We will emerge the largest force in Province 2: Yadav
Rastriya Janata Party-Nepal has long been in the streets, demanding amendment of the constitution. It even boycotted the first and second phases of the local elections, stating that their demands, including amendment of the constitution, were not addressed. However, the party has accepted the result of the vote on the constitution amendment bill in the parliament and decided to participate in the third phase of the local elections on September 18 as well as the provincial and federal elections scheduled for November 26.
Mahendra Prasad Yadav, one of the six members of the party presidium, talked to Amarendra Yadav of The Rising Nepal on various issues ranging from the party’s preparations for the September 18 elections to their decision to boycott the first two rounds of the local elections, their failed attempt to amend the constitution and the future course of the RJP-N.
Differences were reported in your party about participating in the third phase of the local elections. How did the party leaders decide unanimously to go for the elections?
It is true that there were some differences among our party leaders about participating in the elections. Some leaders were of the opinion that the party must not join the elections until the constitution amendment bill was endorsed by the parliament. I think the different views were not unnatural because our party is democratic. The Rastriya Janata Party-Nepal was created by unifying six different parties. But we decided to take part in the elections following a majority vote from the office-bearers of the party, and all the party leaders have accepted the decision.
The RJP-N leaders, including you, had been insisting on not taking part in the elections until the constitution amendment bill was endorsed. Even though the amendment bill did not get through the parliament, your party has decided to go ahead with it.
We had been in agitation and in movements since the promulgation of the constitution, arguing that the constitution did not address the core demands of the Madhesi and other communities. The previous Prachanda-led government, through a three-point agreement with us, promised to fulfill our demands through the constitution’s amendment. Even though the Prachanda government tried its best to meet our demands, it could not. Subsequently, the current Deuba-led government also forged a similar three-point agreement with us to get the amendment bill passed in the parliament. But it also failed due to the non-cooperation of the Rastriya Prajatantra Party. The RPP had given us word that it would help amend the bill. But the RPP leaders betrayed us.
There are two reasons why we chose to take part in the elections.
First, except for the constitution amendment, the government fulfilled most of our demands, such as increasing the number of local units in some Terai districts, giving martyrdom status to our cadres killed during the movement, compensation to their families, and withdrawal of cases against hundreds of our leaders and cadres.
Second, we are a democratic party that follows the norms and values of a parliamentary political system. That is why we cannot escape from the elections any more. So we decided to take part in the elections. But our decision must not be construed as abandoning our demands and agendas. We are going to the elections with our major demand—amendment of the constitution, and we urge the voters to vote for us for the cause.
Is your party also going to participate in the provincial and federal elections that are going to take place together on November 26?
Yes, we are going to take part in all types of elections in the future. Now we have started preparations for the third phase of the local elections to be held in Province 2 on September 18. Following the September 18 elections, we will begin preparations for the provincial and federal elections slated for November 26. We are not anti-election. We had never said that we would not take part in the elections. Had the government created a conducive atmosphere for us through constitution amendment, our party might have participated in the second phase of the local elections that took place in three provinces on June 28.
When you look back at the first and second phases of the local elections, don’t you realise that you committed a mistake by not participating in them?
We had never been against the elections. Regarding the local elections, our views were that the federal elections should be held first and then the provincial elections. The elected provincial government will conduct the local level elections and the candidates of the local elections should be apolitical. But the major parties did not accept our proposal. On the other hand, when we were in agitation, the previous government and the ruling parties had made a strong commitment that they would pass the constitution amendment bill from the parliament to address our constitutional demands before announcing the election date. But they announced the date of the local elections for May 14. We protested against the government’s move and warned that we would actively boycott the elections.
The government then decided to hold the elections in two phases, rescheduling the elections in Province 1, 2, 5 and 7 for June 28. At that time, the ruling parties convinced us that they would address all our demands before the second phase of the elections. But the government accomplished even the second phase of the elections without addressing our demands. That is why we were compelled to boycott even the second round of the elections.
How are the preparations of your party going on for the local elections in the province?
Just four months ago, we reorganised the new RJP-N party by merging six parties. We could not manage the structure and rank and file of the party properly. We are still in the process of unifying the structures of the six parties at the grassroots level. Till the decision of the parliament on the fate of the amendment bill, we were up in arms against the government. In spite of these circumstances, we recently took the decision to take part in the elections. We have chosen the bicycle as our election symbol for the September 18 elections. We recently registered with the Election Commission so as to participate in the elections.
With this preliminary homework, our party has officially launched its election campaign in Province No. 2. The party has sent central representatives to the eight districts of the province to convince the cadres and create a more suitable atmosphere for the elections. High-level teams of the party leaders are also going to the eight districts to finalise the candidates for the elections. Even though we are not happy with the failure of the amendment bill in the parliament and the ground reality is not very encouraging for us, we are doing our best to prepare for the elections in Province 2.
Is your party going to the polls alone or is there a possibility of an electoral alliance with other parties?
We have a clear position about forming electoral alliances with the other parties. We cannot forge an alliance with those parties that did not support the constitution amendment bill during the vote in the parliament. However, we are very positive about those parties that voted for the amendment bill in the parliament. In other words, we cannot forge election alliances with the CPN-UML and the two factions of the Rastriya Prajatantra Party. But we are open to the Nepali Congress, CPN-Maoist Centre, the Upendra Yadav-led party and Gachchhadar’s party. The NC and the Maoist Centre have made separate proposals to us informally for an electoral alliance. Let’s see if they are serious about the alliance with our party or not.
On our part, we have given the mandate to our district level leaders to form electoral alliances with willing and like-minded parties at the local level. Most importantly, if we could forge an electoral alliance among the Madhes-based parties, including that of Upendra Yadav and Bijay Gachchhadar, this time, it will be a big achievement for the Madhesi people. If it is possible, the Madhes-based parties will become the largest force in Province 2.
Is your party holding talks with Upendra Yadav and Bijay Gachchhadar to seal a comprehensive electoral alliance among the Madhes-centric parties?
No, no talks among the three Madhesi forces regarding an electoral alliance have taken place. But I feel that it is the need of the hour for the Madhes-based parties to form an electoral alliance among them to defeat the non-Madhes and anti-Madhes-based parties. If we forge such an alliance, the three big parties, Nepali Congress, CPN-UML and CPN-Maoist will have no space in the southern plains.
How do you expect to fare in the local elections in Province 2?
We were in agitation in the recent past. We have just started preparations for the September 18 elections. We are in a hurry regarding the poll preparations and feel the pressure of time constraint. We have not calculated the possible result of the elections for our party yet. If the elections are held in a free and fair manner, we will emerge the single largest party in Province 2.
What strategies are your party taking to push the agenda of constitution amendment ahead following the local elections?
Opting for the elections by the RJP-N must not be understood as abandoning our agenda, including constitution amendment. The constitution is not complete in the views of the Madhesi, Janajati and other marginalised communities. That is why we will continue our struggle even after the local elections and other upcoming elections. Now we will steer our struggle and election campaign simultaneously. We will try to forge an electoral alliance among the pro-constitution amendment forces, including the NC and the Maoist Centre, during the November 26 elections to secure a two-thirds majority so that we can amend the constitution from the parliament. If the plan does not materilise, we will again focus solely on a long struggle and street protests.