Smaller Parties: Balancer Or Spoiler?
Ritu Raj Subedi
The major political parties had taken the lion’s share of key posts of the local level units from the recent local polls, but interestingly it is the same smaller parties, which were tossed aside by the electorates that have heated up the political markets. Most of them are licking their wounds after electoral defeat but two of them are agog with the surprising number of votes they mustered in Kathmandu and Lalitpur Metropolises. Sajha Party and Bibeksheel Nepal, formed some time ago, did not clinch any seats but have been buoyed by unexpected votes. They have now formed the Bibeksheel Sajha Party to create a force to be reckoned with. The neophyte group hopes to better face off the titans in the upcoming elections. The urban dwellers, youngsters, the Twitterati, and Facebookers form its support base. Determined to cash in on the people’s disenchantment with the traditional parties, it seeks to spread its wing through social networking sites as it lacks the organizational structure from top to bottom. This approach is not bad given that the implosion of Internet has hugely impacted the functioning of parties, politics, democracy and governance system in the contemporary society.
Naya Shakti disappointed
Ironically, the euphoria that the members of the new Bibeksheel Sajha Party are experiencing eluded the leaders of Naya Shakti that is in total disarray following the disastrous poll performance. Its attempt to be united with the Federal Socialist Forum went belly up largely owing to the personality clash between Naya Shakti coordinator Dr Baburam Bhattarai and Forum chief Upendra Yadav. Both parties had reportedly agreed on many issues, including policies and name of the new party but the unification process hit a serious roadblock as both the parties staked their claim to the executive head of the new party. Their unity talks began with a bang but ended with a whimper.
The political spectators had cast doubt on the likelihood of their merger from the beginning. Both have been carrying toxic ethnic agenda with a nod to the constitutional attempt to divide the Terai from the hills. Many of today’s political ills have stemmed from the divisive ethnic agenda that was first championed by the then CPN-Maoist and now by the Rastriya Janta Party, Upendra and Baburam’s groups. It was next to impossible for Upendra to work under Baburam, a hill Brahmin leader, for the ethnic factor and parochial regionalism has characterized the ideology of his party. The same reason applies to Baburam behind his refusal to play second fiddle to Upendra.
The Rastriya Prajatantra Party that had racked up impressive number of seats from the second Constituent Assembly is now facing existential crisis in the wake of the local election. It is still reeling from the shocking poll loss. The electorates punished the former Pancha’s party for its vacillating postures. It is no longer a true pro-monarchical and a pure pro-Hindu force because both the constituents rejected it in the election. Its temptation to join the government of all shades under any circumstances made it a laughing stock among the public. It accepted the secular and republican constitution and joined the two governments led by secular prime ministers. Meanwhile, RPP leader Kamal Thapa has himself locked horns with former king Gyanendra for the latter’s ‘foul gambit’ inside his party. It has been reported that Gyanendra coalesced around 15 RPP lawmakers to stand against the controversial constitution amendment bill. This is a reason why the government chickened out of putting the amendment proposal to a vote in the House. How can the RPP project as pro-monarchial party when its head himself butts head with the ex-king?
Likewise, some critics argue that the RPP also lost its nationalistic credentials by joining the previous Prachanda-led government that tried hard to divide Nepal’s geography on the ethnic line. After Thapa failed to guarantee that all RPP lawmakers would cast their votes for the amendment proposal, Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba preferred not to invite the RPP to join the government. Enraged by Deuba’s decision not to make it a part of the coalition government, Thapa has now dismissed it as sour grapes.
It will be extremely futile to trace political morality and integrity in Madhesi Janaadhikar Forum-Lokatantrik that has beaten the RPP in jumping on the bandwagon of the government ad hominem. But the role of small communist parties, such as Nepal Workers and Peasants’ Party, CPN-ML and Rastriya Janamorcha has been encouraging when it comes to safeguarding the national sovereignty and territorial integrity, and raising the voice of the people living at the bottom of socio-economic hierarchy. Despite their little strength in the parliament, they have not earned notoriety as spoilers like other parties in the national politics.
The role of smaller parties has often come under scrutiny when there is a hung parliament in the country. On most occasions, many of them get obsessive about power, perk and posts. They often forget their stated goals and fail to demonstrate a modicum of morality. At a trying moment of national politics, they can/should play their positive role to bring the desired results in favour of people and nation. They must be able to make the mainstream parties accountable to the parliament and people. They have an opportunity to seize the moral high ground as the big parties are bogged down by corruption scandals, internal strife and democratic deficit. At that moment, they should step up to the plate to shape pro-people policies and raise the bar for the governance system. With the country practicing the proportional representation electoral system, it has become a fertile ground for the rise of smaller parties. This does not mean that they have a field day in politics. This means the fringe parties have constitutional obligation to act as a balancer among the mainstream parties, not as spoiler.