Madhesi Parties And Mainstream Politics
In the recently concluded third phase of the local polls, the Rastriya Janata Party-Nepal (RJP-N) was able to garner acceptable votes. The polls were topped by the Nepali Congress Party, with the CPN-UML, which topped the first and second phases of the polls, pushed to a distant fifth position. The RJP-N boycotted the first and second phases of the polls, arguing that the constitution amendment bill was not endorsed by parliament.
The RJP-N’s decision to boycott the first and second phases of the polls turned out to be detrimental for itself. Had it participated in the polls, it could have won some seats, thus making their presence felt in the six provinces. The party’s argument that the Madhesi people would boycott the first and second phases of the polls also turned out to be a fallacy as they enthusiastically took part in the polls.
In fact, the demands of the RJP-N, especially those relating to the separation of the hills from the Terai, are anti-national. Such demands, if endorsed by the parliament, would spoil the ethnic harmony so happily subsisting among various ethnic groups in the country for centuries. The élan with which the Madhesi people exercised their adult franchise in the local polls show, without even an iota of doubt, that they are not in favour of geographical disruptions in the country aimed at thwarting ethnic harmony between the people of the Terai and the hills.
There are political self-interests hidden behind the separation of the hills from the Terai. Realizing the gravity of the matter, the CPN-UML remained against the amendment bill. Even the government led by the CPN-Maoist Centre could not create a conducive environment to put the bill to the vote as more parliamentarians were against the bill. In fact, the Prachanda-led government found it heavy going to garner enough votes to endorse the bill. So it could not muster up the courage to begin the voting proceedings.
However, the government, led by the Nepali Congress, put the amendment bill to a vote on the eve of the third phase of the local polls to please the RJP-N, only to meet with a rebuff. Although the bill was defeated, it created a good environment in the political scenario: the RJP made up its mind to take part in the final local poll in line with its promise to take part in the poll no matter whether the bill was endorsed or not.
The RJP-N committed a blunder by boycotting the two phases of the local polls. The defeat of the amendment bill was a double whammy for the party. But the party has since come to its senses. It not only participated in the third phase of the poll but has also braced itself for the upcoming provincial and federal elections.
The RJP-N’s sudden volte-face in deciding to take part in the third phase of the local polls was largely guided by India. Had the Indian External Affairs Minister not suggested that it (the RJP-N) accept the outcome of the voting on the amendment bill and take part in the third phase of the polls, it might not have decided to go to the polls. The RJP-N struggled hard to get the bill endorsed by parliament by having recourse to the Indian Embassy and the Indian leaders but the rejection of the bill put a gag into the mouth of its leaders.
The unnecessary and irrational demands of the Madhesi parties, especially the RJP-N, exerted an adverse effect on the lives of the people and the economy of the country. The six-month-long Madhes agitation and the resultant trade embargo at the hands of India threw the national economy out of gear and inflicted untold suffering on the people. At the time, the Madhesi leaders thought that the Madhesi people were with them as far as their demands were concerned, which was proved otherwise by the overwhelming participation of the Madhesi people in the local polls.
Now, the amendment bill has been rejected outright, suggesting that the demands of the Madhesi leaders are against national interests. The Madhesi leaders have also accepted this fact. But surprisingly Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba has been fidgety since the failure of the bill so much so that he even unburdened himself to his Indian counterpart during his India visit, promising that he would initiate the voting process once again so as to endorse the bill in favour of the Madhesi parties.
The amendment bill has been of irrelevance now. The amendment bill cannot be put to a vote until it is endorsed. Even the Madhesi parties have come to the mainstream of politics by deciding to take part in the upcoming provincial and federal polls. They have realised their folly in boycotting the first and second phases of the local polls. The RJP-N has also tried to establish its identity in the political arena by dropping the word Madhes.
In the given situation, all the political forces should aim at institutionalising the federal setup, which was able to be brought into existence through hard and longstanding struggles, both at political and popular levels. The challenge before the country is to successfully conduct the provincial and federal elections to be held on November 26 and December 7. With the conclusion of these polls, a new chapter will begin in the history of the country. For this to happen, cooperation and support from all stakeholders, including political parties and the people, are a sine qua non. It is a matter of joy that the Madhesi parties have also decided to contribute their mite to institutionalising the federal setup.