‘Single Transferable Vote System is suitable for Upper House’

Upendra-YadavThe first Madhes Movement in 2007 established Upendra Yadav, chairman of the then Madhesi Janaadhikar Forum-Nepal, as a champion of the Madhesi cause in national politics. After a decade of ups-and-downs in his party and his own political career, following the noticeable victory of his party in the first Constituent Assembly elections, Yadav has again emerged as a popular national leader from the recently-concluded elections. His party, now the Federal Socialist Forum-Nepal, has won 16 seats in the House of Representatives and has emerged the single largest party in Province 2 by securing 29 seats, besides winning 3 and 5 seats in Province-1 and 5 respectively.
Amarendra Yadav of The Rising Nepal spoke to chairman Yadav, also a former deputy prime minister, about various current issues, including his assessment of the election mandate, the role of his party in the formation of the new governments at the centre and Province 2 and the type of electoral system for the National Assembly. Excerpts:

How do you assess the results your party got in the recently-held federal and provincial elections?
We and our party have been raising the progressive agendas of federalism, proportional inclusion, national identity, rule of law and the rights of Madhesi, Janajatis, Tharus, Muslims and other marginalised communities for more than one decade. The people across the country have endorsed these agendas through their votes in the recent elections. Since our party is the champion of these agendas, the common people have also given full mandate to us and our party to fulfill the remaining agendas of the people. On behalf of our party, I would like to heartedly thank all the citizens and voters for the precious mandate.

During the first and second elections to the Constituent Assemblies, your party, along with other Madhes-based parties had also won constituencies from the eastern and western parts of Terai-Madhes. However, this time, almost all the seats won by your party and the RJP-Nepal come from Province No. 2 that is the mid-eastern part of the region. Don’t you think that the influence and stronghold of your party have got reduced to Province 2?
Our party faced and suffered defection and division repeatedly in the past. Many forces tried to destroy our party as well. Those who tried to spoil our party either defected to the other parties or got finished themselves. The effect of such defection and division was also an obstacle to the reinstatement of the party. But we revived and bounced back from the recent elections by overcoming all such evils. Our future is bright in the coming days. Besides, being a national party, we have to go a long way, and I am confident we will not look back.

The three big parties describe the mandate they got from the elections as a mandate for development and prosperity. How do you define the mandate of the people your party received from the elections?
We are also advocating development and construction. Poverty, unemployment and illiteracy are our agendas as well. The downtrodden people across the country should get rid of such miserable evils and conditions. Economic prosperity is the only way to salvage the people from such evils. Along with the development and prosperity, the backward and excluded people should also have equality and social justice. I want to remind you of the two recent events that occurred in England and Spain. England is a very developed country. However, the country has a burning issue of Scotland, which is trying to separate from the former. Spain also has the same fate. Whether Catalonia will remain an integral part of Spain or not in the near future is a big concern. What all these examples occurring across the world prove is that development definitely guarantees economic prosperity. But citizens from all classes and communities should have equal rights and opportunities along with it. If this does not happen, the political crisis will not lessen. That is why our political fight is equally for economic prosperity, equality and national recognition of ethnic identity.

Do you mean that unlike the big parties, your party will not only devote itself to the mission of development and prosperity but also continue its struggle for the rights of the people?
The current dispute on the electoral system for the National Assembly is stark evidence that the constitution is not complete. There are a lot of flaws and imperfections in the constitution. Due to several faults, the election to the National Assembly is uncertain. A new federal government has failed to take shape even after weeks of the elections. The lower assembly, the House of Representatives, is yet to be complete. All these prove that the constitution is not absolute and flawless as believed. That is why what we have been saying from the very beginning that there is no alternative to amending the constitution.
What we have been repeatedly saying is that peace is a precondition for development. And for peace, the guarantee of equality and social justice in the country is a must. Development and prosperity are not possible until social discrimination and ethnic disparity prevail. That is why, the Madhesi, Janajati and other marginalised communities should be bestowed with the rights of equality and recognition of their identity for the establishment of durable peace in the country. If the division between the oppressor and oppressed in the country persists and the constitution fails to erase such gaps, the people will again revolt, and a new constitution will be rewritten. Such a political struggle and revolt in the future will obstruct the pace of development. So political grievances should be addressed alongside the pace of development by amending the constitution. The conclusion of our party is that we will continue our struggle for the political rights of the people along with the drive of development and prosperity.

President Bidya Devi Bhandari recently called you to discuss opting for an electoral system for the election to the National Assembly. What was your suggestion to the President?
The government had submitted an ordinance to President Bhandari months ago, proposing the Single Transferable Vote System for the upper house. However, the CPN-UML is opposing it. The global practice also shows that the Single Transferable Vote System is more suitable for the upper house. In the parliamentary history of our country as well, the same electoral system was practiced as per the 1990 Constitution in the past. The view of our party on the issue is that since the upper house is also an assembly of different nationalities, the Single Transferable Vote System must be adopted to make it more inclusive.

The formation of the new government at the centre and provincial level are going to start. What kind of role will your party play in the formation of the government at the centre?
The people have given a clear mandate to the left alliance to form a government at the centre. We want the CPN-UML and the CPN-Maoist Centre to form the new government. During my meeting with UML chairman KP Sharma Oli, I clearly told him that we will play our due role as an opposition party. If the UML wants to take our party on board the new government, they should first consider our demands, including constitution amendment, and start fulfilling our demands. If the left alliance comes up with a blueprint to address the grievances of the Madhesis and Janajatis through the constitution amendment, we might think of coordinating with the UML and the Maoist Centre regarding the formation of the government. Under the current circumstances, we are unable to join the new government.

Now let’s talk about the formation of the new government in Province 2. Your party has emerged as the single largest party in the province. However, your party lacks a simple majority. What are your plans for forming the new provincial government?
The name of provincial assembly members under the Proportional Representation system should be finalised first. Then, we will form a new government with support of the Rastriya Janata Party-Nepal. The top leaders of the two parties will also decide about the participation of a third party in the government later. Being the largest party in the province, our party will naturally get the post of Chief Minister. Our party will amicably and unanimously choose a parliamentary leader of the provincial assembly members who will head the provincial government.

The naming of Province 2 and its capital has become the most curious issue for the public and social media users. What are you thinking about these matters?
We are thinking of calling it Madhes Province. We are also open to other options like Mid-Madhes Province or Mid-Eastern Madhes Province. As the eight districts of the Province-2 are the heartland of the Terai-Madhes region, we cannot ignore the term ‘Madhes’ while naming it.
As far as the issue of picking up a city as the provincial capital is concerned, the name of various cities has been proposed. We will choose a suitable place that is equally accessible for all citizens of the province after consulting all sides and parties in the province. We will take a proper decision on it at the right time.

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