Congress Must Learn From Mistakes 



Narayan Upadhyay 

The largest party in the Legislature Parliament and the main ruling party, the Nepali Congress, finished at the second position while the main opposition, the CPN-UML, topped by winning more mayoral, deputy mayoral, rural municipality's chairman and deputy chairman's positions in the recently held local polls. 

Many an eyebrow has been raised over the "poor" performance of the Nepali Congress in the local polls, which suggested that the main ruling party had somewhat failed to feel the pulse of the large section of the masses to win the first position in the polls. The Nepali Congress has won 50 mayoral seats less than the mayoral seats won by the UML. It won 226 mayoral seats in local units while the UML won 276 seats. The ruling coalition partner, the Maoist (Centre), won only 84 local units. The two phases of local elections were held in 616 local units of provinces 1, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 on May 14 and June 28. The election in the province number 2 is scheduled for September 18.

The reasons for the largest party in the parliament faring poorly in the local polls are many. Several analysts and many Congress insiders think that the first and foremost reason was the party's failure to mobilise its local organisations in all the local units effectively.  The local organisations of the Nepali Congress are believed to be weaker in comparison to those of the UML, the party that still boasts of well managed organisational set up at the grassroots across the nation. The local organisations of the Congress party and district committees had failed to make sound electoral strategies in the absence of strong organisations at grassroots.

Another reason for the poor show of the Congress was the selection of wrong  candidates in several places. Nepotism and favouritism also played its parts while selecting the candidates for mayoral, deputy mayoral as well for rural chairman positions. The interference of central leaders in selecting candidates also caused harm. In the meantime, the internal sabotage or antarghat committed by the party members saw many bona-fide losing the elections to the main rival, the UML.

At many local units, the Congress leaders and workers could not reach out to the voters and could not convince them about the policies and programmes of the party. The pathetic delay in announcing the names of the candidates by the Central level committee had also led to the downfall of the party. At many places, the names of the candidates vying for mayoral and deputy mayoral positions were declared at the eleventh hour.

Another significant reason that led to the defeat of the Nepali Congress candidates is the party's tie up with the Maoist Centre in giving candidacy in several units. The candidates of the Congress fail to receive the votes from the Maoist supporters in the places where the party had made electoral equation with the party that was later relegated to the distant third.

Because of the above mentioned reasons, the Nepali Congress candidates suffered loses in metropolitan cities, sub metropolitan cities and municipalities, which were the stronghold of the Congress of which candidates had won many constituencies of these places during the elections held to the Constituent Assembly. For example, the Congress had won all the CA seats of Dang district during the CA elections held four years ago. However, during the local elections, the party lost at all the municipal and sub metropolis of the district to the UML and Maoist-Centre candidates.

The case of Dang should be taken as a representative incident for the Congress. There are many districts where the same incidents have happened, suggesting that the opinion of the voters has gone down against the main ruling party because of the some of the events which were were handled by the party quite adversely.

Likewise,  the Congress and its coalition partner, Maoist (Centre) had received negative publicity and remarks for having "their hands' in registering an impeachment motion against the then sitting chief justice. Also, the issue of the appointment of the police chief for which the ruling coalition drew flak had turned the people's opinion against the Congress. The issue of redrawing of provinces and the addressing the demands of the agitating Madhesi parties on the issue of citizenship, language, representatives to the Upper House  and many others issues through the statute amendment had angered many voters who perceived the amendment of the constitution moved forward by the coalition government as  anti-national.

The UML's stance against the highly contentious statute amendment bill as well as its "nationalist" posture against the Indian blockade earned the party many accolades from the voters, catapulting the party into the first position in the local elections held after a gap of two decades. Interestingly, it was the UML that had defeated the Congress in the last local elections held in the nation twenty years ago. The two consecutive victories of the UML do suggest that the party has a stronger organisational base in comparison to the largest party of the Legislature Parliament.

Despite being relegated to the second position, the Congress should feel relieved whenever it turns its attention towards the popular votes it has won in the recent local polls. According to an Election Commission report, the UML has led the Congress in total popular votes, just by about 42,000 votes. It shows that the margin is not wide. The UML has won a total of 26,98,736 votes while the Congress received 26,56,275 votes to finish at the second spot. The MC gathered only 1,275,035 votes to stand at distant third position. Province wise, the UML gained first position in the provinces 1 and 3 while the Congress dominated in 4, 5, 6 and 7 in terms of popular votes.

The performance in the two phases of local polls must open the eyes of the Congressmen, who are going to take part in the remaining two very important elections- the election for provincial assemblies and the election for the federal or central parliament in a few months time. The party and leaders and cadres must learn from its mistakes and must remain highly wary not to repeat all the missteps they had taken on the eve the local elections. They must also not create any situation or be the part of any incident or event or should play a part which can only draw flak for them from the voters and help create negative public views for them. When it comes to the issues pertaining to the national interests and country's welfare, they must deal the issues in such a way which help them generate more favourable opinion from the masses. If the party adheres to these mantras, then there is no question in emerging the largest party in the remaining elections.




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