Politics of convenience of Nepali Congress

Published On: February 9, 2021 08:10 AM NPT By: Rajaram Bartaula

Nepali Congress is putting its feet in two boats in its response to House dissolution. In other words, Congress is playing a politics of convenience but will it help?

As a main opposition, Nepali Congress could not stand up to the expectation of the common people when the government was introducing the legislative bills attempting to curtail the civil liberty and press freedom. Oftentimes issuing statements the main opposition was impressing that it was behaving responsibly to enhance and strengthen the newly established federal democracy.

Contrary to the common belief, internally the main opposition is also divided in groups based on practical or ideological lines at a time when the ruling party is vertically torn apart due to its inability to manage internal contradiction and accommodate dissenting voices and their interests. Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli’s sinister move of dissolving the House of Representatives and calling for a snap poll in April has pushed the country down into another cycle of political uncertainties.

In this background, both the parties have the conviction that they would garner the popular support in the midterm polls enough to exercise political power to govern. If we examine the voting trends and votes of these two major political parties in the elections held in the past, the picture might not be different this time around too.    

In Nepal, two traditional political forces—Nepali Congress and communist party—stand on a firm base with a strong backing of its supporters, which oftentimes criticize their leaders and parties for modus operandi but when election comes they invariably vote for their respective parties rather than making rational choice. But swing votes ultimately decide the election outcomes.  One million votes decide which party secures how many seats in the House of Representatives. Swing votes thus become a decisive factor.

In 2017 elections, very few swing votes went in favour of newly emerged parties like Sajha, Bibekshil and Naya Shakti. The attraction towards parties like Sajha and Bibekshil was because of their credential acquired with the campaign against corruption, which rightly caught the mood of adult voters. But new parties lacked firm political and ideological base.

Nepali Congress may be thinking that divided NCP will turn the outcome to its advantage in the next election. To some extent this is true for divided house loses poplar support, but given the political nature of the communist, for any immediate gain, even in the odd times, they may forge the alliance and compete against the NC. The NC’s vote bank has already been weakened by the presence of other liberal democratic parties. The middle class educated voters will consider the promises based on socio-economic agenda and party’s vision for maintaining national respect and honour.

Poor voters may shift their loyalty—sometimes wilfully and other times by being manipulated by candidates. The elites are least concerned about the outcome but prefer to show allegiance to the parties of centre to left and centre to right and rightists all together at all times from where they can buy protection and promotion for their business and safeguard their interests.

Parties eye the poor, who are in majority, with all the tactics, means, slogans and enticements.

In this context, if Congress is thinking of gaining electoral advantage, it has to put in extra effort to hold and preserve its vote bank intact and attract swing votes in its favour. This is a daunting task for Congress which seems to be in a state of slumber at the moment.

Nepali Congress is putting its feet in two boats in its response to House dissolution. While it has strongly condemned PM’s move as unconstitutional and has also mobilised its supporters to protest the House dissolution, it is also, in a way, campaigning for elections. NC has not stood in support of either PM-led faction of NCP or Dahal-Nepal faction led NCP. It seems to be waiting for the Supreme Court verdict on House dissolution case too. In other words, Congress is playing a politics of convenience.

The question is will this tactic help Congress? 

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