Political Imbroglio: A Gordian Knot?
The Election Commission recently deleted the provisions for a Hindu state and monarchy from the statute of the Rastriya Prajatatra Party (RPP), sending it into a fit of rage. The party has come down heavily on the Election Commission for deleting the provisions, arguing that it has been embracing the agendas long before the promulgation of the constitution.
It is crystal clear that the country has gone into the republican set-up by making a bonfire of the monarchy a long time ago. The country has also adopted secularism by sloughing off the provision for a Hindu state. The constitution, which was promulgated in 2015, has also similar provisions. But the RPP is arguing that any political party has the right to adopt any agendas and demand inclusion or removal of any constitutional provisions. On the strength of this argument, the party has registered an amendment bill demanding the removal of the provision for secularism from the constitution.
The chairman of the RPP, Kamal Thapa, was recently inducted into the cabinet as Deputy Prime Minister, apparently in the hope that he would help the government in having the amendment bill regarding the fulfillment of the Madhesi parties’ demand endorsed in the parliament. But DPM Thapa has made it clear that he will vote against the bill if put to a vote and that his main motive is to facilitate the local polls. Now, he has raised the issue of a Hindu state and monarchy, thus giving a twist to the political scenario.
It is bizarre to note why Kamal Thapa joined the government with the archaic agendas when the government and other parties are gearing up for the local elections slated for May 14 along the lines of the federal dispensation. On the other hand, joining the government and rebelling against it by refusing to vote for the amendment bill are quite opposite things. This is tantamount to working against the government by remaining in the government.
The government is up the spout. The amendment bill is like a millstone round its neck. It is quite difficult for the government to secure a two-thirds majority of votes to endorse the bill. The main opposition party, the CPN-UML, is quite opposed to it. The government has not been able to convince it. On the other hand, the Madhesi parties have threatened to disrupt the upcoming local polls if their demands are not met.
According to democratic tenets, the amendment bill should be put to a vote and it is the obligation of all the parties to accept the outcome. But the Madhesi parties have said in a comminatory tone that they will not accept the outcome of the voting if it is not in their favour. This goes on to show that they want the amendment bill to be endorsed at any cost.
As the date for the local polls has been announced, it is incumbent upon the government to hold the elections at any cost. So the government has tried to convince the Madhesi parties that their demands will be fulfilled after the local polls but before the provincial and federal polls. But the Madhesi parties have not bought this proposal. They think they are being duped by the government, and so cannot rest assured that their demands will be fulfilled after the local polls.
The present government stands on the edifice of the guarantee that the Madhesi parties’ demands, which were given short shrift by the Oli-led government, will be fulfilled. But the status of the demands is as it was in the past. Even five months have rolled by since the amendment bill was registered in the parliament. But there has not been any progress in the endorsement of the bill.
CPN-Maoist Centre strongman Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda made a mistake by assuring the Madhesi parties before forming the government under his leadership that their demands would be fulfilled. The motive behind giving such a false assurance was to come to power by ousting the Oli-led government. The Madhesi parties also easily believed him.
The Madhesi parties are adamant about having the amendment bill endorsed at any cost. This is fully anti-democratic. If they are responsible parties, they should have the guts to say that they are ready to accept the outcome, whether in their favour or not, of the voting on the amendment bill. They also know that the bill may be defeated if put to a vote. That is why, they are reiterating that the voting must be in their favour.
The Madhesi parties have thus adopted the politics of intimidation. As such, they have embarked upon protest programmes. They are considering intensifying the protests across the country to have their demands fulfilled at any cost. They have also decided to disrupt the local polls and thus deprive the people of their franchise rights. Resorting to disenfranchisement against the will of the people does not suit a responsible party.
The Madhesi parties have also adopted the politics of prohibition. The Saptari incident was the outcome of this politics. The Madhesi parties think that the Terai-Madhes is their bastion, and so they could not stand the CPN-UML, their bete noir, organising the Mechi-Mahakali campaign in their ‘bastion’. The Madhesi parties have a bigoted and parochial attitude. They cannot see beyond the Terai-Madhes. Nepal is not just the Terai-Madhes.
The Madhesi parties are trying their utmost to sabotage the local polls by using any means at their disposal. What they have failed to understand is that the local polls are a means for strengthening local governance through people’s representatives. The chaos arising out of operating the local bodies through government employees is there for everybody to see. But the Madhesi parties are hell-bent on not only boycotting the local polls, but also spoiling the conducive atmosphere for the polls.
However, the people, including the Madhesi people, are eager to take part in the local polls as well as in the provincial and federal polls. The momentum of the electoral process is picking up now and this momentum should not be allowed to diminish. If the three-tier elections cannot be held in time, it may invite constitutional and legal hassles and failure to institutionalise the republican dispensation may compromise the very achievements of the second People’s Movement.