People frustrated with mainstream parties are seeking alternative forces, say analysts



Independent candidates' good showing in the local level polls is being talked about as a 'slap on the face of' the leaderships of mainstream parties, who often impose their decisions on lower rungs of their parties when it comes to picking candidates to contest polls.

Balen Shah, who is leading in Kathmandu Metropolitan City by more than 17,000 votes against his nearest rival Srijana Singh, is not the only independent candidate who has done well in recent polls. Two independent candidates have already won in two sub-metropolitan cities - Dharan and Dhangadi - while another independent, Manoj Kumar Sah, is ahead of his nearest rival by 1,700 votes in Janakpur Sub-metropolitan City.

Political analysts believe that independent candidates' excellent performance in these urban centres is mainly due to people's frustration with mainstream parties and their quest for alternative forces.

Prof Lokraj Baral said independents' performance in some urban centres was a slap on the face of mainstream parties which intervened in the selection of candidates in local elections.

"Leaderships of almost all political parties tend to impose their decisions on lower committees of their parties. Instead of letting lower committees select popular candidates for local polls, headquarters of top parties imposed their decision on local levels. That's why people voted for independent candidates,"Baral said.

Political analyst Chandra Dev Bhatta said that impressive performance by independents in urban centres indicated that voters were disenchanted with major political parties and were looking for alternative forces.

Bhatta said the rise of independents was indicative of political parties' failure to understand voter psychology. "Parties made big promises in Kathmandu, but couldn't deliver.Voters seem to be giving Balen Shah the chance to see how he performs in his tenure,"Bhatta said.

He said the setback in the capital should make the parties introspect. "They should not talk of the issues that they cannot resolve. Kathmandu voters do not have big expectations.They want the leadership to address their daily concerns, such as garbage disposal on time," Bhatta said.

Another political analyst Uddhab Pyakurel, however, said independent winners would not be able to do much and would later join one of the major parties.

He said most independents other than Balen Shah were formerly associated with a political party and contested as independents mainly because their parties refused to issue them tickets.

"The parties leaderships should reform their ticket distribution system and should try to give tickets only to those candidates who are popular among voters," Pyakurel added.He said parties failed to gauge the popularity of political underdog Balen Shah.

Prof Baral said that even if independent candidates won mayoral race in metropolises and sub-metropolises, it would be hard for them to implement their programmes as there would be other office bearers from major parties who would want to toe their parties' lines. So, it remains to be seen how the victorious independents fulfil promises made to their voters.

A version of this article appears in the print on May 23, 2022, of The Himalayan Times.