New Delhi: In the run-up to the November 20 general elections in Nepal, the Communist Party of Nepal has promised to resolve the contentious Kalapani border dispute with India. However, major political parties like the, Communist Party of Nepal, the right-wing group Rastriya Prajatantra Party and Nepali Congress headed by current Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba are trying to hijack the Hindutva plank.
Despite the objective of an election being for a constituency to elect an elected representative who works for said constituency without bias, the evolution of the objectives proves something else. Nowadays, contesting parties appeal to the citizens in a very different manner.
Politicians and political parties have found propaganda to be a useful tool in polarising the vote bank and gaining votes based on certain distinctions. This has been the hallmark of the campaigns being conducted by politicians for the Nepal general elections.
Although no religious inclinations are mentioned in political manifestos, the Communist Party of Nepal, and the current-ruling party Nepali Congress, have made it evident that fostering the Hindu sentiment is imperative in their election campaigns. This is their way of trying to appeal to the sentiments of religious-nationalist citizens.
Nepal’s history of a decade-long civil war in 1996 between Maoist guerrillas and the Hindu Monarchy during a traumatic political transition, highlights the traumatic events that the country has faced due to polarization.
In 2008, during the elections for the Constituent Assembly, the almost 3 centuries-long Hindu monarchy was abolished and Nepal was declared to be a secular state. Despite the population of Nepal being 80% Hindu, the country is still vehemently secular.
The religious polarisation by two major political parties during an election period could prove to be harmful for the country. In the last three decades, Nepal has had 27 different prime ministers. This is proof of the instability that is experienced in the country, and a religiously motivated situation could further the instability.
It is observed that Nepal’s neighbouring country, India, and its ruling party, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), have a role to play in inspiring the political parties in Nepal and their inclusion of Hindu beliefs in their campaigns.
Nepal has over 101 ethnic groups that speak a variety of 91 languages. Secularity provides these groups security and helps cement the inclusiveness that Nepal wants to promote throughout the country. But Hindutva remains a constant threat to the diversity and secularity of this country and coupled with the current manner the political parties are handling their objectives, the threat is materialising to be a reality.
In 2021, KP Sharma Oli, Nepal’s Prime Minister, ordered the construction of a temple in the village of Madi. The temple is dedicated to the Hindu lord Ram, and the reasoning behind the establishment of this temple is that the former PM claims that it’s Lord Ram’s birthplace. The former PM also donated funds to the Pashupatinath Temple, after visiting it.
KP Sharma Oli belongs to the Communist Party in Nepal and is its chairman. While the party’s manifesto or official papers can’t be seen as having traces of Hinduism, the party’s interest does lie in bringing in Hindu votes and appealing to their religious sentiments.
Apart from the aforementioned activities, the Communist Party of Nepal has also allied with the right-wing group Rastriya Prajatantra Party, which is famously known for wanting to re-establish the Hindu Monarchy in Nepal.
The opposing political party, Nepali Congress has professed its support for secularism and diversity in Nepal. But in a conflicting view, the current Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba, who belongs to the Nepali Congress, showcased his Hindu accreditations by visiting Varanasi during a three-day trip to India.
Some crucial members of the party have also proven their support for Hinduism through their actions and activities. It seems to be that actions speak louder than words, and the actions of both parties show their support for Hinduism.
Both parties have released their manifestos ahead of the elections. KP Sharma Oli, inaugurated his political campaign at Darchula. This is seen as a tactical move as Darchula shares a border with Uttarakhand, which belongs to India. India and Nepal are at variance with one another over three areas, namely, Kalapani, Lipulekh and Limipiyadhura.
Since both countries claim that these places are a part of their respective maps, Oli has appealed to the Nepali citizens by promising to the public that negotiations over these areas are in motion and that they were stalled due to Oli’s exit from the government. He promised that it would be pursued again, and released his manifesto. The manifesto also included the promises of a directly elected executive President and a fully proportional system against the current mixed model in the electoral system.
In the manifesto released by the Nepali Congress, they promised to not take any unconstitutional and undemocratic steps. Apart from that, it is mentioned in the manifesto that various programs like “Pregnancy to Death” are comprehensive goals of the party.
The manifesto is a 52-page long document and it’s divided into five different chapters, titled contemporary politics and national issues, seven decades of the history: the long journey of democracy, a roadmap of a prosperous Nepal, strengthening of federalism and provincial governments, sectoral priorities and the party’s commitment.
From November 17 to November 20, the borders between Nepal and India will be sealed to prevent any movement of anti-social elements. This decision was taken after a meeting was held in Rupandehi between officials from both countries. Officials from various departments like the immigration department, customs, and other related departments were present and discussed the possibilities of any anti-social activities, and what a unified response to this would be. After a healthy discourse, the decision to seal the borders for 72 hours came into motion.
The general elections in Nepal will take place on November 20 and that will bring forth certain different ramifications based on which party is elected, and whether they stick to their manifesto after gaining power.