Believing in democracy, once-extremist forces of Chand and Raut are joining the poll frayThe hardliners joining the elections is a good move and it does not matter whether they win or lose, experts say.
The Alliance for Independent Madhes led by Chandra Kanta (CK) Raut fomented a secessionist movement for years. He was arrested on several occasions while his cadres faced police torture, one died in custody, for supporting secessionism.
Raut gave up secessionist demands in March 2019 after sealing an 11-point agreement with the then KP Sharma Oli government vowing to abide by democratic norms in accordance with the Constitution of Nepal. Three years later, the party is currently preparing to contest next month’s local elections. The party is contesting in 160 local units in the Madhes Province and Tarai districts. “We aim to win at least half of the seats,” Abdul Khan, vice-chairperson of Janamat Party, told the Post. “We will implement our policies by winning the hearts of the people through a democratic process that is election.”
Janamat was the first among 79 parties that registered for the local polls being held in 753 local units across the country.
Until two years ago, the Communist Party of Nepal (CPN) led by Netra Bikram Chand was in “an undeclared armed struggle against the state” to establish “scientific socialism” the party has been advocating for. In March 2020, the party signed an agreement with the Oli government to join peaceful mainstream politics.
Though the party has not been registered with the Election Commission, it is fielding its candidates as independents. “As we have signed a three-point agreement with the government we are honest to it,” Chiranjibi Dhakal, secretary at the party’s secretariat, told the Post. “It is our strategy to use the election to the party’s advantage.”
The Chand-led party has filed its candidates for chief and deputy chief posts in 35 local units mainly in the former Maoist hinterland districts of Rolpa, Kalikot, Gulmi and Gorkha.
Both Raut and Chand who were in their campaigns to implement their agendas through violence are actually showing their faith in the ballot. “The local elections will lay the foundation for federal elections to be held later this year,” said Khan. The Janamat Party has announced plans to implement community socialism in the local units won by the party. Under the concept of community socialism the government takes full responsibility for food, clothing, shelter, education and health of the people, according to the party. Khan said his party has full faith in people and expects that they will give it an opportunity to lead not just local governments but provincial and federal governments as well.
In Nepal, the CPN (Maoist Centre) is a good example that a party that advocated and practiced violence can still mend ways and emerge as a strong political force through elections.
In 2006, the present-day Maoist Centre abandoned the armed conflict it had started in 1996, and joined mainstream politics. It became the single largest party from the 2008’s Constituent Assembly elections. It continued to be the third largest party after 2013’s second Constituent Assembly and general election in 2017.
The decision by Raut’s and Chand’s parties to contest elections means they believe in the democratic process and verdict of the people, say political experts.
Khangendra Prasai, an associate professor who teaches political philosophy at Nepal Open University, says Janamat Party and CPN joining the elections is a good move and it does not matter whether they win or lose. “If they lose they will understand that the electorate does not support their agendas,” he told the Post. “And if they win, even if a few seats, that will encourage them to engage in the democratic process.”
Even if the parties like the CPN, in principle, say they will capture the state apparatus through bullets or other forms of protest, they know that is not possible at the present time, said Prasai.
The two parties joining the elections is the manifestation of their understanding that they cannot move ahead without people’s support.
Political experts say, in a democracy setup, parties can enforce their every agenda if they are endorsed by voters through elections. Whichever parties are able to convince the people, win elections and get at least five years to implement their agendas. The parties securing two-thirds majority can even amend the constitution except some immutable Articles.
“In democracy you have every opportunity to implement your agendas if they are endorsed by the electorate,” Meena Vaidya Malla, a professor and former chief of the Department of Political Science at the Tribhuvan University, told the Post. “The two forme rebel parties contesting the elections is also a message that there is no room for violent politics.”