Why UML Won Local Elections
Dr. Narad Bharadwaj
The amazing performance of the CPN (UML) in the first and the second phases of the local elections not only helped restore order out of Nepal’s lingering political chaos, it also swept clear the cobwebs of misperception from the minds of many people. For the player of murky politics, the electoral results may have come as an unexpected jolt. But those who were following the tenor of popular voice hardly raised their eyebrows at the results.
Coming as this election did after a hiatus of 20 years, there was an aura of spontaneity and celebration around the whole electoral affair. The voters feted the UML with their trust and awarded it a thumping majority. This has suddenly elevated this party from the second to the first political force of the country.
This was the largest electoral exercise ever undertaken after the local bodies were dissolved in July 2002. This was why the people lent their support to accomplish the great task designed to fill the vacant positions in the local governments.
This election was a difficult choice for the ruling coalition as it was held at a time when both the coalition partners were going through the phase of unpopularity basically for four reasons. They excessively clung to the idea of Constitution amendment despite knowing that they did not possess the required number for endorsing the amendment by a two-thirds majority in the parliament.
They went out of their way to address the demands of the Terai-based forces concerning the demarcation of the federal borders separating hills from the Terai. They failed to focus on the implementation of the Constitution and procrastinated in implementing the treaty on trade and transit signed with China by the KP Oli-led government.
On the contrary, the CPN (UML) had the opportunity to go to election when it was riding the high tide of popularity. The UML had carefully steered its political campaign with a focus on the three tiers of elections which needed to be held for the successful implementation of the Constitution after its promulgation.
In sharp contrast, the ruling coalition lacked focus, spent a lot of time in the controversial issue of constitution amendment and failed to measure the popular sentiment of the people. The coalition partners seemed to think that holding power lever firmly in one’s hand was enough to win the elections irrespective of growing dissatisfaction among the electorates.
The CPN-UML had succeeded to create an electoral environment even before the elections were declared. In the rallies organised to disseminate the contents of the Constitution, the CPN (UML) was able to orient its entire party mechanisms towards the impending election. In fact, the UML had not only planned election it had carefully designed its electoral aggrandizement as well.
A number of causes have combined to ensure electoral success for the UML. One of the important reasons was its clear-cut stand on the issue of sovereignty, territorial integrity and national independence. It strongly advocated a balanced foreign policy and refused external interference in Nepal’s internal affairs. The strong sense of patriotism which it instilled in the minds of the people during the time of the Indian blockade helped rally a large majority of people under its banner.
In this context, it must also be noted that the then Prime Minister KP Oli remained an icon of national pride and dignity. At the times of pessimism, chairman of the CPN (UML) and former prime minister KP Oli enkindled optimism in the hearts and minds of the people. Leaders of other large political parties either collaborated with the external powers or remained subdued. People took KP Oli as a torch bearer in the journey of the nation during its darkest period of history and chose to reward his party in the election.
The people had thought that once the new Constitution was promulgated, the prolonged transition of the nation would end and the country would enter the new era of stability, peace and prosperity.
However, the non- acceptance of the Constitution by the Terai-based political parties, refusal of India to support Nepal’s legitimate Constitution endorsed by 92 per cent majority shattered their hopes. They thought that if the elections did not take place, the country would soon face a precarious situation of constitutional vacuum. In order to help the country avert such a situation, they voted for UML thinking it as the only political force capable of leading the country out of the impasse.
Reading the pulse of the peoples, the CPN (UML) took a decisive step towards raising their sunken spirit. It launched a political awareness raising activities popularly known as Mechi-Mahakali Campaign from March 4 to 18, 2017. The campaign raised the people’s confidence badly bruised by the Terai agitation and the Indian blockade. It also helped the people of the Terai to better understand the policies and ideology of the CPN (UML). The Terai-based political parties tried to disrupt its campaign but were not successful. This elevated the UML’s political standing which eventually came to reflect on the unfolding results of the election.
The local election has demonstrated the strong organisational base of the CPN (UML) at the grassroots. It proved that the CPN (UML) is a party which has a widespread organisational network and a large number of party members and supporters. The UML’s capacity to mobilise its entire party machinery for a single purpose was also one of the reasons for its victory.
The people living in the entire length and breadth of the country showed an immense solidarity with the UML’s policies and programmes. Its popularity had soared when it’s chairman and former prime minister Oli took an epoch making decision to diversify connectivity by signing a trade and transit treaty with China. The present election results showed that the Nepali people have endorsed his policy.
The two rounds of the local polls have proved that the Nepali people possess a high sense of judgement. The way the Nepali voters exercised their rights proved that it is not possible for any political force to mislead them. The result of the election has proved that the people can use their judgemental capacity in times of national crisis.
The two phases of the elections of the local bodies have greatly strengthened the people by eventually handing over state authority to the elected local representatives of the people. The local election was like a referendum held to decide on whether to accept external subordination or to stand up as an independent country whose people can take their destiny in their own hand.
The third phase of the election is going to take place on September 18. This will provide an opportunity for the people of Province-2 also to participate in the historical process of national transformation. The people of Province-2 have been badly polarised. But it can be safely predicted that the majority of the people of the Terai are patriotic and will use their conscience to vote the party which is capable of leading them to peace, stability and prosperity.
The UML is one of the strong contenders for a political space in Province-2 as well. It had organised extensive political movements in this region during its formative years and its support base is not weak in that province. In view of this party’s historical connection with the Terai where its first generation leaders had sowed the seeds of revolution, it is likely that the UML may bag a fair measure of electoral success also in Province 2.