Exercise in futilityTouring the country won’t be enough to drum up support for big parties.
Of late, major political parties have stepped up their interactions with the general public. One after another political party has announced campaigns aimed at reaching out to the people at the grassroots, across the country’s length and breadth. They seem to be anxious about their future and are trying to strengthen the weakening connection with common folks. The federal parliament’s second-largest party and the main opposition CPN-UML has been marching along the Mid-Hill Highway since Thursday. In the three-week-long journey, party leaders plan to interact with locals of 26 hill districts connected via the nearly 1,776 km highway. The party started the new campaign not long after completing a two-month-long ‘mission grassroots’.
In the meantime, Nepali Congress, the largest party in the federal parliament, is busy with its provincial gatherings. Before that, in September, another party CPN (Maoist Centre) launched a three-month-long Jantasanga Maobadi (Maoists with the people) campaign. Party leaders interacting with their cadres and general people and trying to feel the public pulse is a good practice. Yet what they are doing is too little too late. Just touring the country without a substantive change in party leadership or its messaging is meaningless. The old leaders continue to repeat the same-old hackneyed promises—and most people have had enough. They are in a mood for a change, a definite break with the past.
Interestingly, all these parties have adopted 'Mission 2027' (the year of next general elections) as their tour slogan. This kind of campaigning is perhaps justified for a new party like Rastriya Swatantra Party that is yet to finalise its organisation structure and is only just giving shape to an official ideology. But for the traditional parties, gathering hundreds of people and making them listen to hours-long harangues could prove counterproductive this time.
One thing that was crystal clear after last year's general elections and April bypolls is that Nepali people desperately want new leaders with new ideas. If the political parties, mainly the traditional forces, really want to do better in the next polls, the first thing they have to do is to present new, younger and inclusive faces to the masses. The current set of leaders of the three biggest parties in Nepal have all occupied the highest post in the land—and multiple times. Shouldn’t they make way for a new generation, and especially when the age of an average Nepali is a third of the average age of these leaders, people are justifiably asking? There is no freshness in their modus operandi or the kind of programmes they espouse.
For their parties to stay electrorally competitive, the leaders of the Congress, the UML and the Maoist Centre leaders must be ready to make some sacrifices. If they cannot immediately leave the scene, they can at least publicly declare that they will hand over the party’s reins after a time. Also, rather than empty slogans, they can come up with clear to-do lists with clear timelines, which can be later used to hold them accountable. The writing's on the wall for the old forces. The tragedy is that their power-centric top leaders refuse to see it.