RJP-N Returns To Sanity
Ritu Raj Subedi
Immediately after landing in Kathmandu, Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj launched a series of political dialogues with Prime Minister and various political parties, including Rastriya Janata Party-Nepal (RJP-N). She came here to participate in the 15th ministerial meeting of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) but she grabbed the headlines for the political activism aimed at coalescing Nepal’s domestic players amenable to the Indian establishment. One day after she advised the RJP-N to join the poll, it came to heels to the surprise as well as satisfaction of all stakeholders. The recalcitrant Madhesi party agreed to participate in the local poll to be held in Province 2 next month. The political observers think Swaraj’s advice had some magic impact for the RJP-N’s U-turn. In their parley with the government, the RJP-N’s leaders agreed to put the constitution amendment proposal to a vote in the parliament by mid-August and accept the outcome.
It is here worth mentioning that India has been the mentor of RJP-N since its inception. However, Swaraj’s advice was not the sole factor behind the RJP-N’s decision. With two phases of the local polls, the conglomeration of five Madhesi parties was badly exposed before the people. Its irrational decision to boycott the poll met resistance from the local people and its own rank and file, too. The local poll was in abeyance for almost two decades, which held back the leadership growth and economic development at the local level. The Madhesi people do not only want to exercise their suffrage but also want to see the momentum of development and control of corruption thriving in the absence of elected representatives and under the political syndicate. The people were more concerned about the local issues than the much-talked about statute amendment, which many think savours of vested geopolitical interest.
The RJP-N’s stance not to participate in the previous polls boomeranged upon itself. It triggered a landslide in the party with many of its leaders and cadres deserting it and joining the rivals. Some of its local leaders defied the party’s instruction and contested and won the election as independent candidates. Even though the party’s main leaders failed to feel the pulse of voters, discontent was brewing inside its second-rung leadership. Of late, it witnessed a two-line of struggles - one stood against participating in the poll until the amendment is approved while another was for going to the poll.
The RJP-N leadership had taken a common stand that the amendment proposal should not be pushed until there is a guarantee that it will be approved. Mahantha Thakur, Rajendra Mahato, Anil Jha and Raj Kishore Yadav had taken staunch line against the idea of joining the election. They argued that the onus was on the government to endorse the amendment bill after tabling it in the House. They smelt a rat in the government’s intention. They thought it was not interested in getting it through the parliament. But two presidium members Mahendra Ray Yadav and Sharat Singh Bhandari had been insisting that the RJP-N should not be the hostage of indecision. Their line eventually prevailed. They had been calling for taking the amendment to a vote and join the poll, no matter whether it will be approved or rejected.
Even the naysayers are coming to terms. “If we fail to accept the result of voting over the amendment, the major parties will continue to play cat and mouse with us,” Raj Kishore Yadav told an online news portal. He went on to say that his party was to take the blame for the political instability in the name of amendment proposal. His remark is close to the claim of the CPN-UML that the ruling parties are hell-bent on keeping the RJP-N outside the election process by stonewalling the amendment proposal.
The RJP-N was also encouraged by the recent Supreme Court’s order to scrap a writ petition filed against Pushpa Kamal Dahal-led government’s decision to increase the number of local units in Province No 2. On May 22, the government had decided to increase the number of local units in 12 districts in Terai and upgrade Birgunj and Biratnagar as metropolis. This also served as ‘face-saving’ for the RJP-N to change tack. It had demanded to increase the number of local bodies in Terai districts before holding the election.
However, the UML’s stellar performance in the Terai region was one of the major psychological factors behind the RJP-N’s volte-face. The current development is a prelude to a possible mahagathbandan (great alliance) against the UML. The ruling and Madhesi parties have found common enemy in the UML after it swept to victory in some strongholds of NC and Madhesi parties. With the vertical division in the Rastriya Prajatantra Party, there is slim chance of the amendment being approved in the parliament. Even if the amendment is voted down, this will provide the new axis the needed political ammunition to project the UML as anti-Madhesi force. The main opposition claims the amendment smacks of anti-nationalistic elements and the provisions to weaken the Terai itself.
Whatever the reasons behind the RJP-N’s decision to participate in the election, it is propitious for the nascent federal republic. After all, the election is the only democratic means for the parties to secure and renew people’s mandate. With the participation in the crucial poll, the RJP-N will be moderated into a tolerant, more civilized and peaceful party. Though the larger section of populace never approves of its preposterous act of blocking the border in line with the Indian embargo in 2015, the election will gradually nudge it to give up the toxic ethno-centric and parochial regionalism. At the moment, it deserves encomiums for its return to sanity.