Keep Incendiary Politics At Bay
Ritu Raj Subedi
The inflammatory politics has engulfed the nation ahead of the crucial local polls slated for mid-May this year. The polls that are going to be held almost in two decades have been widely expected to overcome democratic and development deficit, but a bunch of belligerents are active to complicate domestic politics and foil the election. The Terai belt has become a powder keg with the second largest party, CPN-UML, being barred from organising its political campaign in Province No 2. A few ethno-centric regional forces are trying to create a false consciousness that their approval is necessary to carry out any form of political activity in the said province that contains eight core Terai districts bordering the Indian state of Bihar. The Madhesi Front’s leaders are treating as if it is a separate country and they are its ultimate boss. This perilously flawed attitude has widened the distance between the Terai and hills. This is an unintended ethnic wound portending a calamitous sign for the struggling republic.
Politics of incitation
What is more dangerous is the violent skirmishes that took the lives of five innocent Madhesi youths. Their bodies must not be politicised. They became the victim of the politics of incitation. Scores of improvised bombs were set along the road as well as at the site of UML mass meeting in Rajbiraj. The party claimed that attempts were made to massacre its entire leadership. The opposition went on to charge that agent provocateurs wanted to repeat the gory scenes that occurred in Gaur of Rautahat and Tikapur of Kailali in the past. These are serious accusations. However, neither the group in question nor the government is bothered to refute the charges.
It is a blunder to scapegoat the security forces alone for the unpleasant incident. Although the security personnel have been blamed by a section of Madhes-based leaders for opening fire at the protesters indiscriminately, their role has also been given the thumbs up for preventing a large-scale violent event. The government has already launched an investigation into it. In connection with this fatal incident, Minister for Home Bimalendra Nidhi has defended the police action. Speaking in the parliament Friday, Minister Nidhi attributed the loss of lives to the violent behaviour of the cadres of Front, and said the security forces took action under compulsion in order to avert a ‘big damage.’ According to him, an uncontrolled mob, armed with domestic weapons and petrol bombs, was heading towards the programme venue. “The police opened fire on the moving armed mob as per the instruction of local security officials after the latter sensed that it was going out of control and cold carry out a large-scale damage,” Nidhi said. The Minister’s clarification on the Saptari incident contains the contents in rectification of his previous ‘provocative remarks’. It can reduce troubled ties between him and the UML that had accused the former of delivering inflammatory speeches in Lahan before the start of it Mechi-Mahakali National Campaign. While addressing a mass meeting, he had reportedly called for ‘flushing out’ the UML from Terai, terming it anti-Madhesi and anti-federalist party. Though Minister Nidhi had denied he made such remarks, the UML still insists that the Home Minister turned the central Terai into a potential political tinderbox.
Minister Nidhi holds the whip hand over the entire internal security affairs. He is expected to rise above the partisan politics and win the confidence of all, including the opposition. It does not augur well for the peace and security of the country if the main opposition leader and Home Minister trade brickbats. Just on the eve of its political hustings, the UML chief had lashed out at Nidhi for taking a dig at the main opposition. It has set a tone of tension and given ammunition to those active in fishing in troubled waters. It is up to the Home Ministry to provide security to any organisations that are engaged in peaceful political activities.
In democracy, the opposition deserves respect from the ruling parties. In the same manner, the opposition needs to understand the genuine concerns shown by the government. The democratic system functions well only when the ruling and opposition force forge an understanding not to overstep the constitutional boundary. Elements of national unity, territorial integrity and social harmony should guide them. They should come together when it comes to basic economic and foreign policies. In doing so, they will be able to overcome the crisis of confidence and set the right tone for stability and order.
Politics of paradox
Meanwhile, the shaky coalition has roped Rastriya Prajatantra Party chairman Kamal Thapa into the cabinet after the Madhesi Front issued an ultimatum to withdraw its support to it. This is like a case of grasping at last straws. But, what is more intriguing is the frequent innings of Thapa in the government. He served as a powerful minister under the rule of former king Gyanendra. He also offered his strong backing to the KP Sharma Oli government that is known for its strong nationalistic stand. His role as lieutenant of Oli helped Thapa rebuild his image and draw popular support. He was on the frontline to criticise Nepali Congress and CPN-Maoist Centre for toppling the Oli government. But now he stepped up to the plate to save the coalition. His move has left many observers in a quandary – is it his rational move or sheer opportunism? Interestingly, he has been given the charge of Ministry of Local Development and Federal Affairs, but his party in principle has not accepted federalism. This is a big paradox with which the government is muddling through.