilt. It is now left rudderless after its anti-poll drive went down like a lead balloon. It is getting a roasting from all walks of life for boycotting the poll. It has lost a golden opportunity to engage with the people through the election. There is also a slim chance of statute amendment being endorsed in the parliament. When push comes to shove, the RJP leaders the other day applied to register their party with the Election Commission. This is a positive development and needs to be given a momentum. Instead of indulging in irrational talks of making the constitution acceptable to all, the RJP stalwarts had better concentrate themselves on ensuring their own acceptance in the national politics. For this, they should peacefully participate in the election of Province 2 to be held on September 18 without hindering the election campaign of other political forces.