The Swarnim Waglé effect: Can RSP rise as an alternative political force to liberals?

For a long time, Nepali Congress enjoyed the advantage of being the only established democratic force of the country. Rastriya Swatantra Party has shown some initial indications that it can be an alternative platform for liberal candidates.

NL Today

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Kathmandu: Rashtriya Swatantra Party emerged as a political force cashing in on the agendas of rampant corruption, public frustration, and lack of accountability from the major political forces. 

It secured 20  seats in the federal parliament elections held in November last year–a sizable number for a political force that was formed only a few months before the elections.

The RSP lawmakers have been raising vital public concerns,  those the major political parties have cared to ignore, in the parliament. For example, the issues that lawmaker Sumana Shresth has been raising in parliament, for example, have struck chords with many people.

Now the party has found an intellectual, scholar, and economist, looked up to with respect by the learned community in Nepal, in Swarnim Waglé.

On Saturday, Dr Swarnim Waglé decided to formally join Rashtriya Swatantra Party and contest the upcoming by-election from Tahanu-1.

While Congress leaders, including the general secretaries, have portrayed his decision to shift to RSP as an act of opportunism, a large mass of people seem to believe Waglé made the right decision, since Congress, despite being in power for decades, has failed to root out bad governance and corruption. 

It may be a coincidence but Swarnim joining RSP seems to have had some ripple effects. For example, Jagannath Poudel,  a former Nepali Congress leader from Chitwan, has decided to join RSP. Some district-level NC leaders of Tanahu have also decided to join RSP.

Two of the architects of the Nepali Congress election manifestos – Dr Waglé himself and Manish Jha – are now in RSP. It should be noted that Manish Jha was one of the members involved in drafting Congress’ manifesto for local elections while Dr Waglé was a key member in drafting the manifesto of the party for federal parliament elections. 

Do these circumstances suggest that RSP is becoming an alternative political platform for liberal candidates?

In Nepal’s political history, Nepali Congress has enjoyed the benefit of being a single established democratic force. Many leaders and cadres maintained their affiliation with Nepali Congress, despite the bad leadership and weak internal democratic practices, as it would not be easy for them to join communist parties such as CPN-UML and Maoist Center or pro-monarchy forces like Rastriya Prajatantra Party. 

In this context, Rastriya Swatantra Party appears to be an alternative platform for them for the apparent reason that the party does not hold an inclination toward communism and has promised not to compromise fundamental human rights and civil liberties. 

Faces like Dr Swarnim Waglé, Arnico Panday, Sumana Shrestha, Shishir Khanal, Biraj Bhakta Shrestha, Manish Jha, Shobita Gautam among others may inspire democrats and liberals to shift their political affiliation if the party shows commitments toward fundamental democratic principles and values.