Madhesi Parties’ Protests And Local Polls

Uttam Maharjan

As the major and other political parties are gearing up for the upcoming local elections, the Madhes-based parties have threatened to withdraw their support to the government if the constitution amendment bill is not endorsed. The Madhes-based parties have been demanding an amendment to the constitution since the constitution was promulgated in 2015.  As the K.P. Oli-led government did not fulfill their demands, it collapsed to give way to the present coalition government. The Madhesi parties also contributed to the formation of the present government.

What the present government has done regarding the Madhesi parties’ demands is just the registration of the constitution amendment bill in the Parliament several months ago. However, the bill has not moved even an inch in terms of voting and endorsement. As the bill has been lying fallow for so many months and the government has not taken any concrete measures to have the bill endorsed, the Madhesi parties are not happy with the government.

Support withdrawal

Although the Madhes-based parties did not think about withdrawing support to the government when the local polls were announced the other day, they have made a turnaround since the Saptari incident that claimed five. They have formulated a strategy of leaving the government in the soup by withdrawing support to it.

The government is now at a crossroads. Although Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda assured the Madhesi parties of fulfilling their demands before coming to power, it is difficult to garner a required number of votes to have the constitution amendment bill endorsed by a two-thirds majority.

In this context, the greatest obstacle seems to be the CPN-UML. The main opposition party has not been in favour of fulfilling the demands of the Madhesi parties. It has not changed its tone since it was in the last government when the Madhesi parties were pressurising it to fulfill its demands. The Madheis parties even resorted to inhuman Madhes agitation backed up by the implicit Indian blockade. But the CPN-UML preferred to get ousted rather than give way to the Madhesi parties’ demands.

The ruling coalition has tried several times to convince the CPN-UML to support the constitution amendment bill, but the latter would not support it. Rather, the party has been reiterating that it will not let the bill endorsed in the Parliament at any cost, reasoning that the demands of the Madhesi parties are anti-national.

It is not necessary that every demand of the Madhesi parties should be fulfilled. Making provinces in the Terai by excluding hilly districts is most objectionable. Such a concept would challenge the very concept of balanced development. Mountainous, hilly and Terai regions are not on an equal footing as far as the concept of balanced development is concerned. The country being a least developed country waiting for graduating to a developing country by 2022 AD, it is essential to overcome lopsided development. But the Madhesi parties’ insisting on carving out purely Terai provinces is against this concept. Likewise, their demand that naturalised citizens be allowed to hold topmost posts of the government is equally dangerous. The Madhesi parties’ proposals might vitiate the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

As the government is finding it difficult to garner a two-thirds majority to endorse the constitution amendment bill, it is considering inducting other parties into the cabinet. Recently, it inducted RPP into the cabinet. Now it is convincing Bijaya Kumar Gachchhadar, Chairman of Madhesi Janadhikar Forum-Democratic, into taking on board the government.

The government is already a jumbo government with 45 ministers. The government is trying to induct into it as many parties as possible so that it can garner adequate votes for the constitution amendment bill to be endorsed. It is not, however, justifiable to ‘jumboise’ the present government just for the sake of garnering enough votes for the endorsement of the bill to satisfy the Madhesi parties. Jumbo governments are always under fire, but such criticism is like water off a duck’s back.

Although the Madheis parties are considering staging protest programmes across the country so as to foil the upcoming local polls, the Madhesi people are in favour of the polls. The Madhesi people have seen though the nefarious designs of their leaders. The Madhesi leaders are after their own interest. They are trying to capture state power for themselves, not for the benefit of the people living in the Terai-Madhes region.

Defeated concept

The government should, therefore, go for the local polls at any cost. The local polls were last held in 1997. So the people are eagerly waiting for their local representatives to man the local bodies. The operation of the local bodies through a bureaucratic mechanism has turned out to be a debacle. The country cannot always afford to operate the local bodies through government employees. This has defeated the very concept of local governance.

So there is no point for the government to kowtow before the Madhesi parties. In a democracy, every party has rights to put forth their demands. It is also incumbent upon the government to fulfill them if they are genuine and lead to national benefit and prosperity. On the other hand, if the demands are meant for a certain section or group, such demands should be put aside. The government is strong and there is no necessity for it to yield to any force. The government should adopt an attitude towards the demands of the Madhesi parties along this line and go for the local polls by setting aside any obstacle on the way. This will win the hearts of the general people.   

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