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Madheshi Leaders For Protests

Issue June 2017

Madheshi Leaders For Protests

Siddhi B Ranjitkar


The newly elected prime minister Sher Bahadur Deuba could not convince the Madheshi leaders of the need for participating in the second-phase local elections to be held on June 28, 2017 for their benefits and for the benefits of the nation, too. The Deuba government did not want to meet even certain demands that could be met not to mention other demands that have been beyond the control of the government. Consequently, Madheshi leaders have been for protesting against the election and even trying to stop the election.


Probably, the final meeting between the establishment and the leaders of Rastriya Janata Party (RJP) has ended without any positive decisions on June 11, 2017 because both parties were not stepping back from their stand. Only two weeks to go before the Election Day. Whether the government and RJP would be able to forge a middle path so that the Madheshi leaders would save their face and participate in the elections remains to be seen.


Launching a protest would not be so easy and so cheap for the RJP leaders, too when majority of the people have been mentally prepared for voting and for seeing their representatives at the local units. RJP leaders might need to lose the lives of some of their cadre, and certainly they needed to spend a lot of money on holding protests. It would not be less costly to the establishment to go to the elections without bringing the RJP leaders on board. The government might need to use force to keep peace for the voters to vote, and might even need to postpone the election at certain areas. So, both sides might need to pay high prices for not coming to the mutual understanding on smoothly holding the election.


RJP is the new party formed merging six Madheshi political parties for jointly putting pressure on the government to meet the demands for amending the constitution, for taking back the lawsuits against its cadre, for releasing the cadre from custody, for increasing a number of local units in proportion to the citizens in Madhesh, and for opening a legal door for it to participate in the local election. Those tiny political parties needed to merge into a large national party after the parliament introduced the threshold for all political parties to cross for being national parties that could represent the people in the parliament. So, RJP was born.


Other Madheshi political parties such as Madheshi People’s Rights Forum-Democratic of Bijayakumar Gacchedar, and the Federal Social Forum-Nepal of Upendra Yadav have been for taking part in the local election. Yadav even said that all Madheshi political parties needed to participate in the local election otherwise they would lose touch with the people. Probably, Yadav must have notice that the Madheshi demands would not be so easily met as long as the opposition CPN-UML would not be flexible about the amendment to the constitution, and the addition of a number of local units in proportion to citizens in Madhesh.


Federal Social Forum-Nepal is the national party Upendra Yadav, and Ashok Rai have formed merging the Madheshi Party of Yadav, and the ethnic party of Rai. So, these two parties became a single party to be at least a national political party. However, they needed to test it in the coming second-phase election that would be decisive for it to be a national party or not. The first-phase local election had not favored it indicating Rai had not so much influence on the people in the hills, as the first–phase election had been mostly in the hills.


Before the parliament went in recess for three weeks on Sunday, June 11, 2017, the parliament fast-tracked to pass the bill on an amendment to the Political Party Act paving the way for the RJP leaders to choose any one of their previous election symbols but they could not use more than one symbol at any area. Any candidate elected with any one of the symbols would represent the RJP. The parliament has been in recess following the demands of the lawmakers for having time for them to work at their respective constituency for the local election after passing the bill on the amendment to the Political Party Act.


Thus, the establishment has been able to resolve this technical problem making RJP able to participate in the elections. RJP has no time to register it as a political party at the Election Commission, and to have its election symbol, as it came to exist only recently and has no time to register. Now, technically RJP could partake in the election but it has hardliners that did not want to enter the election fray without an amendment to the constitution. It has also other leaders that have been for joining the election if the government were to meet certain demands such as for releasing the cadre, withdrawing the lawsuits against the cadre, increasing a number of local units in proportion to the citizens in Madhesh, and having the commitment in writing to amend the constitution after the election.


All RJP leaders knew that the amendment to the constitution was not possible without the green signal of the main opposition CPN-UML in the parliament. So, some of the RJP leaders were for agreeing on postponing the amendment, or participating in the election if the establishment were to give in writing that the amendment to the constitution would be done after the local election.


Prime Minister Deuba had emphatically rejected the possibility of postponing the election at the meeting with the RJP leaders held at his office on Sunday, June 11, 2017, as it has been postponed a number of times, and time for holding the election has been running out very fast. None of the political parties except for the RJP has been for delaying the local election.


Nobody knew why the CPN-UML had been so rigid with not allowing the amendment to the constitution even though the amendment would not change anything drastically. If anybody were to take a look at the bill on an amendment to the constitution registered at the parliament by the previous government Prachanda presided over would find that it had nothing that would bring any drastic change in the politics, economics and in any community.


Why the CPN-UML leaders did not want to give in to the amendment to the constitution had been for nothing except for boosting their ego. Probably, they wanted to demonstrate how far they could go rejecting the demands of the RJP leaders, and repressing the demands no matter what the political results would be in the future.


While in power, the CPN-UML had amended the constitution to meet the demands of India rather than the Madheshi leaders. So, the amendment did not resolve the problems of the Madheshi leaders but it certainly did lift the embargo on sending anything from India to Nepal, India had imposed on Nepal, and ruthlessly enforced causing the tremendous sufferings to the Nepalese that had been the victims of the quakes in 2015.


The Deuba government probably should not have any problem of giving in writing an assurance of amending the constitution after the local election to be held on June 28, 2017. However, Prime Minister Deuba did not want to commit to it in writing, as most of the agreements and commitments and understandings not to mention the gentlemanly agreements failed to survive in the past.


Given the majority Deuba had managed to garner close to the two-thirds majority in the parliament for getting to be elected to a new prime minister. Deuba might have the power to get the two-thirds majority of lawmakers in the parliament for amending the constitution if he were to try hard for it. Why Deuba did not do it, might be for not isolating the CPN-UML. Deuba might be trying to persuade the CPN-UML to agree on the amendment to the constitution.


Some political analysts questioned why Deuba did not meet other demands of the RJP leaders such as for taking back the lawsuits against its cadre, and for releasing the cadre from the custody setting aside other demands such as for amending the constitution and for increasing a number of local units in proportion to the citizens in Madhesh.


If anyone of those political analysts were to flip the past newspapers and see what the CPN-UML stand on these issues had been, would find that the CPN-UML had categorically rejected releasing the culprits involved in the Tikapur case in which a number of security personal were burned down not to mention withdrawing the legal cases against them. So, the Deuba government had been cautious not to infuriate the CPN-UML freeing the RJP cadres and withdrawing the criminal cases against them.


The legal case of increasing a number of local units in proportion to the citizens has been at the Supreme Court. The previous government Prachanda presided over had increased a number of local units and even published it in the State gazette but one of the CPN-UML advocates appealed the apex court to stop increasing a number of local units at the time when holding the election to the local units had been in full swing.


So, we could say that the Deuba government had done what it could do in other words it made RJP technically able to taking part in the election. The government would not be able to do anything about other demands of the RJP technically and politically in the immediate future, as those issues had been under the control of either the Supreme Court or of the opposition.


Even knowing all these things what the Deuba government could do and what not why the RJP leaders had declared that they would rather launch a protest than participate in the local election. Some of the RJP leaders believed that they would loose the face if they were to participate in the election without having the amendment to the constitution, and voters would surely reject them. So, for them it would be better to stay away from the election, and launch a protest even if it would be in name only.


Thus, RJP leaders were playing a losing political game. If they were to take part in the election they had the fear of they would not be able to do so good in the election, as the hardliners in their party would try to stop them from winning the election. That had been the practice of political parties in the past. If they were to launch a protest they were not sure that they could achieve what they intended to.


Probably, RJP leaders would not be able to impede the election launching a protest. Parties of Gacchedar and Yadav have been already in the election campaign. They might have considerable influence on the Madheshi voters. The three major political parties such as NC, CPN-UML, and Maoist-Center have also a large number of Madheshi leaders and cadre that have influence on the Madheshi voters. So, voters might show up at the polls no matter what the RJP cadre and leaders do.


Now, the question is where do the RJP stands in such a political situation. In view of the above political analysis, RJP stands at the political edge running the risk of falling in an abyss. However, nobody could say that RJP might fall in a chasm. They would fall or survive would depend on whether the people would support them or not when they probably would launch a protest. One fact is clear that common folks have been tired of political movement. So, they are rather enthusiastic to go to the polls than going to political rallies or marching on the streets in protest.


Probably, Gacchedar and Yadav knew that RJP would reach such a political stalemate. So, they opted to participate in the local elections rather than staying away from it. They could at least test how much influence they have on the voters in Madhesh. They also could have the presence in the local governments. RJP leaders have rejected such opportunities.


June 12, 2017

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