Madhesi Parties Playing Spoilsport?
The Madhes centric parties have over the past few years emerged as a key players in the nation's politics. Ever since the southern plains witnessed its first major political protest after the comprehensive peace deal between the then Maoist rebels and the seven political party alliance in 2007/2008, the Madhes-based parties have been proved themselves a major force and stakeholders of the republic Nepal.
The importance of these parties can be gauged from the role in the current ongoing politics- owing to the Madhesi dissatisfaction and obstruction, Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal has not yet been able to declare the date of the much-talked about local elections. The ruling coalition of Maoist (Centre) and the Nepali Congress have been urging the Madhesi regional party leaders to accept the government proposal "to take the statute amendment bill and the local election issues simultaneously," so that the government would be able to settle most pressing issue of the current period.
But these Madhesi parties that have formed a front to consolidate their collective clout following the introduction of the new constitution, have not been very forthcoming and have rather been demanding that the government should first amend the bill, an issues which has not bee supported by the main opposition party- CPN- UML. The Madhesis have threatened not to support the government if the poll dates are declared without amending the bill. They have also declared that they would not accept the final report of the Local Body Restructuring Commission, according to which the number of local units in the nation has been fixed at 719.
The Madhesi Front that has thrown its weight behind the current coalition government from outside has actually kept the government under pressure and its stance has threatened to derail completely the government's attempt to take ahead the statute amendment bill and local election issues together so that the demands of the dissatisfied main opposition-UML as well as the Madhesi Front could be addressed in one go. This is sure to see the nation's politics moving towards a smooth course.
The Madhesi parties that have been demanding more spaces and representation for the Madhesi people in all state mechanism and all decision making process have often been alleged of being trouble makers whenever something important is about to be achieved. These parties are the ones that have not yet accepted the new constitution, approved by about 90 per cent vote of the then Constituent Assembly. Buoyed by India's heavy support, these regional parties had last year staged a five-month long general strike in the Terai while India, showing its support to the protesting parties, imposed a crippling blockade to rattle the Nepalese economy.
With the promulgation of the new constitution, the Madhesi parties under the leadership of three main Madhesi leaders- Mahantha Thakur, Upendra Yadav and Rajendra Mahato, made several demands that have sent shockwaves among the major political parties and people with a strong nationalist fervour. The demand regarding the citizenship, use of Hindi as working language and creating one single province in Terai without any hill areas and later creating at least two provinces in the Terai dissociating any hill districts, had been taken as a move to have the Madhesis commanding position and have larger say in the nation's politics at the cost of hills and mountain electorate.
Despite having earned the support from the foreign power, the Madhesi parties have also been facing criticism from different quarters. Several of these parties do not enjoy support from the Madhesi voters. Though the Madhesi Front has strongly exhibited its ability to create disruption and disturbances in the Terai region, the Front cannot be termed as true representative of the Madhesh region, for it lacks crucial mandate from the Terai people. The Front, which is comprised of five or six Madhesi parties besides other ethnic parties, currently has only 50 to 60 parliamentarians in the 601-member House. Interestingly, there are Madhesh centric parties of Bijay Gachchhdar that is not a part of the Front while there are many parliamentarians of Madhes origin representing three major parties- the Maoist (Centre), the Nepali Congress and the UML. Many hill origin candidates of these parties have won elections in the Madhes or Terai region against the Madhesi candidates. This shows that the parties have failed to appeal the Terai electorate while the hill origin population residing in the Terai belt has not helped these parties' cause.
The Madhesi leaders of all hues, on the other hand, are heavily criticised for lacking support base in their own region and are berated for their favouritism, nepotism and corrupt behaviours. Most of the Madhesi leaders have shown a tendency to nominate their own kin and closest confidants to the important positions whenever they have an opportunity to nominate or appoint their party men to such positions. Some Madhesi intellectuals often deride these leaders for having such tendency. The Madhesi leaders are alleged for being corrupt too. Many of these leaders have been alleged of making huge wealth which is evident from the fact that they have owned many multi-storied houses and property in the Kathmandu Valley and elsewhere. Most of these leaders often undermine the constitutional provisions of providing their property details to the public even after holding public posts. In short, many Madhesi leaders have all the qualities of bad politicians who are found in almost all political parties of the nation. So, they are no different from many leaders of other parties.
Despite having many shortcomings among these leaders, some of the Madhesi leaders' demands appear to be genuine. The demand for the representation of the able Madhesi people in the state mechanism of all hues and stripes and an end to the state discrimination against the Madhesis is praiseworthy. The state must fulfill these demands. However, their strong dislike of the new constitution and their tendency of banking on the foreign power centre to gain political mileage in the nation are the issues that raise common citizen's concerns. They should fight for their rights by respecting the nation's dignity. They must not try to undermine or harm the nation's prestige and sovereignty in the name of gaining their rights.
The Madhesi parties should also try to soften their stance on many of crucial political issues faced by the nation. Without some give-and-take, these issues will not be settled for long and the nation would continue to suffer and will only grow weaker. If the nation continues to suffer, the Madhesi parties, which have drawn flak for many of their shortcomings, should also be ready to take their fair share of the blame.