RJP In Existential Crisis
Dr. Narad Bharadwaj
The ever rigid stance of the Rastriya Janata Party Nepal (RJP-N) against participation in the second phase of the local election despite assiduous efforts of the mainstream political forces to bring it on board indicates that this party is sliding towards the edge of a cliff. Anyone who is following the process of decline of this party will be shocked to see the depth of its judgemental deficiency in facing the challenges that lie ahead.
After enticing the ruling coalition to postpone the date of the second phase of the local election twice, RJP has finally taken to the path of agitation for active boycott and disruption of the election. The Terai is again beginning to be enveloped in the smog of cinders an soot emanating from burning tyres. The local people’s aspiration to celebrate election after a hiatus of 20 years is being dashed to pieces.
But the changing scenario in the Terai shows that the diabolical politics of the Terai-based parties is exacting cost from them. The division within the rank of the Joint Madhesi Front, growing unpopularity of the agitating parties and the growing enthusiasm of people towards election are having a combined effect to push the agitating forces to an unprecedented isolation.
With the separation of Federal Socialist Forum of Upendra Yadav and Nepal Lokatantrik Forum of Bijay Gachchhadar from the agitating alliance, the RJP has remained the only major force to pursue the path of agitation politics. It has been taking the issue of constitution amendment as a strategy to disrupt the process of finding a peaceful way out from the current impasse.
As the whole nation braces for the second phase of election, the RJP’s move to start agitation with a view to disrupt people’s right to exercise their franchise rights has pushed them to further isolation. Its action has not only weakened the prospects for seeking solution through dialogue, it has also deepened the political polarisation further.
By opting out of the election, the RJP has lost the opportunity to obtain a fresh mandate to legitimise its demand for the amendment to the constitution. The party which considers itself the emancipator of the people of the Terai now runs the risk of losing trust and allegiance of the people. The enthusiasm about election which sweeps the length and breadth of the plains of the Terai shows that the people do not want to be taken hostage by political forces guided by their vested interest.
With its belligerent policy, the RJP has been obstructing the process of ending transition by sorting out differences through the use of tools of conflict resolution. In democracy, there are basically three ways of resolving differences. The first is to try to forge consensus through dialogue. The second method is to seek the maximum consensus, and the third is to seek broad mandate from the people through fresh elections.
The question of constitutional amendment raised by the Terai-based forces has remained controversial from the very beginning when it was first floated. The majority of the political parties and their electorates consider that the demand of the constitutional amendment is a sponsored agenda and the external forces are behind it. Because of this reason, the main opposition has been vehemently standing against it.
However, the soft corner shown by the ruling coalition to the demands of the agitating parties has raised their ambition. The unnecessary length to which it is going to placate the Terai-based parties is retarding the progress towards ending transition and accomplishing the implementation of the constitution.
At present two of the important components of the Terai-based political parties led by Upendra Yadav and Bijay Gachchhadar have eschewed their previous position of uncompromising struggle for the amendment of the constitution. Though their demands for the introduction of amendment in the constitution remain still intact, they have decided to drop the issue of constitution amendment and concentrate in the election. This is appreciable.
The ruling coalition of Nepali Congress and the CPN (MC) are going out of their way to coax RJP to participate in the election by promising them what they cannot fulfill. Taking advantage of the weakness of the ruling coalition the RJP is leading them in a cat and mouse game.
The demands of the Terai-based parties have constantly changed over the years. In the beginning, they were asking for one Pradesh for entire Terai region. When the debate for and against the constitutional amendment gathered momentum, the Terai-based parties changed their demands and came down to restructuring of provincial borders separating plain areas from the hills.
Other demands of the Terai-based parties are further liberalising citizenship policy, ensuring representation to National Assembly in proportion with the population, increasing the number of local units in the Terai districts, amnesty to those involved in the heinous incidents of crime that took place during the Terai agitation and declaring martyrs to those who died in the agitation of the Terai.
Of these demands, there are certain issues which have been already addressed by the new constitution while others are related to transitional justice issues and will be looked after by the proper agency in the future.
As has been repeatedly said, the demand of the Terai-based political parties for population-based representation is quite tricky. If implemented, it will deprive the sparsely populated mountainous and hill areas of representation. It will render the local and provincial units of the hill and mountainous areas too large for convenient administrative management. The local people living in remote mountainous terrain will not have easy access to services for reason of the distance they need to cover to reach administrative centres.
The undue focus on only heavily populated areas will trigger migration from hills and mountainous regions towards the Terai and the urban areas of the country. This kind of restructuring will alienate the hill from the Terai making social relations more prone to conflict. The beauty of diversity will be replaced by homogenous clusters of competing communities. It will evaporate cultural values of collaboration and interdependence.
Of late some noticeable changes have occurred in the political dynamics of the Terai. Almost all the Terai-based parties have removed the term ‘Madhes’ from their name. It can be understood as an attempt of these parties to assume national identity by shedding their regional or local hues.
The Nepal Loktantrik Forum and Federal Socialist Forum which carry the legacy of launching struggle for the empowerment of the people have started a process of merging in mainstream politics. They appear to have realised the futility of pursuing a political course which is widening social chasm, weakening social integration and pushing Terai into a dark alley of violence and bloodshed.
Bijay Gachchhadar of Nepal Loktantrik Forum had demonstrated comparative maturity even in the earlier period of Terai agitation by keeping his party within the framework of peaceful political mobilisation to achieve the rights of the people of Terai. Upendra Yadav of Federal Socialist Forum, too, has of late dared to break rank from the RJP-led alliance and has announced its intention to participate in the local election. This is major positive development in the dynamics of the Terai politics which may inspire the parties still cherishing a dream of empowering Terai at the cost of weakening the rest of the nation.
In democracy, all the political actors should stick to fair play. It is not possible to achieve political superiority through bullying and wanton use of violence and anarchy. The Terai-based political parties, especially the RJP, needs to reorient its policies and strategies. It is in existential crisis. It should stop dancing on the edge of a cliff.