The election results are set to change the power equations. The UPCN – Maoist, which came first in the CA – I has come third in CA-II elections, with Nepali Congress and CPN-UML securing the first two positions.
The UCPN-Maoists boycotted vote count across the country and alleged that election process was rigged. Furthermore, almost a dozen other regional parties allied with UCPN-Maoists have raised serious concerns about overall election process. Truth must be established with proper investigation as a precondition for taking part in CA – II while reinforcing the constitution making process in consensus. They claimed that votes in ballot boxes were either altered or replaced with bogus ones; empty ballot boxes were located in schools and police stations and contained altered seals.
Along with all these parties, the senior leader of Rastriya Prajatantra Party (RPP) Dr Prakash Chandra Lohini suspected the role of Nepal Army in this fraud and demanded an investigation under the independent leadership. They claimed that Nepal Army took control of the ballot boxes for around 24 hours without representatives of the political parties. The parties unanimously accused that in name of security, there was rigging of votes under the grand design of national and international forces.
Keeping the veracity of the charges aside, there are genuine reasons for the setback to UCPN-Maoist.
The Baidya Split
UCPN (Maoists) has faced the split where one-third of their leaders joined Baidya led CPN-Maoists. Baidya blamed Prachanda, for their unaddressed demand and for not being able to participate in the election process. He also accused Prachanda of the Regmi government and inviting Nepal Army to secure the elections. Prachanda did not focus on restructuring the party after the split. Additionally, voters repeatedly heard Baidya led group accusing UCPN (Maoist) of being traitors to the ‘People’s War’ and surrendering to the national and international forces. Prachanda failed to address these accusations. It was also reported that Baidya faction did not allow UCPN-Maoists candidates to campaign, attacked Prachanda during the campaigning process and also campaigned against his party. In many places, Baidya-led Maoist cadres voted for the candidate of another party and encouraged others to do so in order to defeat UCPN-Maoist candidates.
Prachanda’s Failure to Accommodate
Prachanda did not allow new leadership to emerge around him and there was internal rift on division of responsibilities among the leaders. Because of sudden increase in party size, party crippled in decision making and suffered undue imposition of Prachanda’s personality. Due to factionalism in the party, most of the decisions of the party were taken by Prachanda single handedly. This factionalism and internal rift had spread and discouraged the leaders and cadres at all levels.
The middle-class and intellectuals had great expectations from the party and were disenchanted with some of their corrupt leaders. The 10 days violent strike of Baidya Maoists also frustrated the people but the anger against them resulted in the Unified Maoists losing votes.
The lifestyle of Maoists leaders were questioned by the party leaders several times in the central committee meeting. Their luxurious houses, vehicles and misuse of party funds were questioned led to the breakdown of leader-cadre relationship. The cadres began to perceive the leadership as corrupt, that it no longer represented the proletariats but had been transformed into neo-elites. The lower-level leaders began copying the consumerist lifestyle of top leaders, which further distanced them from the people.
Party sidelined their own committed and selfless cadres while distributing candidacy to those who had left their parties to join UCPN (Maoists). Their names were not included in the proportional list which discouraged and angered the deserving candidates. Thus, they either contested as independent candidate or campaigned against their own leaders.
Mis-Managed Election Campaign
Prachanda spent most of his time addressing the mass gathering rather than making strategies and keeping track of campaign activities. Huge numbers of cadres were mobilized to organize such rallies, which proved to be less effective than door-to-door campaign.
UCPN (Maoists) were not able to explain “identity based federalism” clearly to the people and stereotyped as ‘caste based federalism’ and rumor spread that “federalism” will break the country. Moreover, the whole media establishment and ironically civil societies/interest groups - with exception- has been spreading anti-Maoist sentiments.
Besides, many of the Maoist voters from lower strata had not applied for voter’s card; the new voters list has 30 percent less voters compared to 2008.
The Road Ahead
The Unified Maoists have raised distrust with election process, only to strengthen its bargaining position. It is likely that they would join CA II, for not accepting the mandate may turn detrimental. Furthermore, simply because they failed to garner the expected number of seats this time will not make any difference as they have already championed the cause of making constitution through CA and whole Nepal in terms of their debate (secular, republic and federal ideas). Leaders such as Prachanda, has the caliber to deliver and will learn to evolve in electoral politics. Above all, the role of UCPN (Maoist) remains crucial in spite of their down size in CA-II. They are expected to form an alliance with all the ‘progressive forces for change’ and play an important role in constitution making.