Kathmandu: Rastriya Prajatantra Party, a political party that has openly adopted a pro-monarchy and pro-Hindu agenda, on Sunday elected a new face as its chair.
In its General Convention held in Kathmandu this week, Rajendra Lingden, comparatively a younger leader from eastern Nepal, defeated Kamal Thapa, a veteran politician who was Home Minister during the 2006/7 popular movement that abolished monarchy from the country.
Thapa is known as a powerful politician who held key ministerial positions for decades—from the days of the party-less Panchayat rule to well up to post-federal republic politics.
He already had a stronghold in the party and support from influential leaders including former chair Pashupati Shumsher Rana, an octogenarian RPP leader with a strong presence in both Nepal’s politics and business.
None of this, however, helped to secure victory for Thapa in the general convention. According to analysts, Lingden’s victory is loaded with political meanings and messages not only for the RPP but also for other political parties.
Rise of new face in conventional party: Change in the top leadership through democratic process has a powerful message.
Though change of face in the leadership in itself does not matter much as long as the party carries the same agendas of restoration of monarchy and Hinduism, it could potentially inspire and even create a pressure in other parties to give new faces a chance in leadership.
Tara Nath Dahal, a political observer, wrote on Twitter that after the result of the RPP’s general convention, pressure will build in other parties to bring second generation leaders to leadership level.
According to analysts, Lingden’s victory is loaded with political meanings and messages not only for the RPP but also for other political parties.
Rise of non-elite in politics: The General Convention also gave a message that the elite coterie is now losing its grip in RPP, the party known to be under control of the elites close to Nepal’s former royal palace. Compared to top guns, Lingden comes from a more humble background.
“The elite class no longer holds a decisive capacity in politics,” wrote Dahal.
Defeat hurts, old generation resists: Kamal Thapa, who was in the leadership role for nearly two and a half decades, was known for decency and maintaining a high level of political culture.
After the defeat, however, Kamal Thapa made such comments which have earned him widespread criticism on social media. He accused the former king of helping to sideline the trusted lieutenant of the monarchy with ‘naked interference’ in the internal politics of RPP.
Experts say this reflects the old tendency of the politicians to shift the blame to others when they cannot have it all for themselves. “They tend to think if they fail, it’s because of others,” said Dr Indra Adhikari, a political analyst. “It is tradition in Nepali politics for leaders to hesitate to review, assess and evaluate where they failed but shift the blame to others instead.”
Hinduism becoming more pronounced? RPP has long been advocating for restoration of Hindu kingdom, though it is against Nepal’s constitution. Popular base of Lingden and his representation from indigenous background could lend more legitimacy to the agenda. “A hard-liner leader has replaced Thapa. There is an expectation among pro-Hindu cadres and people that the new leadership could shake the new political structure of Nepal,” Adhikari said.
Nirmal Niwas into controversy: By accusing the former king for his defeat, Kamal Thapa has dragged Nirmal Niwas into controversy. Nirmal Niwas–the abode of the former king–would not be thought of as a political player. Now it has begun to be reckoned in that role.
Opportunism finally backfires: Kamal Thapa was also known in Nepali politics as a clever opportunist–securing his place in power from Panchayat to multiparty democracy to republic. Experts see his defeat as the reflection of how opportunism finally becomes counterproductive. Opportunism will be counterproductive in future which is proved by the RPP convention, said Adhikari. “When a leader goes behind the opportunism sidelining the principles, values and fidelity, eventually that move will be counterproductive. Power and its impact are not permanent,” she said.
Message for upcoming elections: People have become sick and tired of leaders who have been tried, tested and found wanting. Old leaders are often seen to be failing to address the aspirations of people. Even political cadres seem to be unwilling to endorse the same old leadership. “People, especially the new generation, are seeking alternatives gradually,” said Adhikari. “RPP’s election is an indication of this.”