Himalayan Frontier

Nepal: The Crisis over Proportional Representation and the RPP Divide

06 Jan, 2014    ·   4236

Pramod Jaiswal comments on the current crisis over proportional representation and the split within the RPP

Pramod Jaiswal
Pramod Jaiswal
Senior Fellow, China Research Programme (CRP)
Last year (2013) was lucky  for the Rastriya Prajatantra Party-Nepal (RPP-N) led by Kamal Thapa as they emerged as the fourth largest party in the second Constituent Assembly (CA-II). But in 2014, the party seems to be sailing through rough waters. 
The RPP: Through Splits and Mergers 
Like all the political parties of Nepal, RPP also has witnessed splits and mergers. The RPP formed following the overthrow of the Panchayat system in 1990, was a party of the political elites of the Panchayat system who favors the revival of the royalty. Due to minor differences within, two separate organizations with identical name contested in 1991 elections. After the humiliating defeat both factions merged; in the 1994 election, united RPP secured 20 (out of 205) seats and emerged as the third largest party in the hung parliament.  In 1997, the RPP faced another split after a faction led by Chand joined a coalition government with Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist), with Chand as Prime Minister. The faction led by Thapa allied with Nepali Congress and toppled the UML-RPP government. RPP-Chand and RPP-Thapa were reunited after both factions fared badly in the 1998 election. In 1999 elections, the unified party won 11 seats.

The party split again in 2005 when Thapa, former party chairperson, broke away and formed Rastriya Janashakti Party (RJP). RPP then suffered another split, with Kamal Thapa forming his own party, RPP-Nepal. Rajeshwor Devkota had formed another Rashtriya Prajatantra Party (Nationalist) which eventually merged into RPP- Nepal in 2007.  In the 2008 CA election, RPP won 8, RPP –Nepal won 4 and RJP won 3 seats out of 601. But just before the CA-II election of 2013, RJP merged again with RPP and got 10/601 seats. 

Post 2013 Elections: RPP and the Nepali Rastriya Prajatantra Party 
After 2013 elections, today all major political parties are facing a crisis on issues relating to the selection of candidates under the Proportionate Representation (PR). RPP-Nepal escaped from the verge of split but couldn’t remain immune to stay intact. Tanka Dhakal along with 19 Central Committee members announced (in December 2013) to split and register a new party ‘Nepali Rastriya Prajatantra Party”.  ‘Hindu State and Monarchy’ as the prime agenda in their manifesto while ruling out federalism, RPP-N made a massive increase from mere four seats (in CA-I) to 24 (in CA-II). 

RPP-Nepal is the only party in Nepal that wants to make Nepal a Hindu state again. Thapa stated, “Ethnic federalism, secularism and republicanism were the result of a conspiracy between the foreign powers and the country’s extreme left and a part of their strategic alliance. The political parties, intellectuals and media all submitted under foreign pressure”.  He had emphasized that his party would be flexible on monarchy during constitution writing but would not sacrifice the fundamental elements of a Hindu nation.

Reasons behind the recent split within the RPP
The following could be put forward as reasons behing the recent split:

Agenda of Monarchy: Dhakal and other dissenters have accused Thapa of putting the agenda of ‘monarchy’ at the back burner. He was blamed for sidelining pro-monarchy supporters because of his remarks that election’s mandate is for ‘hindu state’ and the issue of monarchy could be compromised on. 
Issues of Nationalism: The dissenters have criticized Thapa for neglecting the issues of nationalism. With his frequent visits to Indian leaders, they further accuse him of changing into ‘Pro-India’ while he used to criticize the ‘Indian interference’ in Nepal’s internal matters such as Indian involvement in facilitating the Comprehensive Peace Accord in Delhi which led to the end of Monarchy.  The dissenters dubbed the party under Thapa as ‘Indian RPP-N’ and subsequently named their new party as ‘Nepali RPP’.

Leadership: The disgruntled faction has serious differences over the appointment of candidates under the PR system. Thapa has been accused of being autocratic, horse trading, and promoting nepotism and favoritism during appointment. He was accused for giving PR seats to his family members, Non-Resident Nepali and selling the seats to businessmen. 

Crisis over Proportional Representation: Implications for Constitution Making 
Like RRP-N, serious differences have surfaced in Maoists as well on the issue of PR candidate selection. It is yet to be seen how politics unfold in the RPP-Nepal but it’s clear that it will delay the constitution making process. Most likely, it will take time to convene the CA.  
Will the political parties remain intact and continue with most of the agreements reached in the last assembly? RPP-Nepal has stated that they would demand a fresh beginning. They claim there is no relevance of the agreements on constitutional issues sorted out by the last CA. 
It is in the best interest of all the political parties to accept the past agreements, hold parleys and forge new agreements on the remaining issues and promulgate the constitution within a year. Perhaps, it would be the most revered New Year gift for the Nepalese in 2015.