China and India factor are the two dominant themes before the electorate in Nepal’s election along with issues related to sovereignty and constitutional safeguards to the marginalized. Nepal is gearing up for Nov 20 general elections with political parties vying with each other on the plank of ultra-nationalism, reported policy research group, POREG. The fight is between the moderately centrist Nepal Congress-led alliance and the Communist Party of Nepal (United Marxist Leninist, UML)-led alliance.
The UML, while not hiding its China tilt, is harping on developing external relations based on reciprocity. And is raking up highly sentimental territorial issues promising that Nepal’s territorial integrity would be protected at any cost. Five lakh new jobs, food security and a ‘Make in Nepal’ culture are the pledge from the Oli camp to sway the electorate, reported POREG.
A two-time Prime Minister, Pushpa Kamal Dahal, widely known as Prachanda from his days at the head of the Maoist insurgency that had brought curtains down on the Nepal monarchy, is promising a presidential form of government and a fully proportional electoral system though he is contesting in league with the Nepal Congress, which, like the UML, is opposed to the directly elected chief executive. Others in the fray include the rightist Rashtriya Prajatantra Party (RPP) and the much-splintered Madhesi parties based in the Terai region on the open border with India, reported POREG. RPP, is promising a return to Monarchy. It has pledged to make Nepal a Hindu Rashtra (state) with the freedom of all faiths. An end to the three-tier federal structure is also its poll promise. Interestingly, RPP has forged an alliance with the UML, which is totally opposed to Royalty.
How this alliance could fare if it comes to power is the talk of the town. Many other parties and groups are no less bizarre in their quest for a mandate on promises that cannot be fulfilled, and violate the spirit of the Constitution, reported POREG. Winnability concerns prompted by the perception that no single party can form the government has given way to alliances minus ideology. The strange bedfellows are more focused on attacking the Constitution promulgated in 2015. The Maoists, and the Madhav Nepal-led CPN -Unified Socialist are aligned with Nepali Congress though both had fought the 2017 election in the company of K P Sharma Oli -led UML. Both Prachanda and Madhav Nepal are facing UML barbs, reported POREG.
Electioneering started on a low key on Nov 3 but has picked up momentum as D-day neared for the 165 directly elected seats in the Lower House of Parliament and 330 seats in the Provincial Assemblies. Ultra-nationalist rhetoric and protection of sovereignty were the main planks of the Communists last time around. Both issues are at the center stage now besides tantalizing freebies. A stable government without outside interference is also an oft-heard poll pledge in the hills and valley alike. Other talking points include the right to equality, social justice, and the welfare of Janjatis, Madhesis, and Tharus amongst others, reported POREG.
Leaders of the Nepal Congress-led alliance are promising good governance while firing on all cylinders at KP Sharma Oli. Accusing him of subverting democracy, and charging him with trampling the constitution, they are promising a new deal to the people of the Himalayan nation. Good neighborly relations with China and India, a foreign policy based on national sovereignty and equality, employment generation, poverty alleviation, social justice, and health care are among their talking points to win the mandate. To woo the Terai voters, the NC alliance is promising due attention to marginalized communities, reported POREG.