The most surprising is the exodus en masse in the home district of Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba, that too, to join the UML with whom the NC is diagonally opposed. But this is not triggered by a solitary incident

The local election has now entered an exciting phase. The five-party alliance, though intact at large,has transformed into a heady cocktail in some places. The alliance of the Nepali Congress (NC), CPN-Unified Marxist-Leninist (CPN-UML) and the Rastriya Prajatantra Party in the home district of former Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli is a case in point.

Myriads of candidates had registered their names.

According to the Election Commission (EC), 153,220 candidates had entered the fray from 79 registered parties as well as independent candidates for 35,221 positions.

About 8,000 of these aspirants have withdrawn their candidature.

The talk of the town has, however, been the failure of the top leaders of the coalition parties to secure the withdrawal of the rebel candidates from the metropolitan cities even though they have been successful in other municipalities at large. The candidature of Jagan Nath Paudel in Bharatpur Metropolitan City is in the limelight as he refused to withdraw despite the repeated requestof Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba. His special emissary, Bal Krishna Khand, the Minister for Home Affairs, had to come back empty handed after spending some time in Chitwan. What is more embarrassing for Deuba is the mass resignation from the NC in his home district by the party members to form a coalition with its arch rival UML.

Rebel candidates have retained their candidature as independent candidates and turned a deaf ear to their leaders in Pokhara, Janakpur and Biratnagar metropolitan cities as well.

There are 77 rebel candidates who have not pulled out from their candidacy in all the seven provinces. Accordingly, Manoj Shaha and Nirmal Chowdhary have refused to take back the candidature for the post of mayor and deputy mayor. Shaha even resigned from the prestigious post of Congress president of Janakpur Sub-metropolitan City.

Umesh Yadav of Janata Samajbadi Party (JSP) has presented himself as an independent candidate against the NC nominee in Biratnagar. In the tourist's paradise, Pokhara, Rishi Sapkota of the NC has pro-jected himself as an independent candidate. The NC has expelled the rebel candidates, their proposers as well as seconders of the candidacy from the party.

The other coalition parties have also followed suit.

This is a standard mode of operation by any political party when the party members go against the party decision. For exam-ple, five candidates were expelled by the Awami League in Bangladesh belonging to Raipur, Lakhimpur district after it repeatedly served a show cause notice and asked them to withdraw from registering as a subversive candidate.

What is the reason for this state of affairs? Firstly, party identification is slowly waning among the voters.

Not many people vote on the basis of party predisposition.

It reflects growingindividualisation. Moreover, the rising level of education among the electorate also keeps them away from party polarisation.

Partisan de-alignment attains severity in the case of conflicting ideology within the party. In the NC, whether to go for a coalition or alone had led to divided opinion, especially with the Shekhar Koirala group thatdoes not whole-heartedly support the coalition in the local election.

Secondly, theoreticians put forward three hypotheses for the unfolding of such incidents. To begin with, there is the electoral pressure hypothesis. Jagan Nath Paudel said that pressure from the voters was far greater than the one from the party. This situation occurs when the benefit of a switch off exceeds that of remaining loyal.

Under the constituent demographic hypothesis, a leader abandons his party when it is found that the voters do not like the new activities of the party. For example, Manoj Shaha rebelled because there were more NC supporters than JSP supporters in Janakpur.

But the party handed over the ticket to the JSP candidate instead of the NC representative.

The third hypothesis is the contextual hypothesis whereby the party members do not see sense in maintaining the status quo in view of the changing reality in the constituency. Rishi Sapkota declined to withdraw because the voters are in no mood to cast their ballot for the Unified Socialist party candidate.

The most surprising is the exodus en masse in the home district of the Prime Minister, that too, to join the UML with whom the NC is diagonally opposed.

But this is not triggered by a solitary incident. Rather it is the culmination of several incidents in the past, which reached a flashpoint on the eve of the local election.

The local people had complained of the highhandedness of Deuba's group right from the election of the representatives to the Nepali Congress general assembly held in Kathmandu.

At the end, the question arises as to whether the rebellion is due to indiscipline on the part of the dissidents or because the candidate selection process itself is unfair. The parties think that it is a gross violation of party discipline as they filed their nomination against the party candidate.

When seen from the perspective of the anarchists, it can be said that the party followed a wrong approach because it surrendered the post to some other party, which cannot win, and the victory would be certain if the NC was given the ticket. This sounds plausible because these candidates have not only abandoned the party but contested the election, convinced that they would win the election.

The participation of the rebel candidates in an election is nothing new. But how many of them can secure a win will be followed with great curiosity in the days to come. However, a few of them are certainly going to pull a surprise as has happened in past elections, like the defeat of Prachanda and Krishna Prasad Bhattarai.

A version of this article appears in the print on May 05, 2022, of The Himalayan Times.