Voices can be heard in the hallowed political corridors that some democrats do not want to vote for the communists and vice versa. There is even speculation that the NC will suffer because the left parties may not vote or its candidates but vote among themselves, resulting in their defeat in the election on account of a small share of leftist votes
The distribution of party nominations among the coalition partners for the mayors of the metropolitan cities has sparked off dispute and dissent mostly among the Nepali Congress (NC) members.
Whilst some have fanned the flame of opposition to the coalition itself, others have questioned the rationale of the seat distribution.
This difficulty of finalising the names of the candidates has also engulfed the United Marxist-Leninist (UML)camp, following which the local machinery for taking the decision had sent the list of the nominations to the centre for a final decision.
The coalition has come into existence not for nothing in Nepal. It has emerged into the political scene primarily because of the unconstitutional acts of the UML, which dissolved the Parliament not once but twice in succession.
In India also, the coalition culture made a start mainly after the unconstitutional steps of declaring an emergency in the year 1977 by then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. Consequently, different parties cobbled up to form a singular Janata Party, which registered a landslide victory in the ensuing election.
So, to wish the coalition out of existence will be a farfetched proposition at the present juncture. After all, the NC central committee had decided on leading the coalition government headed by Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba.
There was no dispute over the seats that the coalition partners had won in the last election, as the decision was made to retain the winning party in them.
But in those places that the UML had registered a victory, Prime Minister Deuba thought that it was difficult to win by any of the coalition partners, including the NC, solitarily.
Though this is difficult to understand in view of the party which had dissolved the House by not surviving a full term like the NC in 1994 or which has been divided like the UML in 1999, which led to their losing the past elections. Thus the chance of a UML victory has been minimised.
However, the Prime Minister proposed for a party alliance, which was grabbed by both hands by the coalition partners, as it suited to camouflage their slumping or even slim popularity, especially by the Maoist Centre (MC) and particularly the hitherto untested Unified Socialist (US). Even though the Shekhar Koirala group in the NC initially opposed the coalition, it at the end had agreed for the continuum of what it called the party alliance based on the local necessity and situation.
The dissidents opine that they are not against the party alliance, but that the distribution of seats for the metropolitan cities did not adhere to the agreed condition of the local necessity and situation. For instance, they contend that Bharatpur should go to the NC because it had surrendered to the MC in the earlier election.
They further assert that Pokhara has been allotted to the Unified Socialist, which has a very slim chance of winning as against the NC which stands a bright chance of victory. Similarly, NC volunteers are unhappy for giving the Birgunj seat to the Janata Samajbadi Party. But, what they should realise is that these parties deserve one metropolitan city each as they are not political minnows like the Jana Morcha, which has justifiably not received the candidature in any of these cities because of its smaller political base. The other alternative would have been to provide them one of the more prestigious Kathmandu, Biratnagar or Lalitpur seats, where these parties do not feel comfortable. So, the present arrangement is the best under the circumstances.
After agreeing for the party alliance, the party members should get rid of the allergy of voting for the members of the coalition. They should have rejected the idea of the coalition earlier on, but now that they have opted for an electoral alliance, they should accept it as a fait accompli, which otherwise will amount to political dishonesty.
Voices can be heard in the hallowed political corridors that some democrats do not want to vote for the communists and vice versa.
There is even speculation that the NC will suffer because the left parties may not vote for its candidates but vote among themselves, resulting in their defeat in the election on account of a small share of leftist votes.
Ideally speaking, a coalition of democratic parties on one side and the leftists on the other would have been the best. But it did not happen so, and it panned out in the opposite direction. However, this is not only the case of Nepal.
One can also see this in India, where the United Progressive Alliance coalition had the Left Front as one of the partners in the 2004 election.
In fact, the democrats as well as the left parties solitarily have not been successful in running the government in Nepal as could be seen by the Girija Prasad Koirala government in the early nineties and the Nepal Communist Party government after the 2017 election. There is a chance that the present coalition of the democrats and the leftist forces may reap rich political dividends in the future.
There is also apprehension that the votes may not be rationally transferred along the coalition partners.
In the 2016 election in West Bengal, India, the left parties largely transferred votes to the Trinamool Congress (TMC), while the Congress votes did not transfer as consistently to the left parties. Among those who voted for the Left Front in 2014, 88 per cent voted for the coalition while only 9 per cent voted for TMC in 2016. But among those who voted for the Congress in 2014, 73 per cent voted for the coalition and 24 per cent voted for the TMC.
If such a situation prevails in a comparatively more mature India, these will continue for some time in Nepal, which is still in its coalition infancy. This is something that we have to take with a pinch of salt when we opt for a party alliance. The occasional kicks of a milch cow should be tolerated if the purpose is to drink her nourishing milk.
A version of this article appears in the print on April 27, 2022, of The Himalayan Times.