Is alternative politics on the wane in Nepal?The leaders of ‘alternative forces’ have turned out to be no different than the conventional political parties, experts say.
Several political parties have, so far, projected themselves as alternative forces. But none of them has succeeded to effectively practise alternative politics in Nepal.
Why do the political parties that claim to be vocal advocates of alternative politics slacken soon?
The Bibeksheel Sajha Party, which claims to be the flagbearer of alternative politics in Nepal, created a buzz in the 2017 elections. Now it is going through the worst of times.
The party is yet to take firm ground, but Rabindra Mishra has stepped down as chairman and party coordinator Milan Pandey has already been expelled. And the party, since its establishment, has been mired in disputes and factionalism.
During the formation of the Janata Samajbadi Party in April, 2020 following a merger between the Rastriya Janata Party and the Sanghiya Samajbadi Party, the party’s leaders boasted it would be an alternative force, as the country’s ‘traditional forces’ had failed to address the country’s problems.
Now, the party has already split—some key leaders quit the party and launched the Loktantrik Samajbadi Party in August 2021.
Baburam Bhattarai is another vocal advocate of alternative force. Bhattarai, who was in the Janata Samajbadi Party, has already parted ways to form the Nepal Samajbadi Party in August this year.
Bhattarai, a Maoist ideologue and leader of the Maoist insurgency, while forming the Naya Shakti Party in 2016, had projected his party as the alternative political force.
But the party disappeared into thin air in no time. Bhattarai merged the party with Upendra Yadav’s Sanghiya Samajbadi Forum in 2019.
The right-wing Rastriya Prajatantra Party (RPP) is also proclaiming itself as an alternative force of late.
At a function organised on Tuesday, RPP chair Rajendra Lingden said that if the RPP weakens in the upcoming polls then the prospects of alternative politics in Nepal will also weaken. “If our role in the election is not effective, the very idea of alternative politics will weaken,” he said.
Experts say the ‘alternative forces’ have either already abandoned their alternative agendas or are now entangled in power politics or just claim themselves as alternative forces without any self-commitment. The ‘alternative forces’ have failed miserably, according to them.
Uddhab Pyakurel, an assistant professor of Political Sociology at Kathmandu University, said the ‘alternative forces’ have miserably failed to even come close to what they had claimed in the beginning. “The alternative forces have failed in their claims of translating the slogans of big and old political parties about ensuring proper representation of marginalised communities in state governance and making the state progressive,” he told the Post.
The leaders of the ‘alternative forces’ have turned out to be no different than the conventional political parties, Pyakurel said. “As a result, they have been continuously mired in conflicts and splits.”
Rajendra Maharjan, a political analyst, said ‘alternative forces’ differ from other political forces based on their agendas which incorporate diversity—the minority and marginalised groups. But in the current scenario, it is difficult to distinguish between the so-called alternative forces and other political parties, according to him.
“They have not given any alternatives. In some contexts, they have even moved backward, supporting the monarchical system, while opposing secularism and federalism,” Maharjan told the Post.
Experts also claim that the term ‘alternative forces’ has been widely misinterpreted in many contexts.
Even though it is talking about alternative politics, Rastriya Prajatantra Party is not an alternative force, as they are guided by regressive thinking, argued Pyakurel.
According to him, the alternative forces ideally carry and implement the agenda of national development, incorporating all the social and political structures.
CK Lal, a political commentator who is also a columnist for the Post, said alternative politics emerges either from marginalised groups or from a rebellion in dominant groups.
The alternative to democracy is only the advancement of democracy, Pyakurel further said.
Alternative politics is not about alternative faces, it should be alternative agendas, policies and ideologies, said Lal.
“The alternative forces should continuously raise crucial issues that have been ignored by mainstream parties. But the parties claiming to be alternative forces have failed in this context too,” said Maharjan, the political analyst. “No one has launched a movement based on agenda and issues to prove themselves as an alternative force.”
The Janata Samajbadi Party, which had claimed to be an alternative force during its launch, is struggling to make itself relevant in its own base—the Madhesh province. It won leadership positions in just 25 local units out of the total 136 in the province in the 2022 local elections.
Bibeksheel Sajha Party has remained vocal about alternative politics since its early days and projects itself as the flag bearer of the political discourse. The party’s leaders, however, agree that alternative forces are now weakened to a degree.
Samikshya Baskota, Bibeksheel Sajha chair, said the alternative forces and the leaders who carry alternative agendas are weak at present as they have remained disunited. “They are scattered because of their craving for power, or their novel ideas and agenda.”
Also, according to Baskota, people are reluctant to join new forces which are yet to take firm ground and this makes the process of breaking the syndicate of large and traditional political forces harder.
“The alternative forces in Nepal appear unwilling to coalesce to form an alliance, which would make them stronger. This has pushed the alternative forces into a quagmire,” she further said.
Parties that claim themselves to be alternative forces faced disappointing results in the last local elections.
The right-wing Rastriya Prajatantra Party, which is talking about alternative politics, won only four local unit chiefs in the local elections. Bibeksheel Sajha did not win a single local unit chief.
Observers say the ‘alternative forces’ do not have much hope in the upcoming polls too.
“Some of them are so interested in power that they have forgotten their agendas completely. They don’t ignite hope, so their prospects are dim,” he said.
Those who have been claiming themselves as alternative forces are merely covering up their frustrations, said Lal. “They are not committed. They just say so to say so. That’s why they will fail to gain public trust.”