Opposition UML’s Stubborn Stance
One of the beautiful aspects of multiparty democracy is considered to be the opposition party in the parliament which always protests wrong doings of the government while appreciating the achievement. When things do not happen as it wants, the opposition party is expected to resist and expose, but with alternatives and truths so that people are informed well about what the government wants and what opposition parties stand for. To negate and protest any government steps or actions without providing suggestions, alternatives and truths is to make hollow reactions. There is difference between a reactionary and a true opposition party.
However, the UML has not played the role of a constructive opposition party at this very critical time of political transition. The UML is against constitution amendment and it wants local polls to be held at one go. The main opposition UML makes argument in such a way that it is a perfectly normal political period. For it, bringing the disgruntled Madhesh based parties on board the local polls has no real value.
With a view to ensuring the participation of the Madhesi parties in the local polls, the government has registered the constitution amendment bill and decided to hold the polls in two phases. But the UML has been saying it is against the constitution amendment and also against the plan to hold the polls in two phases. However, the UML has not offered any alternatives or suggestions to the government plan. Is making reaction the sole role of an opposition party in democracy?
The main opposition UML party has been presenting itself as a single nationalist political force. All of its political and other stands are explained in terms of nationalism. The UML, or particularly its chairman KP Sharma Oli, achieved a new nationalistic image as they opposed the Indian blockade and some historic agreements were signed with China during Oli’s premiership in 2016. What UML chair Oli as the PM did was what a national leader should do. But he also had support from the third largest CPN-Maoist Center Party, and the Maoist party was forced to step down the power as India had supported the then army chief Rookmangud Katwal in the government-army chief row in 2008.
Even during Oli’s premiership, a four point roadmap to address the Madhesi demands was presented in New Delhi by the then Foreign Minister Kamal Thapa. But the then PM Oli did not want to hand over power to the Maoist chair and presently PM Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ as per the Maoist-UML agreement and the Oli-led government collapsed. Had Oli wanted to give continuity to the leftist or the nationalist coalition, he would have passed on the power. But he didn’t despite much pressure on him from his party’s fellow leaders such as Jhalanath Khanal, Bamdev Gautam and Madhab Kumar Nepal to save the nationalist coalition. For sure, Oli knew that to save the coalition would mean to share the nationalist image.
When the new ruling coalition and the present government under the Maoist leadership was formed, the UML had every reason to call it a puppet because the UML had to maintain its nationalist image. When the government tried to address the Madhesi demands, the UML had the compulsion to oppose it for the image. It said it would not allow the government to register any constitution amendment bill in the parliament and disrupted the House for over two months in the past. And now it is doing the same for the sake of the image. For the UML, saving its nationalist image is far more important than solving the national political problems and moving the country forward in the path of constitution implementation. The UML thinks it will win the elections by the nationalist image and until the elections are held, it is going to oppose everything related to Madhesi demands because the UML has spread a narrative that addressing the Madhesi demands means appeasing the Indian interest or being anti-national. Undoubtedly the UML is serving partisan interest by ignoring the national interests of holding the three tier elections by January 2018 as per the constitutional provisions. Otherwise as a responsible opposition party, it would have cooperated with the government on issues of national interest such as election.
It does not mean that what stances the UML has taken are all rubbish. Some of them are vital. The UML’s position that provincial boundary could be changed after securing agreement with the concerned provinces is something that everybody agrees with, the UML stance that chair and vice-chair of the local level should not be excluded from the Electoral College for the presidential election and the election to the member of the national assembly or the Upper House is not less crucial. But we should also understand that no constitution can be amended without a two third majority and issues related to provincial boundary change is a matter of constitutional amendment. And there is also a need to give the Madhesh-based parties or ‘the powers they are backed by’ a face saving for them to take part in the local polls. This is so plain and simple but the UML has made it complicated by linking everything with nationality. The UML should know that its chairman Oli had become a nationalist overnight because of his opposition to the Indian blockade and prompt steps to sign agreements with China. Otherwise, he was always a pro-Indian leader in the eyes of most Nepalese and UML cadres simply because of his staunch support for the Mahakali treaty with India, which had also caused split in the CPN-UML nearly 18 years ago.
Now when the first phase of local poll is just two weeks away, the UML is expected to be more logical and calm so that the polls are held in participation of the Madhes-bassed parties. There is no doubt that the Madhes-based parties have spread a wrong narrative with regard to new constitution in their strong holds in the southern plain and the same had forced them to seek amendment in the constitution. The UML should not go to the same extent to build its nationalist image which may hinder it from making any simple compromise with regard to constitutional amendment. But the UML should understand that if it was in the government and taken the kind of stances it has been taking, no local poll could take place at this time.