RJP’s Tantrums May Backfire
The Madhes centric Rastriya Janata Party-Nepal is clearly in a combative mood. Despite several calls from the government and other political parties to join the election fray, the RJP leaders have chosen to hit the streets in the Madhes region, with a sole motive to disrupt the second phase of the elections. The RJP leaders and cadres have started resorting to disruption of poll related activities in many parts of the region where the second phase poll has been schedule for June 28. They have started disrupting the preparations for polls, intimidating and attacking the employees deployed for conducting polls. It is likely that the cadres would next target the candidates and workers of other parties taking part in the electioneering and election related activities.
The government's recent step to table and endorse law merely in a single day to enable the registration of the newly formed RJP in the Election Commission and to allow them the rights to contest in the polls by getting the election symbol as per the party's wish has failed to appease the agitating party, which has lately demanded the deferral of the second round of poll for another date, which the government and ruling parties have so far rejected.
The RJP's demand of the postponement of the local polls in four provinces-1,2,5 and 7 has come because the party has still been raising the issue of constitution amendment and the increasing of the local units in the Terai region. Though the government led by newly appointed Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba has proposed that the government would move ahead to get the Legislature Parliament's endorsement for the constitution amendment after the second phase local polls, the RJP leaders appeared to have been dissatisfied with the government's proposal.
The RJP leaders have upped their ante against the local polls but the government has expressed its "firm" stance to go on with the second phase of election in the four provinces as per the schedule. The Election Commission too has toed the government line. It said there would not be any deferral of the election date and the Chief Election Commissioner added that any postponement of the polls after all the preparation have been completed would be disastrous. The chair of the main opposition, CPN-UML, too has declined the idea of postponing the second round of polls while the two major Madhesi leaders, Bijaya Kumar Gachcchadar and Upendra Yadav, both of whom wield enough clout among the Madhesh electorate, have asked the agitating RJP to join the fray instead of following the disruptive path.
The RJP leaders, a united force of six Madhesh-centric parties, have so far declined to accept the requests from the many quarters to take part in the local elections and then sort out their problems with the government and ruling parties later. Rather, in a show of their dissatisfaction over the government's decline to defer the June 28 local election, the RJP leaders are happy to engage in the disruptive acts. They have been doing this with a clear motive to stop the elections being conducted in the four provinces till their demands are addressed from the Parliament.
Analysts say that there are two major reasons behind the RJP's latest disruptive tantrums. First, they fear to face the electorate in their own home turf- the Madhes or Terai region. Any loss would be disastrous to the united force of the Madhesi parties. Those watching the Terai politics have often expressed that the many electorates would not be supporting the RJP's demand of the deferral of the polls once again as these voters are eager to elect their representatives just like the voters of the three provinces- 3, 4 and 6 where first round of local election was held peacefully and of which results are already out. The frequent call of general strikes and staging of demonstrations by the RJP which often cripple the life of the common people in the Madhes area may drive the voters to cast their votes against the RJP. Many people in the Terai have not forgotten the miseries inflicted upon them by the five month long Indian blockade, caused mainly by the Madhesi leaders who had staged long agitation in the border areas.
The second reason behind the RJP snubbing the call to participate in the second round of polls, is that they are apprehensive that once they participate in the local polls, the ruling parties and other parties of the Parliament would not move ahead to amend the constitution. While asking to amend the constitution, the RJP leaders have put forth various demands related to citizenship, language, representation in the upper house, redrawing of provinces as well as local units and so on. The problem for the RJP and those who have been supporting the RJP demands to amend the statute is that they have not got the required number of two-thirds majority in the parliament to endorse the amendment as per the liking of the RJP.
A large chunk of the parliamentarians have so far turned down the call to amend the constitution as per the Madhesi demand, which has sent the Madhesi parties and the power centre(s) that have been supporting them into a fit of rage.
It surprises many in the nation that the RJP leaders are often very forthcoming in giving their vote whenever a change takes place in prime ministerial position. They had lent their support in the formation of the Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda led government and also had thrown their weight behind the newly constituted Sher Bahadur Deuba government. Though the RJP leaders, known for their hunger of power in the past, have so far desisted the urge to join the government, the support they have provided to the formation of the Prachand and Deuba led government from 'outside' suggested that tthey want these governments help their cause and to get their key demand, the statute amendment, fulfilled at any cost. But, the problem for the ruling coalition and the two successive governments is that they lack the magical number to win the required vote from the parliamentarians to get the amendment passed. There are talks doing the round that several parliamentarians of the ruling parties would not go for the amendment as per the RJP's demand.
A former Indian ambassador to Nepal recently said that if the RJP did not participate in the second round of local elections, then it would be the one to suffer most. The former diplomat appeared to be the cognizant of the importance of the election in a country that is embracing stupendous changes in its system of governance. The parties that eschew from taking part in the polls under various pretexts are the ones who will face the negation from the voters. Many political analysts strongly believe that if the RJP goes on with its poll disruption tactics in the Madhes region, it may well prove counter productive and even backfire on the Madhes centric party. If the election is held in the Madhes region in its stipulated date without the RJP's participation, then the party will miss a chance to send its party functionaries to many local units of the Madhes region. The representatives of other parties would make merry in the absence of RJP in the election. On the other hand, its disruption of polls and staging of general strikes that often turn violent in the region would further alienate the voters from the pro-Madhesh parties.