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RPP, Wake Up to Principles

pkharel1In the aftermath of the undignified haste with which the major parties unsheathed their previously undeclared agendas a decade ago, one of the key leaders of the former panchas confided to his close circle of loyalists: “Just because monarchy has ended, it does not mean our politics has ended.” Flowing with the tide became the agendaless policy.
The result: The credibility of leaders who were big shots during the partyless panchayat polity ended up pathetically as marginalised groups. They lacked any significant agendas to attract much public attention for specific identity required to become a force to reckon with. Mutual squabbling and misplaced sense of self-importance without the force of a specific identity reduced them to the status they suffer today.
When their three groups united in 2017 impressed the public whether they will actually shed their previous traits of intra-party squabbling and emerge as a key player in Nepali politics. Old habits die hard. Within a few months, they returned into splitting into three groups, and the recent elections handed them a drubbing in the local and general elections. Can they hope to make a comeback in the days ahead? Politics is a game of strange combinations created also by given contexts and resiliency.
STEMMING DECLINE: The general fear among RPP workers of the various strands might be the beginning of their decline and fall unless their senior leaders atone for the lapses. This refers particularly Kamal Thapa, Pashupati S. Rana and Prakash Chandra Lohani,
For quite a few spells and national legislative innings in the past 28 years of multiparty polity, the former Panchas regularly availed themselves of power and position on the strength of their role as “king-makers”, and deserted specific agendas of independent identity. They savoured the space tossed up by a hung parliament deprived of any single party scoring a clear majority all on its own.
Things have changed drastically now, after the November-December local, provincial and general elections under the 2015 Constitution, which is being interpreted in different ways by the very parties that muscled their way to changes, indifferent to other voices had to say or pressed for. This was called “loktantra” (people’s rule).
Split in three groups and cast far away from the required prescribed threshold of three per cent of votes in the recent polls, their voices will be well outside the precincts of parliament. In the previous national legislature, the same groups had about two score seats between them. Kamal Thapa’s party had 25 seats, all through proportional representation. Their failure to unite among themselves deeply disappointed and distanced many of their previous sympathisers and supporters. The result was predictably registered in the dismal performance.
RPP now is represented by a lone MP whose status is that of an “independent” member. The other two, headed by Pashupati S. Rana and Dr. Prakash Chandra Lohani, suffered a complete rout and hence the disastrous drought as far as their space in parliament is concerned. All groups saw their chiefs lose convincingly.
EXISTENTIAL CRISIS: As things stand, the three groups are in the throes of a serious existential crisis. To convincingly demonstrate they are not yet a spent force, an honest accounting is overdue. They should make a bruising and bluntly candid assessment of their peril and prospects, including the cause of voters’ apathy toward them.
Thapa’s party should come out openly regarding its stand on monarchy, federalism and secular Nepal. Rana is silent on two of these issues but has begun reviving Nepal’s recognition as a Hindu state. Dr. Lohani in the recent times has been increasingly veering against the federal structure of the state and also some of the other key “achievements” the major parties have been trumpeting about. Thapa with varying degrees of intensity wanted the three key characteristics of the existing dispensation to be commuted to a national referendum. Hence all three groups need to work on common areas of agreement for a united and reinvented party.
This scribe recalls the time when Thapa had just assumed his party chair succeeding the late Rabindra Nath Sharma, and inviting me to brief his central committee members for two hours on political communication and publicity at a hotel close to the far end of Thamel. I dwelt upon intra-party, inter-party and party-public communications, and reminded them that their worst was over. They could only find themselves on a better footing from the lowest political ebb they were then undergoing. Subsequent events proved this assessment right. Now conditions are back to square one.
Conviction has no reservation or qualification. No single leader can carry any large agenda forward all on his own. He can, however, help his party to swim smoothly or sink for good. Lohani, Rana and Thapa, are you listening for the decisive moment of truth to pull your acts together for your collective good and legacy? There is an alternative, though: Join any of the larger parties. That is if it is politically prudent and feasible.

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