The national and provincial elections are around the corner for which candidates are in their last leg of campaigning to woo the voters. As in the past, voters are being promised all sorts of things. This is neither unusual, nor are they doing it for the first time. Such promises are common in a country like Nepal where the society has been dependent on politics for everything for a long time.
Interesting as it may be, what is true, however, is that most of the candidates have just become dream merchants. Despite all this fanfare on the part of candidates and political parties, people at large look less enthusiastic about the election.
The overall national mode is not jubilant. This certainly will have consequences in the electoral outcomes as well. The frustration is all pervasive and deeply running across various sections of society, and is already being manifested. The electoral campaign of major political parties and their leaders have been challenged in the form of the ‘No Not Again’ social media campaign. People’s resentment at old established political parties could reflect in the form of low voter turnout. Or, their frustration could impact the performance of traditional political parties.
What led to such a state of affairs? Why is there a deep level of frustration towards electoral politics? Part of the reason is that Nepali politics, over the years, has been hijacked by the parties to fulfill their vested interests and that of their close supporters.
True, political leaders and parties have contributed to bring about political changes in the country. But they expect to be rewarded. It does not stop here, there are some leaders who equate their political success with national success and their failure as nations failure.
Similarly, frequent formation of (un)holy alliances—Gathabandhan—either to stay in power or to come into power has only reduced people’s trust—often referred to as Janata—in democracy. From that perspective, Gathbandhan is merely a Thagbandhan—a coalition of thugs.
Many people who have been closely observing these events are ready to challenge this status quo. If that materializes, this certainly is going to have a deep impact for the traditional political parties, who have been running the show in the country for nearly thirty plus years.
During these thirty plus years, there has been a steady rise of the middle class. But it is this group and their children who will likely shape the outcomes of this election. If not, they will at least set a course for future elections.
This group is not affiliated to any political parties, and they are not easily be influenced by rhetoric. Political parties are without true agendas this time and the people can see this.
Perhaps, they might still be under the impression that their dreams and promises can still be sold in the market. But things have changed.
Of course, political parties of various colors and ideologies have come out with their own manifestos with a long list of promises and programs. However, some of them do not truly make any sense to the people, as they are not really connected with their livelihood. Besides, the parties had made similar commitments in the past.
If we juxtapose the roundabouts of events, it appears that political parties, at large, are running out of their bank balance of public trust. Under these circumstances, mere ranting and projecting repeated artificial crises in democracy, constitution and sovereignty will not win them public trust.
A politician’s career crisis in no way endangers democracy, constitution or national sovereignty.
For all practical purposes, the extant election is being contested between two forces: those who are affiliated with political parties in one way or the other, and those who are outside of the party mechanism from every aspect.
The latter want to unseat the former at any cost. In that process, independent candidates have come as a blessing in disguise, though independent candidates, too, are not independent in a real sense of the term. For now, they certainly are becoming successful in delivering a message to the traditional political parties and their leaders.
Traditional political parties are facing a litmus test. Let us see how they fare this election. Recycling of the same people for more than thirty plus years in politics has brought a deep anti-incumbency wave even within the pirates. Perhaps their young leaders, too, are seeking genuine change.
Established political forces must reinvent themselves and change their way of politics if they are to survive and remain relevant.