| Rajkumar Sigdel
Any party, existing in a democratic system, can be a part of the government through the electoral process. In a parliamentary system, it is normal for a party who has won some seats to either choose to be in government or remain in opposition based on the coalition they are part of. Following the same, after the promulgation of constitution on September 20, 2015, Rastriya Prajatantra Party (RPP-N) became a key coalition partner in KP Oli led government along with UCPN (Maoist) – which is now Maoists Centre. RPP-N and its chair Kamal Thapa surprisingly became part of a government which was dubbed as a communist alliance.
For a party which has been a strong supporter of monarchy and rallies for a constitutional monarchy and a Hindu state in Nepal, to become a part of the ruling coalition that is supposed to implement a constitution which declares the country to be a secular republic seems bizarre. This gets even more incomprehensible when the party with whom RPP-N is in coalition is the Maoists, who were instrumental in dethroning the monarchy in the country. Since the coalition, questions have been raised about Thapa’s morality and ideology from within and outside the party.
Rise of Kamal Thapa
Thapa was an ‘extremist’ leader in the eyes of the public after the war. He was known as a culprit who misused his power to suppress the people’s movement during the Royal regime. He was one of the most hated persons by the Nepali public after the success of People’s Movement-2. He was erased out of the political scene for some time after the war.
However after the second Constituent Assembly (CA) elections, he and his party dramatically emerged as the fourth force. Since forming the party, Thapa had strongly batted for Constitutional Monarchy and a Hindu State and demanded that issues like federalism, secularism and republicanism should be settled through referendum. It was his agenda of a Hindu State that saw his ascent to mainstream politics yet again.
Split within the party
After rising to power, the first challenge he had to face came from within his own party. A disgruntled faction within the party accused that he was slowly giving up the issue of Constitutional Monarchy and was only raising the issue of a Hindu State. He was blamed for scrapping off one of the party’s core agendas.
The disgruntled group was then led by the party’s senior leader Padma Sundar Lawati backed Keshar Bahadur Bista, who still was thought to be on Thapa’s side. When the debate started getting momentum within the party, Kamal Thapa started expelling leaders of Lawati faction. As a move of retaliation Lawati faction started a party strengthening campaign within the party. Lawati’s faction was running a parallel party system within.
Like his dramatic rise, the split within the party would get even more dramatic in the days that followed. The split, which started from the nomination of CA members, continued till the latest episode of Keshar Bahadur Bista, in which Bista would publicly demand the party to leave the government and unite for its agenda.After Bista’s public demand to the party to leave the government and unite to save their agenda, he was penalized during Birgunj meeting. He then started a new campaign for building a unified RPP which was backed by influential leaders within the party and the disgruntled Lawati faction.
Analysts say that Kamal Thapa is now on a path of dramatic fall very similar his dramatic rise. His power has diminished within and outside the party. On one hand, he is accused of inheriting the republic system on contrary to his earlier stances for a constitutional monarchy because of which his presence is the government is time and again questioned. On the other, he keeps hoisting the agenda of Hinduism and a Hindu state because of which he is often termed as a ‘regressive’ force.
Although Thapa has been speaking for a Hindu State, he is often accused of abandoning the issue of monarchy by many within the party. They accuse that Thapa has betrayed them by exchanging the agenda of monarchy for key posts in the current government (he is one of the Deputy Prime Ministers of Nepal). Many within the party argue that to be a part of a government that is endowed with the task of implementing a republic constitution means that the party has settled for a republic system in the country. The new constitution has not addressed any demands of RPP-N such as referendum on federalism, Hindu State, Constitutional Monarchy and Republic system. Instead of opting for a fresh struggle against it, Thapa chose to join the government. The unhappy ones within the party feel betrayed. The people of the country also look at Thapa as a politician swaying for power.
Thapa has his own perspectiveon the issue. He argues that the struggle is still on to incorporate their demands into new constitution. ‘Things always don’t turn out the way you want. In a democratic process, you have to accept the decision of the majority. We have accepted the constitution with reservations. We still can establish our agenda with people’s vote through election,’ he says. He does not see any wrongdoing on his part to be in the ruling coalition of the government.
The people outside the party who have seen Thapa as a ‘regressive force’, have also started fresh criticism against him based on the fact that he is operating against republicanism despite taking oath to institutionalize it. His recent statements and activities have only proved the point made by his critiques.
He is a Deputy Prime Minister whose statements challenge the new constitution that his government is supposed to implement. He holds the responsibility to institutionalize the constitution but he is on a path of defying it. His campaign for a Hindu State is against Article 4 of the New Constitution which clears states that Nepal is a Secular nation. As a party leader, he can run such campaigns for a Hindu State or a constitutional monarchy. However, after becoming a minister of the government that is supposed to implement the new constitution, he is being seen as a two faced leader. Even if he does not accept the constitution, he should not misuse his position and power. That is why, Thapa is cornered by groups from both within and outside the party.
Difficult Road Ahead
Kamal Thapa is known to be a clever player in politics. Although he is being criticized, it is certain that Thapa will again hoist his agenda of a Hindu State and start a stronger campaign. However, it will not be easy like the second CA elections where his party was the only one batting for this agenda. During that election, many sections of the Hindu population had voted for his party because of which he ended up garnering a whooping 24 seats. Today, a big group within the largest party of the country, Nepali Congress has also started the same debate on Hindu state. He now has to battle to fight over the monopoly of agenda with them. It is clear that Thapa’s journey ahead will not be bed of roses. After he leaves the government, it will be difficult for him to save his agenda that played a huge part for his rise. Whether he rises or falls once again, is in Thapa’s hands and will depend on his next political action.