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Editorial: Bibeksheel-Sajha: What next?

Editorial: Bibeksheel-Sajha: What next?

There are four main currents in Nepali politics right now, represented by four different political parties: the Nepal Communist Party (communists, socialists), the Nepali Congress (liberal democrats), the Janata Samajbadi Party Nepal (regional, identity-based party), and the Rastriya Prajatantra Party (monarchists, Hindu-state proponents). Each of the four has well-defined voter bases. Three of the four are forces that recently consolidated, partly because of restrictive new laws that bar small political forces from being recognized as national political parties—with all the concomitant benefits of such recognition. The new union of Bibeksheel Nepali and Sajha Party, now to be called Bibeksheel Sajha Party, aims to be the fifth established force.

An earlier unity between Bibeksheel and Sajha had dissolved after the united party bungled the 2017 federal and provincial elections, winning just three seats in Bagmati provincial assembly and none in the federal parliament. A bitter personality clash among the party’s top brass ensued. Now, having realized the futility of pursuing separate paths in a polity that encourages consolidation, they have come together again. But to what end, people are again asking? The latest merger was announced on Dec 9, the International Anti-Corruption Day, to send a powerful message. During the merger, party bigwigs also said they were committed to improving the sectors of health and education to build a more resilient democratic Nepal. Again, nothing wrong with any of this.

Nepali political actors consolidating is good news, too, which in turn will add to the vibrancy of the democratic process. Yet health, education and anti-corruption don’t a political ideology make. The new party wants to be seen as a grouping of thorough professionals committed to clean and efficient public service delivery. But as the party discovered in the 2017 elections, that is not enough to get people to vote for them. The party was largely trounced outside Kathmandu, where it got some support from young, first-time voters. It is also hard to see in Nepal the emergence of techo-populist movements like Italy’s Five Star Movement or Alternative for Germany in near future. Notably, the AAP in India has also struggled outside Delhi. It will be a struggle all along for Bibeksheel Sajha unless it can come up with a more compelling narrative to attract the youth and white-collar professionals from all across the country.