No Shift In Position Fuelling The Fire
In a response to a query whether India has shifted its position with regard to constitution amendment in Nepal by a Nepali journalist on June 16 at a weekly press briefing in New Delhi, India’s Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesperson Gopal Baglay made it clear in a diplomatic or indirect way that India has not changed its position. He said India has been supportive of inclusive constitution and fulfilment of aspirations of the people in Nepal and that it had never put pressure on any ‘political segment’ although it always encouraged all to resolve differences through dialogue and consultation. He even spoke in Nepali language to welcome the Nepali journalist asking question and said he was happy to see the journalist. But he added, “I spoke in Nepali so as to soften my response to your question.” And then he also referred to People’s Movement II to elaborate that India has never had ‘prescriptive position.’
The way he said that India supports efforts made by political parties in the government or outside it in order to make the constitution inclusive and the way he rejected India having any prescriptive position made many things clear particularly in the not so distant context of Indian blockade in support of the anti-constitution protest staged by the Madhes-based parties. At the present context when most of the Madhes-based parties are taking part in the second phase local poll slated for June 28 and only one Rastriya Janata Party, Nepal, (RJP) a newly cobbled party of some four parties, has been protesting against the poll, it was expected that the spokesperson would express wishes for the success of the poll. But he did not.
Taking all on board
For good or bad reasons, it is an obvious fact that the government had registered a bill to amend the constitution as per the demand of the Madhes-based parties. But the government failed to do so as some members of the parliament from the fringe ruling parties abstained on April 30 and the voting over the amendment bill was put on hold. Then, as per the demand of the same parties, the government divided the local polls into two phases in such a way that some disgruntled Madhesi parties will take part in the second phase local poll in their base areas. For sure, Madhesi parties have no presence as such in the hilly areas where the first phase poll was held on May 14. The government increased the number of local units in Province No. 2 as per the demand of the Madhesi parties although the government decision has been ruled against by the Supreme Court. The government also made amendment to the election regulation very recently simply because of the demand of the RJP. After holding discussion with the RJP, the government deferred the local poll in Province No. 2 for September 18. If leaders of the ruling parties are to be believed, the poll was postponed as per the request by the RJP. Despite all these efforts to take RJP on board of local poll, the party has announced protest and decided to disrupt the poll. Now, the question arises, did spokesperson Baglay have all these efforts made by the Nepalese governments in his mind to address the demand of a small ‘political segment’ , the RJP, when he highlighted on the need to bring all on board for constitution implementation and inclusiveness?
Undoubtedly, the government made a bad choice by postponing the poll date for Province No. 2. By doing so, it ignored the readiness of other Madhes-based parties such as Federal Socialist Forum and Madhesi Janaadhikar Forum (Democratic) to take part in the poll. Moreover, even after the date deferral, the RJP has continued with its protest programmes and said that it would not take part in any election until the amendment to the constitution as demanded by it. In a way, the government move has created an uneasy situation for poll-willing Madhesi parties to align with the RJP because they also had the same position, constitution amendment, till a day before the first phase of the poll and they have not given up their stand. It is also likely that the RJP will add one more demand- to hold re-election in the plains areas of Province No. 1, 5 and 7. Equally important is the fact that as the RJP wants specifically the boundary changes of Province 4 and 5 in the name of constitution amendment or inclusiveness and that the parties like main opposition CPN-UML are against the boundary change, it is unlikely that the government can meet the RJP demands. The question is when will the RJP realize the present parliamentary power balance and be ready to participate in poll instead of placing political ambush one after another? How long can the government wait for the RJP for the poll?
Shift the policy
Whether India likes it or not, whether it is true or not, it is commonly understood in Nepal that India has had a strong role in Nepali politics. And the Nepalis have taken it as interference. The pressure on the political leaders to postpone the constitution promulgation in September 2015 and the subsequent blockade as the constitution was promulgated make many things clear. All such matters were vehemently debated also in the parliament in India at that time. For a great democratic country like India, Nepal’s southern neighbour, intervening in small neighbour’s affairs is a disgrace, unsuitable. It is known, India did not welcome Nepal’s new constitution. But, with the high level visits between the two countries, it was believed that India has realized its twisted perception of the constitution and would play supportive role for constitution implementation. But, with Mr. Baglay’s saying that India has not shifted its policy to Nepal’s constitution and was still for inclusiveness, the Nepalese trust that India would play helpful role in constitution implementation has once again been shattered.