Year Ender 2016: The Rise of the RightThe failure of the progressive forces to act according to their ideology and the unending political deadlock has given the right a space to flourish
In 2006 Rastriya Prajatantra Party split due to ideological differences between the two factions led by Chairman Pashupati Shumsher Rana and General Secretary Kamal Thapa. The ‘establishment faction’, led by Rana, wanted a departure from the party’s support of the monarchy and the Hindu agenda, citing that the public had lost faith in the Palace after the 2005 coup. This led a faction led by Thapa, a long-time confidant of the monarchy, to splinter and form the new party, RPP-Nepal.
The following year, after the Interim Constitution was promulgated, Nepal became a secular republic. In the first Constituent Assembly Election that followed, the RPP was able to secure only eight seats in the parliament. The tally for RPP-N was even worse—just four seats. When the House converged on its first day to officially usher in republicanism, the Thapa-led RPP-N were the only party that still stood by the monarchy.
In the second Constituent Assembly election in 2013, RPP-N—riding on an agenda of the revival of Nepal as a Hindu state—secured six times more seats when compared to 2008. It was now the fourth largest party in the Parliament. The RPP, on the other hand, was limited to mere 12 seats.
Following RPP-N’s unexpected rise, leaders from the establishment faction, who once held that the Hindu agenda was not aligned with public sentiments, backtracked on their previous stance. And though informal negotiations have been taking place for the past two years, the two splintered factions reunited this November, exactly 10 years after the split.
The unification, in part, was led by an increasingly vocal cadre base, buoyed by the rise of nationalist parties throughout the world, including Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP)’s resounding victory in the 2014 Indian elections.
“After the unification RPP has emerged as a strong rightist force. We are very much confident that the party will perform well in future elections,” says Dilnath Giri, chief whip of the party.
The unification was formalised under two basic tenets: its support for nationalist agendas and the revival of Nepal as a Hindu state. The general convention of the newly-unified party, set for February 2017, is expected to take the final call on republicanism and federalism. The conclave is projected to back a model that promotes decentralisation, as opposed to federalism.
Analyst Hari Roka agrees parties carrying rightist agenda can benefit in Nepal in upcoming elections. He, however, doesn’t think RPP will be that party. The main opposition CPN–UML, led by KP Oli, is riding the nationalist wave. “The RPP is taking an extreme-right position but lacks a solid base on the ground, which the UML has,” he says.
In second CA election 2013, the two RPPs had received a combined 9.4 percent votes from the 9.46 million votes cast under the proportional representation system. Roka doesn’t see the party making significant increase in those votes in a future election.
The failure of the progressive forces to act according to their ideology and the unending political deadlock has given the right a space to flourish. All major parties now have strong right-wing constituencies. While KP Sharma Oli himself gives that voice in the CPN-UML, Khum Bahadur Khadka and Sashank Koirala do that in the Nepali Congress.
It remains likely that the different nationalist forces will come together sooner than later. “It’s very likely their factions come together either by splitting or by forming some kind of alliance,” says Roka, “That will be the most unfortunate development in the history of modern-day Nepal.” But perhaps a far more important trend to watch in the coming year would be how the two major communist parties, the CPN-UML and CPN Maoist (Unity Centre), will navigate the new wave of nationalist sentiments, and where in the larger political spectrum the RPP position themselves.