Dwindling Influence Of RJP-N
Despite blustering threats by the Rastriya Janata Party-Nepal (RJP-N) and subversive activities by the Biplav-led CPN-Maoist to disrupt the second-phase of the local poll, it went off peacefully on June 28. This shows that threats and sabotage pale before the power of people. Further, that voter turnout was around 73 per cent this time speaks volumes for how people are enthusiastic about participating in elections that serve to strengthen democracy.
The tactics of the RJP-N of not only boycotting but also sabotaging the poll badly fell flat, with the cadres and activists of the RJP-N either contesting or taking part in the poll. The leaders of the RJP-N did boycott the poll but could not keep their cadres away from the poll. It would be interesting to note that voter turnout was heavy in the strongholds of the RJP-N like Nawalparasi, Kapilvastu and Rupandehi. All this boils down to the fact that the decision of the RJP-N to boycott the poll was not favourable among the Madhesi people and its cadres.
The main reason for the RJP-N to boycott the poll was that the government had not fulfilled its demands. The Madhesi leaders played an active role in forming and breaking governments. They catapulted the present government under the leadership of Sher Bahadur Deuba to power by plumping for him but strangely boycotted the poll conducted by the very government.
Now with the conclusion of the second phase of the poll in 334 local units, the election in province No. 2 is being held on September 18. The election in the province was postponed by the government, thinking that the province was a tinderbox and also to please the RJP-N. But the RJP-N was not happy with this decision of the government. This has shown that had the government conducted elections in all the four provinces, it would have been much better and the government and the Election Commission would have had more time for making preparations for the provincial and federal elections by January of 2018.
Anyway, the election in province No. 2 will also go off peacefully. The RJP-N, which failed miserably to foil the second phase of the poll, will not succeed in its malicious intention to disrupt the September poll even if it wants to. The people of this province are now enraged with both the RJP-N and the government for postponing the poll in their province. At a time when local governments in other provinces are or will be running under the guidance of people’s representatives, the local government in province No. 2 will have to depend on the bureaucratic mechanism till people’s representatives are elected there. The government’s decision to postpone the election in the province was a mistake. It could neither please the RJP-N nor the people in that province.
The government should now focus on conducting elections to provincial and federal governments. As the tenure of the Legislature-Parliament runs till January of 2018, the time available is not long. The Election Commission has recently said that it cannot conduct the elections at one go. It has proposed completing the elections by November, which is a very good decision.
Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Thapa has assured the RJP-N that his government will have the constitution amendment bill endorsed after the second phase of the poll. The bill has been gathering dust in the Legislature-Parliament for months. Since the poll is over, the RJP-N may pressurise the government to have the amendment bill endorsed. But the government is well aware that it is a difficult proposition to have it endorsed unless the main opposition party, the CPN-UML, supports it. The CPN-UML has been opposed to the amendment bill from the very beginning. When it was in power, it chose to opt out of power rather than yielding to the pressure to fulfill the demands of the Madhesi parties.
The government should draw a lesson from the success of the second phase of the polls that hollow threats cannot keep the voters at bay. The waves of enthusiasm about participating in the elections in both phases of the elections were so strong that the protests of the RJP-N and other parties were literally swept away, producing no effect on the peaceful conducting of the polls.
The country is at a crossroads of history. The dream of the country of running its state affairs in a federal setup with a clean slate is coming true. Recent developments also show that the country is going into the melting pot. There are omens of reform in some sectors like health and energy. On the economic front, the country has notched up an economic growth of over seven per cent, which is highly encouraging.
There are many irons in the fire as far as development is concerned. With the federal setup in place, it is expected that development works will pick up momentum provided there is proper coordination among local, provincial and federal governments. There should also be proper distribution of resources and revenues among them.
In view of the transformations the country is going through, the RJP-N should abandon its atavistic mindset of obstructing democratic practices and come to the mainstream of politics. It has collected a lot of brickbats from the people, including the Madhesi people, due to its misdirected activities aimed at depriving them of their democratic rights as enshrined in the constitution. There is, however, still time for it to mend its ways and act as a partner with other parties and the people in development activities. This should serve as safe landing for it, which is now facing revulsions at the hands of the people. After all, it should realise its dwindling influence as shown by the results of the second phase local polls and adopt democratic practices so as to win the hearts of the people.