Madhesi Parties: A Force To Reckon With

 

Uttam Maharjan

The Madhesi parties have occupied an epic proportion in the Nepalese politics. The parties did well in the first Constituent Assembly election, but fared badly in the second one. The parties lost a significance share in the last Constituent Assembly. Still, the parties have proved to be a force to be reckoned with. 

Bad patch

The country is going through a bad patch as far as holding elections to the local, provincial and federal governments is concerned. The country is gearing up for the upcoming local election, but the Madhes-based parties have kind of stood on the way. They have  been demanding an amendment to the constitution which has been amended once at their  insistence and which has yet to be implemented.

The Madhesi parties played an important role in ousting the Oli-led government and installing the present coalition government under the leadership of CPN-Maoist Centre Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda. The main reason behind this step taken by the Madhesi parties was that the present government would fulfill their demands. Even Pushpa Kamal Dahal vowed to meet their demands at the time just for the sake of coming to power without considering whether it was possible or not.

When the Prachanda-led government was installed, the government believed that the demands of the Madhes-based parties could be met by garnering a two-thirds majority in the parliament. But the main opposition party, the CPN-UML, has been adamant in its stand of not allowing the demands to be met at any cost. The government has tried several times to persuade the CPN-UML to vote for the amendment bill registered in Parliament several months ago, but to no avail.

As the date for the local polls has been announced, and the political parties are making preparations, the elections have been a matter of prestige for the government. But the government is finding it heavy going either to convince the Madhesi parties to take part in the elections or to convince the CPN-UML to favour the amendment bill.

The government has, meanwhile, floated a proposal to the Madhesi parties that their demands, excluding the demand for provincial re-delineation, will be fulfilled if they take part in the elections. But the Madhes-based parties have not shown any interest in the proposal; they want all of their demands to be fulfilled as a prerequisite for them to take part in the elections.

The behaviour of the Madhesi parties shows that they are not national parties; rather, they are concentrated on the southern plains only. They think of the Terai-Madhes as if it were their fiefdom. Their attempt at blocking the Mechi-Mahakali campaign of the CPN-UML a few weeks ago in Saptari, giving rise to violence in which five innocent people were killed was the upshot of their parochial and fanatic mentality.

The Terai-Madhes is not only Nepal; it is just its part. The country consists of mountainous, hilly and Terai regions. However, the Terai-Madhes is the most developed of all. It is called a granary of the country. In view of this, the Madhesi parties are into Machiavellian manoeuvres to create one or two provinces in the Terai-Madhes. That is why, they have been disgruntled with the seven-province model. 

The Madhesi parties’ view on national integrity seems to be defective. They have been in power many times. They were in the present government until recently. While in power, they could have worked for the betterment of the Terai-Madhes. But nothing of this sort has happened till now. They are, as a matter of fact, obsessed with their number one. The Madhesi people have now seen through their nefarious designs. As such, the Madhesi people are in favour of the upcoming polls despite their leaders showing their teeth to disrupt the polls.

The demands of the Madhesi parties should be fulfilled if they are genuine and oriented towards national prosperity. The demands designed to promote their self-interests and likely to compromise territorial integrity, independence and sovereignty should never be fulfilled. This is the reason the CPN-UML has been taking exception to the demands of the Madhesi parties since it was in power.

The upcoming elections cannot be avoided in the present-day context as they are associated with institutionalising the republican setup. Disruption of the elections may give rise to a setback in holding the provincial and federal elections by January 2018. After all, these elections are necessary for preserving the hard-won achievements of the people’s movement of 2062/063. Moreover, the country remaining in transition for over  a decade ad nauseam is something the country wants to steer clear of at the earliest.

The Madhesi parties are not a petty force. Their participation in the elections is necessary. Holding elections amid intimidation and violence does not hold water. So the best option available at present is negotiation. It is not necessary that all the demands of the Madhesi parties should be fulfilled just for the sake of appeasing them. On the other hand, the Madhesi parties’ insistence on having the amendment bill endorsed in Parliament at any cost is their grossly irresponsible attitude. If the Madhesi parties are responsible parties, they should not fear going for a vote on the bill.

Negotiation

As things stand, the House lacks a two-thirds majority of votes in favour of the amendment bill. The constitution amendment bill cannot be endorsed without support from the CPN-UML. So both the government and the Madhesi parties should opt for negotiation regarding the demands of the latter. It is not prudent on the part of the government to sidetrack the Madhesi parties, while the Madhesi parties should also present themselves as responsible parties and act democratically rather than adopt a childish intransigence that the bill must be endorsed in their favour at any cost. Negotiation is a powerful weapon that can create a win-win situation. It may not be reiterated that in democracy a win-win situation, not a zero-sum game, should prevail.

 

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