Pleasure Of Self-infliction
Dr. Narad Bharadwaj
Going against the message and mandate of two phases of local elections, the Rastriya Janata Party Nepal (RJP-N) has declared that it will not participate in the third phase of election scheduled to be organised on September 18, 2017 in Province 2 if the constitution amendment bill is not endorsed.
The RJP made this announcement on Tuesday at the end of its central committee meeting held in Kathmandu early this week. But political analysts feel that the RPP’s decision has exposed its proneness to shallow politics and high sounding rhetoric.
With successful completion of the first and second phase of the local elections in which the people of the Terai, except the people of Province N0 2, enthusiastically participated in electing their representatives, the agenda of the Terai -based political forces has been pushed to a limbo.
The result of the election showed that the agenda of the Terai-based parties, coalesced together under the banner of RJP-N in last April, has lost its steam. It has revealed that the hue and cry being made by these forces about the amendment of the constitution did not resonate with the people of the Terai. The result of the election shook the foundation of popular base of this party and validated the hypothesis that the RJP-N and other Terai -based political forces did not reflect the genuine demands and wishes of the people.
Even before the local elections, there were indications that the Terai-based political parties have been losing their foothold ever since they launched border-centric agitation synchronising it with Indian blockade against Nepal. It was the defining moment for the rationale of Terai agitation. At that time, the nationalist dimension of this movement was called into question. Soon after, this movement started to lose its lustre, mass support and also its organisational cohesion.
The participation in the election could be an opportunity for RJP-N to acquire a fresh mandate to lead the people of the Terai. But its refusal to participate in the local polls has landed it in a more complicated situation.
The decision of Nepal Loktantrik Forum, led by Bijay Kumar Gachhedar and Federal Socialist Forum led by Upendra Yadav, not only weakened the agitation to an irreparable extent but also put the RJP-N in an untenable situation. A political party which has been continuously blaming the establishment for under representation of the Terai population in the government, security forces and civil service would be expected to take up the challenge by demonstrating majority at least in the Terai provinces. But it appears poised to lose the opportunity which history had presented before it in the form of election.
The election in Provinces 1, 5, and 7 proved that the people of Terai are eager to exercise their suffrage and that they do not approve of the policies and agendas of the RJP-N to sow discord in the society. The fact that some of its leaders even fielded candidacy and won election as independent candidates proves its wrong decision in boycotting the election. The turnout of the voters in the election shows that the demand of the RJP with regard to federal restructuring of the Terai has been rejected by the electorates.
Province 2 remains the only place where the RJP’s ideology has remained uncontested. But the decision of its central committee to boycott the third phase of the election has the risk of reducing it to a marginal voice of the Terai. Its argument that the ruling parties were reluctant to take it on board by amending the constitution cuts no ice. The RJP has reached a situation where it has to prove by winning election in the Terai that constitution amendment is the valid agenda of the people living in the southern plain.
The Nepali nation is negotiating its path through a difficult transition. It has to conduct the third phase of the local election in Province 2 on the designated date and meet the deadline of 21 January 2018 to finish the elections for provincial and national assemblies to take the implementation of the constitution to a logical conclusion.
The RJP leaders appear completely blind about the tectonic shift that the local election has brought in the power equation of the country. The power and clout that the Terai-based political forces wielded during the border-centric Terai agitation and Indian blockade no longer exist with them. Their inability to create a huge peaceful agitation to press for their cause of constitutional amendment during electoral campaign and their embarrassing defeat in the recently held local election has rendered their political agenda almost defunct.
In such situation, the only course left open for this party is to contest election to establish that it is the real representative of the people of the Terai and its demand for the amendment of the constitution carries people’s sanction.
In coming days, the RJP-N will not only find it difficult to keep its agenda afloat, it will also find it impossible to keep its flock together if the brewing discontentment within its rank and file is any indication. Senor RJP-N leaders Hridayes Tripathi, Sarbendra Nath Sukla and Brijesh Gupta have already started to think aloud about the correctness of their party’s decision to boycott the election.
Now a great polemic is raging within RJP-N on both strategic and tactical principles of the party. The leaders representing the Terai regions where local election has already taken place and the leaders from Province 2 are finding it difficult to locate an ideological interface between them.
The scenario within the RJP-N appears quite bleak and disappointing though there is some flicker of hope that this party will correct its course and stop sliding down the road of chaotic end. The hope emanates from the media reports that a section of the leadership of the party is still eager to complete the procedure for registering their party in the Election Commission after drafting their statute and the manifesto. If this happens, a new possibility of a positive twist in the situation might emerge in a seemingly desperate situation.
The leaders of RJP-N should realise that no democracy allows political forces the licence for an unlimited indulgence in politics of rhetoric. Sooner or later RJP-N must consign itself to the universality of popular mandate. There is no place in the world where, organised groups of people, be they political or otherwise, can walk off to the pulpit of power delivering rhetoric and brandishing threats without having to be responsible to the people.
The RJP- N has all the rights to raise agendas but it needs to allow the people to prove their validity and legitimacy through the exercise of universal suffrage. Agendas may or may not stand the test of popular scrutiny. They become national obligation if they are endorsed by the people. If they are rejected in the election, the people’s verdict should be accepted with grace. This is the only way to keep democracy vibrant and alive.