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Nepal: Second CA Elections: Too many surprises: Update No. 288

Note No. 704                     Dated 24-Nov-2013

By Dr. S.Chandrasekharan

It looks that this is a season for surprises in the South Asian region. First was the national election in Bhutan where the party that was trailing way behind won in the run off with a clear majority.

Then came Maldives where unexpectedly, the Popular people’s leader Mohamed Nasheed was beaten by a narrow margin by Abdulla Yameen giving rise to a fear of another spell of Gayoom’s dictatorial policy by proxy in the presidential elections just concluded.

The just concluded elections to the Second Constitutional Assembly in Nepal follows the same trend. If this trend continues, both Bangladesh where elections are due before Jan 24th and the continuing current elections to the State assembly and later at the centre in India may throw many surprises! In Sri Lanka on the contrary no surprises will be allowed.

CA II Elections:

Results of all except for four constituencies have been announced in the FPTP ( first past the post) system while counting for the proportional representation is still continuing.

FPTP:

 

Nepali Congress- 104

CPN UML 92

UCPN (M) 25

MJF- D 4

TMLP 4

RPP 3

MJF-N 2

Sadbhavana 1

NMKP 1

TMSP 1

Independants 2

Proportional:

CPN- UML 259080

Nepali Congress 238899

UCPN-M 151556

RPP 81068

RPP-N 29815

Winners and Losers:

UCPN (Maoist) Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal and party Spokesperson Agni Prasad Sapkota, former PM Baburam Bhattarai, former PM Sher Bahadur Deuba, Nepali Congress President Sushil Koirala and Vice -president Ram Chandra Paudel, Secretary Arjun Narsingh KC and the youth leader Gagan Thapa of Nepali Congress, CPN-UML Chairman Jhalanath Khanal and leaders Madhav Kumar Nepal, KP Sharma Oli and Bamdev Gautam, and MPRF-D Chairman Bijay Gachchhadar, Upendra Yadav of MJF N are among the winners.

Also, some other noted leaders, who got elected would include Krishna Prasad Sitaula, Mahesh Acharya, Bal Krishna Khand, Shekhar Koirala of NC and UML’s Surendra Pandey and Gokarna Bista.Gulmi respectively.

Three influential RPP leaders -- Bikram Pandey, Deepak Bohara and Sunil Bahadur Thapa -- have won the election from Chitwan, Rupandehi and Dhankuta districts.

The losers include- , Narayankaji Shrestha and Barshaman Pun of UCPN (Maoist) and RPP’s senior leader Pashupati Shumsher JB Rana. UML’s Ishwar Pokharel, Shankar Pokharel, Pradeep Gyawali, Prithivi Subba Gurung, Raghuji Panta, Ramnath Adhikari, Ghanshyam Bhusal, Yogesh Bhattarai, NC’s Deep Kumar Upadhyaya and TMDP’s Hridayesh Tripathi are among some noted leaders who lost the election. Another notable loser was Mahant Thakur of TMLP in Sarlahi 5.

The UCPN (Maoist) made a complete sweep in Dolpa their stronghold and in Gorkha ( Baburam Bhattarai’s place) while Narayan man Bijukche of NMKP retained his continued strangle hold in Bakthapur.

Both the Nepali Congress and the UML made considerable inroads into Terai and the UCPN of Dahal did not get the expected dividends in the Terai despite tying up with one of the major Terain parties. The King’s parties- the RPP and the RPP-N have fared satisfactorily in the proportional system.

Some Observations:

1. The biggest surprise has been the poor performance of the UCPN (Maoist) and Dahal. While the party was not expected to perform on the same scale as it had in 2008 elections, it was thought that it would still emerge as the largest party in the polls. The party came a poor third and trailed far behind in the FPTP system though its performance was not as bad in the proportional system. Worse still is the humiliating defeat, its chairman suffered in Kathmandu-10.

Shocked by its poor performance, the Maoists failed to persuade the EC to stop counting though it boycotted the sessions for a long time. Good sense prevailed finally and the party is said to be ready to participate in the new constituent assembly.

Reasons for the poor performance would include a. the vertical split that occurred in the party with the Mohan Baidya group not only boycotting and disrupting the elections but ensured the defeat of the rival UNCP (M) candidates!

In the last elections, the party cadres went from door to door to canvas and convince the electorate that they should be given a chance as a new entrant with a different agenda. Five years later the people have given their disapproval by voting them out. One other point that needs to be noted is that in the last elections, the united Maoists had a free hand throughout the country as other leaders and the cadres were holed up in the capital and district headquarter during the insurgency. These parties did not have enough time to go to their constituencies to canvas and in addition were overconfident. There was also an element of fear where threats and coercion worked. This time the party was seen as an unstable entity, though it must be said that the party did succeed in completing the peace process with the surrender most ( not all ) of the weapons and the integration of the cadres now complete and irreversible.

2. The most surprising performance has been that of the UML who have not only come a close second to the Nepali Congress in the FPTP  but is also now leading the parties in the proportional system by a good margin.. ( See the figures).

The party was riven at the top with the top three Madhav Nepal, Jhalnath Khanal and K.P.Oli pulling in different directions. There was then the exodus from the party of Janajathi leaders over differences in the configuration of the states in the federal system. There was also an ambitious leader in Khanal who went over the heads of other leaders in striking a deal with the Maoists for becoming the prime minister. The presence of an unstable and unpredictable leader in Bom Dev Gautam, who created more problems for the party was an added factor( this time Bom Dev Gautham has won from both the seats he contested!)

The emergence of Madhav Nepal in winning from both the constituencies (unlike last time when he lost both) and K.P.Oli should be welcomed as that would give the party more stability and a chance to tie up with other democratic parties.

3. Another surprise has been the excellent performance of the Nepali Congress under the not so charismatic leader Sushil Koirala. Sushil Koirala has himself won in two constituencies ( he lost in the last one) and so is Deuba from two other constituencies. It is hoped that the two party chiefs instead of quarreling with each other, try to turn a new leaf to go for an acceptable constitution in cooperation with other groups.

The Koirala family has won and it is hoped that they do not dominate the party as they have been doing before. One notable victory has been that of the youth leader Gagan Thapa who for the first time used the social media to a great extent in canvassing. Many who have been watching the developments in Nepal from outside felt that Gagan was being deliberately marginalised by the dynasty. He is a rising star and it is hoped that he will be given his due place. Another person, capable and popular is Arjun Narsingh KC who never got a chance to establish himself.

It is time the trio Sushil, Deuba and RC Paudel give way to youngsters to run the party and remain as "senior advisers". The people have placed great faith on the party and the party this time cannot justify that faith if the top three continue at the helm of affairs.

4. It is a pity but one tends to see it as something the Terai leaders deserved in their rout. The top ones, lost in their favorite consistencies while others also lost badly like Rajendra Mahatao of Sadhbhavana, Hridesh Tripathy and scores of others. Another interesting development has been the inroads made by the main parties- the Nepali Congress and the UML in the Terai. Perhaps it is a good development for forging a consensus in the new assembly on many outstanding contentious issues.

I had been saying that if the Nepali Congress is to continue as a nation wide party, they should go out of the way to win over the Terains who have been complaining of being ignored. The 2008 elections in one sense with the Terain leaders united, empowered the Terains to a large extent to have a substantial say in running the country. But it looks that both the NC and UML have assessed the Terains better as a fragmented Terai has helped both the parties. One cannot but feel sad for the late Gajendra Narayan Singh who dedicated his whole life for the betterment of the Terains.

What Next?

There will be a temptation for both the NC and the UML with their combined strength to have their way in drafting the constitution and run the government as before ( they do not have a good record!). It is hoped that their personal ambitions do not come in the way in forging an all-inclusive approach in not only completing the drafting of the constitution but ensuring that peace and stability with economic progress is achieved.

The UCPN (Maoist) of Dahal is down but not out and unlike others they learn from experience and history. They should be taken into confidence and their views should considered in any new dispensation that is being thought of. They have the money, influence and the muscle and thus cannot be ignored!

 

 

 

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