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Calling Rastriya Swatantra Party’s bluffs: What the party promised, what it is doing

The new party has failed on promises made to the people during the 2022 elections, corruption control and rule of law stand out starkly. 

Kathmandu: When the Rastriya Swatantra Party (RSP) began its campaigns for 2022  federal elections it came up with a set of promises for sweeping reforms in Nepali politics. One of the promises was related to the selection of candidates for election. The RSP promised in its major official document entitled Hami Ra Hamro Bacha (‘about us and our promise’) that unlike the traditionalist parties whose leaderships pick and choose their favored cadres, without consideration for their merits and contributions to the party, it would decide whom to award election tickets from the primaries. 

“For any level of election, there shall be an election within the party by the general members and the one standing victorious with their votes will get the ticket,” reads the document. “In such elections, even those Nepalis staying outside of the country will be able to vote.”

The truth is primaries were not done in the real sense. Most decisions were taken through internal discussions, rather than voting. Dr Swarnim Wagle did not have to face the primary nor did Milan Limbu who contested the Ilam by-poll.

The RSP was a vocal critic of electioneering by using state resources. But during the campaign in the Ilam by-election, RSP leaders, including home minister Rabi Lamichhane, made pompous trips to eastern Nepal by using government resources.

On corruption control, the RSP document said that there shall be equal punishment for the main culprit as well as his/her accomplice. As things stand, some clerical staff have been arrested in the cooperative fraud case while the party members are defending the Home Minister, even though there are allegations regarding his involvement in the scam. Neither of the party members stands ready to concede to the demand of the opposition Nepali Congress to form a parliamentary probe committee to look into alleged involvement of Lamichhane in the cooperative fraud case.

Before coming to the government, RSP raised the voice for arresting GB Rai, who is said to be the chief accused in the cooperative fraud scam and who is said to be hiding somewhere in Malaysia.  But the incumbent home minister has taken no real initiative to get Rai arrested and repatriated. 

Justice for Nirmala Panta used to be a rallying cry of the RSP chair before he became the Home Minister. The case of Nirmala Panta, the 13-year old student who was raped and murdered on 26 July 2018 in Kanchanpur, remains unsolved even after six months of the heinous crime.  Lamichhane made justice for Nirmala a top priority right after becoming the home minister for the first time in December, 2022 but there has been no progress even after two months of taking office as the home minister for the second time.

Besides, the RSP promised to reinvestigate the major corruption cases. Lalita Niwas land scam, wide-body purchase scam, Covid-19 vaccine procurement scam, financial irregularities in the purchase of bicycles for Beti Padhau, Beti Bachau (Educate Daughters, Save Daughters) campaign by the government of Madhesh province, Budhi Gandaki scam, among others would be reopened with priority, we were told.

RSP holds a key Home Ministry which could reopen these cases but there has been no progress on this front either. 

Nepali migrant workers form a key base of RSP supporters and sympathizers. The party chief was an ardent advocate of the rights of migrant workers and, in some cases, even helped address their issues while Lamichhane was the media person. But now in the government, the RSP has not taken any initiative to address their key concerns, while the labor ministry is headed by the RSP leader.No wonder the people, who reposed a high hope and trust in RSP a few months ago, have now started to say the RSP is no different from the old political parties whose modus operandi of politics the RSP had vowed to challenge and never resort to, when it was established in June 2022.