Centralised decisions to pick local poll candidates raise questions galoreDeuba warns Congress rebels to back off. Oli tells UML mutineers to resist impulses.
Tika R Pradhan
Nepali Congress President Sher Bahadur Deuba on Tuesday asked some local leaders of his party who have projected themselves as candidates for local elections against official candidates of the ruling alliance to pull out of the race.
According to an official at the prime minister’s personal secretariat, Deuba, who is also the prime minister, called the rebel candidates on the phone and has summoned some of them to Kathmandu in his attempt to persuade them to withdraw their candidacies.
“The Congress is also preparing to issue a warning letter asking them to withdraw their candidacies or face consequences,” said the official, requesting anonymity. “If they refuse, they will be stripped of all party responsibilities, including ordinary membership.”
On Sunday evening, according to a leader present at the meeting of top leaders of the five-party alliance, Deuba chided local Congress leaders of Rolpa and Rukum over the phone for trying to forge an electoral alliance with the CPN-UML.
“The prime minister took local leaders of Rolpa and Rukum to the task and told them to avoid forging electoral alliance with the UML at all costs,” the leader told the Post.
Deuba this time was under compulsion to continue alliances especially with the CPN (Maoist Centre) and CPN (Unified Socialist) for local polls and depending on the results, he may continue the partnership during the general elections as well. Similarly, both the communist forces were also left with no option than to tag along with the Congress after they fell out with the UML. And seeing an intact electoral alliance of the ruling coalition, the UML treaded carefully to select its candidates.
This all led to handpicking of candidates for the local polls slated for May 13.
Deuba reprimanding local leaders of his party is an example of how the central leadership had its say on candidates selection, and disallowed the local and lower committees to do so.
The parliamentary committee of the Nepali Congress formed at the last hour of nomination filing as per the party statute eventually entrusted Deuba with the task of selecting candidates in six metropolitan cities and 11 sub-metropolitan cities.
In the UML, the Secretariat finalised the candidates of metropolitan cities and sub-metropolitan cities, but it was chairman KP Sharma Oli who chose them.
In the Maoist Centre, where chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal rules the roost, candidates were selected as per his wish. Same was the scenario in the CPN (Unified Socialist).
Political analysts and observers say when Nepal’s political parties are reluctant to devolve power to their local committees, there is little hope they would devolve power to sub-national governments when they come to power.
“Parties including those who take pride in championing the cause of federalism seem to have failed to realise that they should practise democracy in their party organisations also,” said Hari Roka, a political analyst. “It’s ludicrous that the top leadership imposed their decisions on lower committees despite the fact that such committees at the grassroots know better about the strength and prospects of candidates.”
According to him, the candidate selection process shows that they are yet to exercise democracy within parties.
Roka questioned the commitment of party leaderships to federalism as all the decisions pertaining to candidates selection at the local level were taken by party chairs.
Dev Prasad Gurung, a senior Maoist leader, said at a public function on Tuesday that the parties in the ruling coalition would do all to ensure that rebel candidates of the alliance-member parties withdraw from the electoral race.
Hours after Gurung’s statement, his party’s Bhojpur district committee expelled three local leaders—Amtek Mohansen Rai, Shekhar Tamang and Om Kumar Shrestha—from the party and warned others to withdraw their candidacies and return to regular party duty.
Top leaders of the ruling alliance are meeting on Wednesday morning to discuss the issue of rebel candidates.
As per the election schedule of the Election Commission, candidates can withdraw their nominations by 5 pm on Friday, and the final list of candidates will be published by 6pm.
The way the parties are warning their mutineer local leaders, there's a likelihood of such leaders ultimately pulling out of the electoral race. Failure to do so may result in their expulsion from their parties.
Nepali Congress expelled outgoing president of the party’s Dadeldura district committee and a member of the Sudur Paschim Provincial Assembly Karna Bahadur Malla on Tuesday for acting against the party’s statute. “Malla has been expelled from the party for his activities against the party’s statute,” stated a press statement issued by chief secretary of the party Krishna Prasad Poudel.
Action against Malla, according to party insiders, was taken because he forged an electoral alliance with the UML in the home district of party president and prime minister Deuba by forming a separate group.
Meanwhile, UML Chairman KP Sharma Oli has appealed to all those local UML leaders who have filed nominations against the party’s official candidates not to become emotional and help ensure the victory of the party.
“We should get rid of our impulses. Patience is the character of the UML,” Oli said while addressing a function to commemorate Manmohan Adhikari, former chairperson of his party. “There might have been mistakes in candidate selection in some places. But it’s not time to get emotional; it’s a time to defeat the criminal alliance.”
Former chief election commissioner Bhojraj Pokharel said it is quite concerning that the central leaderships of the parties have barred their local and lower committees from the candidate selection process.
“The trend of handpicking candidates for local levels needs to change if we want our democracy to improve and strengthen,” said Pokharel. “We must review and revisit this tendency and allow local party committees to make their own decisions on candidates.”
According to him, local leaders of the parties invest many years preparing for elections and such leaders should be allowed to take part in the electoral race.
“When a party’s higher-level leadership imposes its decisions without any transparent basis or criteria such local leaders would feel hurt,” he said. “Such a trend will derail our politics.”
Nepali Congress leader and government’s spokesperson Gyanendra Bahadur Karki said party president Deuba has been making an all-out effort to convince the mutineer candidates to withdraw from the race. “I am not much updated on the matter but the prime minister has been working to convince the leaders [filing candidates against official candidates of the alliance],” Karki told the Post.