Flawed Analysis Of Poll Results
Ritu Raj Subedi
Political parties – whether winners or losers – are now in search of scapegoats to blame for the defeat in the recent local polls. They have accused the cadres of rival factions within the parties of betraying the official candidates in the election. The ruling Nepali Congress and opposition CPN-UML have pinned the blame on antarghat (betrayal) by disgruntled workers for losing the election in many places, where they were confident of winning the key posts. With the results of all local units except one in six of the provinces announced, some parties have started a witch-hunt to turf out the rebel cadres from their organisations. A blame game has kicked off within the NC with its top brass crossing swords with each other. The UML is investigating on how it suffered loss in its own strongholds. Frustrated by the disastrous poll outcome, the CPN-Maoist Centre leadership is also engaged in a rigorous soul-searching and has pointed the finger at the whipping boys.
It has become a common trait among the parties to impute the rebel workers for their poll drubbing. Partly, it can be possible that antarghatis (betrayers) might have played foul to defeat their own party candidates. But this line of argument does not hold water entirely. The betrayers do not command enough number of votes to roll over their own comrades. If the rival party candidates win the election by a wafer-thin margin, it is likely that the double-crossers have their hands behind the poll loss. But, laying the blame on rebel workers is like barking up the wrong tree. This also amounts to underestimating the electorates. Election is the greatest weapon of the people to elevate or downsize the political parties. In the periodic poll, the voters punish those who deviate from their stated goals and abuse the popular mandate to meet his/her parochial interest. It is wrong to think that the people always vote for the same party. Treating them as a vote bank is a faulty notion, and it is only the shocking poll results that bring them to their senses.
The UML has emerged the largest party, securing around 45 per cent of posts of mayor and heads of rural municipalities. Still it is not satisfied with the results. It had concluded that the party lost mayoral posts in 25 places largely owing to antarghat. The party’s Baitadi District Committee had already expelled 17 ‘antarghatis’ from the party membership. Of them, some had stood against the official candidates while some were involved in the tactical voting. Chairman KP Sharma Oli hit the ceiling when the party lost election in his forts in Jhapa, his home district. With the announcement of the results of all votes, Oli rushed to Jhapa to give the spoilers a roasting. And he has issued a caveat to them – either offer a plausible apology or face expulsion from the party.
The story of antarghat is quite interesting in the ruling NC. The rival camps within the party are throwing brickbats at each other. NC former vice-president Prakash Man Singh has called for hunting the renegades in every ward of Kathmandu Metropolis, who, he thinks, caused the defeat of party mayoral candidate here. The NC mayoral contestant was close to Singh’s camp, so he blew a fuse. The other day, another top gun, Ram Chandra Poudel, accused president and Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba of setting antarghat in motion. Speaking at a gathering of party’s representatives and lawmakers from Province No 2, Paudel blamed Deuba for selling the pass by forcing the party’s mayoral candidate in Bharatpur Metropolis into pulling out of his candidacy in an authoritarian manner. Deuba had interfered in aborting the candidacy of NC mayoral contestant Dinesh Koirala from the centre to support Maoist Centre’s candidate Renu Dahal, daughter of Prachanda. The marriage between the ultra-left and right-to-centre party was one of the most bizarre scenes in the contemporary politics. This caused many devoted NC leaders and cadres to sink their heads in shame. In this unholy alliance, the Paudel camp found the biggest weapon to clobber Deuba and the latter has found it difficult to defend the controversial tactic. Now Paudel’s supporters have started a campaign to expose Deuba among the rank and file, apportioning a lion’s share of blame to Deuba for the party’s demotion to the second position from the first.
Meanwhile, the lacklustre poll performance has disappointed the Maoist Centre to the extent that chairman Prachanda even warned of dissolving the party. It bagged only 84 mayoral posts out of 617. It may be recalled here that the Maoist Centre forged electoral alliances with a string of parties in many places to ensure the victory of its candidates. Instead of finding the objective factors behind the defeat, the party has offered wacky arguments. Sometimes, it blames its own poll symbol and the other times the cases of antarghat for the debacle. One leader even accused the people of committing a mistake by not casting vote for his party. The poll beating has become so strong for the MC that chair Prachanda even went on to give the game away. “How did the UML win in Kailali where I had spent Rs 110 million?” an online news portal quoted Prachanda as telling the party meeting. This indicates an utter frustration running high in the party of former rebels. It has been widely believed that the MC lost people’s faith when it pulled out its support to KP Sharma Oli-led government that had taken a historic step to reduce Nepal’s high dependency on India by opening a trade route to China through the landmark trade and transit treaty with the northern neighbour. The people punished it for its ‘villainous role’ in toppling the Oli government.
NC leader Manamohan Bhattarai has dismissed the myth of antarghat and presented an eye-opening reason behind the UML’s thumping victory. In an interview to a local television channel, he said, “We must acknowledge the UML has shown the Nepali people a vision of the country’s future by defeating the Indian embargo and opening a route to China via Kerung of Tibet. Likewise, the people did not want to split Terai from the hills. The NC tried to separate them but the UML blocked it.” Bhattarai was candid as he noted that nationalism and a firm stand by the UML to safeguard national interests won the trust of the people living in the Terai, hills and mountains, and this was well reflected at the ballot. Why are the ruling parties hesitating to accept this simple truth brought forth by none other than a NC stalwart himself ?