An Assessment Of UML’s Campaign
Dr. Narad Bharadwaj
The Mechi-Mahakali campaign of the Communist Party of Nepal (UML), which is currently underway, is by far the greatest mass mobilisation seen in recent years. The campaign has generated powerful ripples of national awakening in the hearts and minds of the people though it has also drawn criticism from opposition camps as an attempt to escalate antagonism and provoke violence. Some commentators have also lashed at the campaign as being a show of strident nationalism.
The main opposition and the second largest party in the parliament, the UML, has initiated this campaign in response to the new political reality brought about by the announcement of the date for the local election for May 14, 2017. It is also an attempt of the second largest party of the country to educate the people of the Terai region on the looming threat to national integration in the face of growing alienation of the Terai and the undue interest of the external forces in dictating terms for resolving Nepal’s internal problems.
The political campaign of the CPN (UML), which started from Kakarvitta in eastern Nepal two weeks back, has reached the far western region of the country. During the campaign, the UML has succeeded to enlist a massive popular participation where its top leaders explained their party’s position in relation to the current political situation, its views on the Madhes issue and the reasons for prioritising the election over the amendment of the constitution.
The UML campaign was greeted by a rolling wave of masses wherever it stopped for holding a political rally, with the exception in Saptari, where an undemocratic act of the Madhesi Front to obstruct the legitimate and peaceful rally of the UML resulted in the death of five innocent people. Through this campaign, the UML has proved that it is in the vanguard of a new popular movement launched for the implementation of the constitution and acquiring popular mandate through elections.
At a time when the national politics is under a serious threat of being held captive to the cross purposes of internal and external power centres, the bold and decisive step which the CPN (UML) has taken to go to the people to seek their mandate, cannot be criticised as something disruptive. It is the only way for a country located at a precarious geo-strategic vulnerability to preserve itself.
In a country, where many kinds of external interests intersect, the only way to safeguard the right to national self-determination is to firmly root on the popular base. By choosing to go to the people instead of looking up to the external benefactors to hand out solution for our problem, the CPN (UML) has taken the bold and dignified step towards calling the Nepalese people to take their destiny in their own hands. In fact, the UML’s initiative has revealed a chink of opportunity which can be widened into a broad way of national resurgence.
The CPN (UML)’s detractors have been going all out to defame its mass education and awareness campaign as a divisive and provocative mobilisation to further deepen polarisation in the country. However, the voices of secession echoing in the southern plains and increasing interference of external forces in Nepal’s internal affairs shows that policy direction pointed out by the UML is the only potent way to muffle the voices of disintegration and protect the country’s independence.
The UML’s political campaign has rekindled peoples’ hope for putting the staggering democratic process on a firm pace again by handing over power to the elected representatives at different tiers of government bodies. The success of the party in projecting itself as a robust political institution has instilled the confidence that if the election is held on the announced date, many distortions of democratic practices will be corrected. The stalled political process will find its normal course, and the political brokers who are staging rumpus at the cost of Nepal’s stability, will be sidelined.
Apart from some isolated cases of attempt made by the cadres of the Madhesi Front to obstruct the programmes of the UML, the Mechi-Mahakali campaign has advanced with an unprecedented success. In addition to carrying the message of national awakening, it has also helped the country to catch the rhythm of electoral politics after a long hiatus of undemocratic ad-hocism.
The ongoing Terai-based campaign of the CPN (UML) is its first ever attempt to clear the misrepresentation of its policies on bringing about empowerment and prosperity of the Madhesi people. The UML was able to clarify to the people of the Terai that it was making most sincere attempts to address their problems and grievances. The CPN (UML) has taken this opportunity to explain the people of the Terai that the proposed amendment of the constitution is not in the interest of the nation and the people at large including the Madhesi people.
The UML rallies have become moments for the people to converge around an agenda of national unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity. Ever larger number of the Madhesi people now feel convinced that the demand for only Madhes provinces in the Terai would weaken national integration. It would render these provinces financially unsustainable and create a ground for bigger violent conflict over the issues of resources and representation in addition to paving the way for intensifying external interference.
The Mechi-Mahakali campaign is a policy of standing on one’s ground rather than by meekly following a policy of subservience. At a time when even the ruling political parties which were part of promulgation of the constitution, are not daring to call a spade a spade and are advocating the amendment of the constitution by way of appeasing those forces which are champing at the bit to destroy Nepal’s social cohesion at the behest of external powers, the UML has succeeded to tell truth to the masses through its campaign.
The waning popular base of the Madhes-centric forces has vindicated that the people of the Terai region now know that their persistent demand for restructuring of provinces separating the hill from the Terai is not helpful for achieving sustainable conditions for promoting development and prosperity. This is rather a design of the Madhes-centric forces and their patrons to bring about a shift in the power equation by introducing rules that brings them advantage by depriving the sparsely populated, but vast hill territories of their right of due representation.
The ruling coalition’s insistence on the amendment of the constitution from the legislative parliament, which is so heavily polarised now, is an inexcusable diversion from required political orientation. It should now realise that the only way for accomplishing the implementation of the constitution is to hold local, provincial and national elections and hand over power to the elected representatives.
Crying in the wilderness
The overwhelming support of the masses for holding election as has been evident at the UML’s political rallies should be taken as a popular mandate to go for election by postponing the agenda of constitutional amendment until some conducive support base is created for such an initiative. Election will help build wider consensus over the amendment issue allowing time and platform for more extensive deliberation over the issue at grassroots level.
Knowing that either a broad consensus or a two-thirds majority in the parliament are the only legitimate mechanisms to effect amendment of the constitution, any attempt to intimidate the sovereign parliament into accepting the demands of the minority will have no more effect than the crying in the wilderness.