The result of the historic election of the constituent assembly had surprised all, the result of the Mid-Western region has also amazed many as the red flag is waiving at the region, which faced major loss during the armed insurgency.
Of the 33 constituencies of the region, the result of 31 constituencies was made public, so far and Maoists had won the election in 27 constituencies. Yam Lal Kandel of Surkhet constituency number two and Raj Bahadur Budha of Dailekh constituency number two are the lucky UML leaders, who get chance of representing the UML from this region. Similarly, Sarva Dev Ojha and Mohammed Istayaf Rai of Madhesi Janadhikar Forum are other lucky candidates, who won the CA poll from Banke constituency number three and two respectively. The result of Dailekh constituency number two is yet to be received as the EC is conducting re-polling in some of the election booths of the district, while election of Surkhet constituency number one is scheduled for 19 April following murder of candidate of Surkhet constituency one
Some of the influential leaders of Nepali Congress and CPN-UML are acting president of NC, Sushil Koirala, Former Home Minister and central committee member of NC Khum Bahadur Khadka and Standing committee members of CPN-UML, Bam Dev Gautam and Yuba Raj Gyawali and central member of the same party Govida Koirala. The most influential leaders were defeated by general leaders of CPN-Maoists and Madheshi Janadhikar Forum. For example Sarvadev Ojha of MJF, a party that was formed one and half year ago, defeated NC vice-president Koirala, while widow of late Banke Bardiya secretary of Maoist Yam Prasad Sharma, Sarala Regmi, defeated CPN-UML leader Bam Dev Gautam, who had started political carrier over three decade ago.
Mid-Western region, which is the birthplace of decade long Maoist insurgency and one of the hardly hit region but why the air is flowing to the direction of Maoists had not just surprised general people but the pundits of Nepali politics. Maoists have been continuing labour camps in Jajarkot, Rukum, Salyan and Pyuthan districts but Maoists attained sweeping victory in these districts. Maoists won all the seats in these four districts. 4000 people were killed, 581 disappeared and over 20 thousand of the region, displaced during the decade long Maoist insurgency.
Analysts say that there are mainly two reasons for Maoists getting sweeping victory in the region. The first reason is the psychological pressure exerted by the Maoists and the second is people's aspiration to see new leadership as previous leaders failed to meet their expectations. Maoists have warned the people to cast vote to them or face dire consequences. As most of the districts of the region are less developed and very remote there was not much presence of monitors, so, Maoists easily exerted pressure to the voters to cast vote in their favour. Maoists even warned of returning to the jungle if they could not win the election. Ram Bahadur Karki, a resident of Bardiya said that they voted the Maoists with the hope that they would stop collecting forceful donations and ask for food if they won the election. Similarly, another person of Bardiya on condition of anonymity revealed that they were forced to vote the Maoists with the hope that Maoists will return their captured properties if they won the election. Maoists are yet to return the properties of many people in Bardiya and Dang districts of the region. Though the election passed largely peaceful on the Election Day, Maoists had completed all the tactics like creating pressure to the voters, abducting supporters of other political parties and barring cadres of other political parties before the poll day.
The second reason, which is secondary one, for the Maoist victory is that all the political parties except Maoists failed to choose appropriate candidates. Most of the faces of other political parties were either corrupt or from high caste, so they failed to gain sympathy from racial votes. For example in Bardiya district, there are over 50 percent Tharus are residing but except Maoists, which provided three seats for Thraus, other political parties gave ticket for Brahmins, so all the tharus regardless of political ideology gave votes to the candidates of their caste. So as the case in Banke as well, Sarvadev Ojha, who was from Madheshi community received popular votes to ensure wide victory over NC acting president, Sushil Koirala. Not only in Mid-West, Maoist's selection of appropriate candidates easily defeated top brass of other political parties. UML stalwarts, Madhav Kumar Nepal, KP Sharma Oli and Home Minister Krishna Prasad Sitaula were among other leaders who were defeated by general candidates in the CA poll.
Election is a like football match, where one team wins and other looses. Maoists are in the driver's seat this time, while Nepali Congress and CPN-UML, which had hold in the state power for last 14 years following the success of the popular movement of 1990 are in the back seat. Both the parties, which were involved in any sort of irregular activities for the sake of power in the past have started a healthy political culture acknowledging their loss in the election and top brass of the parties resigning from their posts on moral ground. The election had given one lesson to the political parties that people are in favour of change so they casted votes to Maoists as Maoists had promised for change and had given some indication while selecting candidates. NC and UML should hand over the party leadership to young generation, who will lead the party as per the demand of the time. Most of the leaders, who had won the election from NC are young and visionary, so it is the great lesson to NC to reform the party, which had played important role for the defeat of Rana oligarchy, Panchyati system and also played leading role against the royal regime should change itself as per the people's aspiration. The result is against the family interest, corrupt leadership and status-quoist leadership, so NC should learn lesson from these things and correct it to have its role in future Nepal.
Though, Maoists got the lead role to lead the New Nepal, regardless of all the tactics they adopted to win the elections, there are many challenges before the Maoists. Political parties that ruled the country for last 14 years became failed as they failed to meet people's aspiration, so Maoists should learn lesson from it and move accordingly. Maoist mostly has four challenges in the days to come. These challenges are recognition and getting support from international communities, making coordination among all political forces to frame new constitution in a wake of the decision of coalition parties to stay away from the coalition government, meet the aspirations of people and its cadres and drastic reform in corrupt bureaucracy. The United States, which play lead role in world politics is yet to remove Maoists from the terrorist's list and in its congratulation message to Nepali people the US did not congratulate or recognize the victory of Maoists. Though India and some other countries had welcomed Maoist's victory in the himalayan country, most of the key players of the world politics are in a position of 'wait and see', so Maoists need to do more to garner their support. The activities of Maoist affiliated Young Communist League and other fraternal organizations of Maoists had raised suspicion on the Maoist's commitment for transformation even after joining the political mainstream. Most of the donor countries remained tight lipped about the Maoist victory. Support from international community is a must for smooth operation of the national economy. Though leadership of FNCCI pledged their support to the new government that is most likely to be led by the Maoists during their meeting with Maoist leaders including Chairman Prachanda, but they were not convinced that Maoists will create conducive environment to them for operation. Most of the entrepreneurs, who had suffered a lot from Maoists in the name of trade union movement or extortion drive, still fear that the high-handedness will continue even after formation of new government. So, there is high risk of capital flight in the days to come, so Maoists should make efforts to check it and issue one white paper about their economic policy and express commitment to implement it. Remittance inflow is the main factor that is giving life to the ailing economy of the country, which was hardly hit by the decade long armed conflict. Maoists should pay proper attention not to reduce remittance inflow of the country due to prevailing situation of uncertainty of the country.
As two largest party of the seven party alliance had in principle decided to stay away from the government (the formal decision will be made during their central committee meetings), it will create more burden to the Maoists. Maoists had challenge of finding consensus among all the political forces to frame new constitution. Maoists, who had main rivalry with Madheshi Janadhikar Forum had emerged as a strong force in the constituent assembly, so it could be challenging for the Maoists to find consensus among all the political forces. It is not that easy to rule the country as of to criticize the ruling establishment and do agitation in case such demands were not fulfilled. As two large parties had decided to stay away from the government, Maoists should win the hearts of small parties of the constituent assembly. Maoists should show their open heart in division of portfolios to win the hearts of small parties to pass the transitional period smoothly. Maoist cadres have started assaulting general people of some villages of some districts of mid-western region for not giving vote to them even if they had got landslide victory in the CA poll, which is a clear indication that Maoists are yet to do more things to establish them as true democratic force.
Maoists had distributed various assurances to the public during the insurgency period and even after joining the political mainstream. They even assured people of making Nepal as Singapore within ten years and doing economic revolution in the country. Maoists had also assured that their government will provide justice to conflict hit people and also all the demands of people of all walks of life but the ground reality of the country is different. At a time, when Maoists are facing challenge to be established as a credible democratic force meeting all the aspiration of the people is almost impossible. Resolving the crisis of electricity, drinking water, fuel among others are also the challenges for Maoists, which could be the causes of Maoist's failure. Though the Maoists got the victory for forming the new constitution so it is very hard to address all these things, they have to assure people that they are on the verge of addressing their needs and aspirations.
Another major challenge for the Maoists in future Nepal is dissolving the parallel mechanism. Maoist affiliated YCL is working as justice delivery mechanism and other fronts of Maoists are also acting as if semi law enforcement mechanism, so Maoist has the challenge of integrating it with the state mechanism. The reintegration of the Maoist combatants with Nepal Army is also an uphill task. Maoists, who were in a plan to politicize Nepal Army by reintegrating politically indoctrinated PLA has the challenge of maintaining professional values of National Army. The Nepal Army had already made it clear that politically indoctrinated people could not be incorporated into National Security force, so if Maoists imposes their political decision to integrate PLA and Nepal Army, it will have negative impact into the national security force. If they were not integrated PLA will feel humiliation as they were assured that they will be integrated into Nepal Army. The bureaucracy of Nepal including the judiciary is the corrupt one (see report of transparency international), so taking it into right track is also a major challenge for the Maoists. The bureaucracy had contributed for making the politicians corrupt in the past, so staying away from such activities making the bureaucracy transparent is also a challenge for the Maoists.
Amid these challenges Maoists are leading the government within some days, Maoists need to respect people's mandate and continue their hold in the parliamentary election that will take place after the promulgation of the new constitution by the constituent assembly. Maoists has pleasant transformation from bullet to ballot, Maoists needs to do more to establish it as a credible democratic force.
[Freelance journalist of Nepal, Mr. Baidya can be reached at pratibedan@hotmailcom]
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