BY P. KHAREL
Rastriya Prajatantra Party and its variants are a far cry from what they were until the start of last winter. So marginalised have they been that their form and force can hardly be found recognisable this spring. The power they pursued with such lust is lost for at least five years.
No longer in the role of king-makers whereby their minscule but all-crucial decider of parliamentary strength fetched them rewards, the three faced-RPP variants, headed by former panchas, each with 45 years of political experience, present a pathetic sight today. But all may not yet be over.
All they need is to follow an abiding faith in commitment to what sizeable sections of Nepalis are expected to say and do without falling for unprincipled compromises in the face of power dangled at them. First, they need to unite with conviction and concerted efforts to establish the type of characteristics in the nation’s consitution they consider best suited.
Hemming and hawing, with a hint here and a signal there contributing to a cycle of alternatively blowing hot and threatening cold, the former panchas find themselves in heavy distress. Constant faction-fighting, splits and leaders with mega size egos without the proportionate organisational strength to sustain their follies are constant causes of their series of setbacks and erosion in public credibility.
CREDIBILITY FIRST: Will the former panchas at long last have the desire and courage to dispense with their personality clashes in the autumn of their political careers? They have failed for almost three decades. Given the will, they can yet spring a surprise if they pursue the advice “Better late than never”. But this time, it should be purely on the grounds of conviction and clarity of policy both in public and private.
Secularism and federal structure of republican state are touted by the larger parties as the key achievements of the 2006 political changes led to. These are issues either to be abandoned altogether or accepted wholesale or perhaps even partially.
If and when unified, RPP needs to navigate the road to recovery and credibility, which is a daunting task after having already exhausted large potentials. It needs to shed split personality, no longer letting the mind harbouring one set of agendas and the action manifesting something else. In the process, it leaves the impression in the public that power constitutes the primary purpose of politics.
The Kamal Thapa-led RPP frittered away the standing it enjoyed in the previous national legislature. Nothing much was gained, except the acknowledgement that it held an ace as the prime king-maker in a hung house with no single party with clear majority on its own. It did make a sort of gain through the recognition as a democratic partner by Nepali Congress, the self-proclaimed loktantrik symbol that “led all major democratic movements” in the country.
From the ashes of the 2017 elections at local and federal levels, RPP needs to bounce back as a force to reckon with. This means shedding the double-face and taking the plunge in what the party is for. One of the senior-most leaders of the RPP variants said, in the initital priod of the loktantrik experiment, “Just because monarchy has been abolished, it oes not mean that our politics should end.” That may sound practical but it stands devoid of individual identity of the party as an institution
Failure to carve a distinct identity all their own, the RPP variants have the option of joining the UML-Maoist Centre combine or the Nepali Congress. At least this way some of the leaders’ penchant for being in active, visible politics will not die a natural death. The question is as to what precisely is their identity, defined by specific ideology which distinguishes them from other larger parties.
SHED AMBIGUITY: Some members in the Thapa-led party claim that the novelty of rhetoric on republican feature, federalism, secularism is fading fast and furious. That would especially be true if, as pointed out by President Bidya Devi Bhandari, in her maiden address to the joint session of federal parliament, unless the living standards of the people are improved, loktantra will merely be confined to slogan.
Political stability, right to work and rule of law are the key factors that give substantive meaning to the existing polity. Were the former panchas to unite and make public their stand clear without an iota of ambiguity on the features hailed by the larger parties as “major achievements”, its credibility would shore up even if it might not necessarily attract equal level of support. Only the test of their approch and power convincing will be the deciding factor in offering them with special identity.
RPP groups have invariably recorded better electoral fortunes when they remained united and they suffered serious setbacks when split. The course of history calls for vision and commitment to their declared ideology. Can the RPP variants be expected to sink their differences and close their ranks by identifying common grounds of agreement for making them and their ideology relevant in the days ahead?