Joining Oli government will not be unconditional: Yadav
Rajkishor Yadav is one of the few youth leaders who emerged from the first Madhes movement. He was an elected member to the first Constituent Assembly from the then Madhesi Janaadhikar Forum-Nepal. During the first CA, Yadav deserted the MJF-N and jointly formed a separate party-- the Madhesi Janaadhikar Forum-Republican under the leadership of Jay Prasad Gupta. Later, Yadav took over the leadership of the Forum-Republican and became Minister for Information and Communications in the Dr. Baburam Bhattarai-led government. He lost the election to the second CA. Before the local level elections, his party merged with other five Madhes-based parties to create the Rastriya Janata Party-Nepal (RJP-N). As a member of the party presidium of the RJP-N and newly-elected member of the House of Representatives, Yadav spoke to Amarendra Yadav of The Rising Nepal over various contemporary political issues, including the election mandate of the Madhesi people, development agendas of Province-2 and the question of backing/joining the Oli-led government. Excerpts:
Giving up the long-run agitation against the constitution some six months ago, your party first participated in the third phase of the local level elections. Then, it took part in the federal and provincial elections in which it fared very well, emerging the second largest party in the Province-2 and fourth party in the centre. How do you evaluate the latest movement of your party?
The RJP-N had been up in arms concluding that the constitution is not perfect and complete. When the government did not become ready to amend the constitution as per our demand even after the completion of the first and second phase of the local levels, we took part in the third phase of the local elections. We further decided to participate in the provincial and federal elections to legitimise our movement. Our participation in the elections was strategically a part of the movement. It was also a litmus test of our movement and its demands. Fortunately, the people approved our movement and its demands through their mandate.
The ardent desire of the Madhesi people was to establish two Madhes provincial governments within the country. To some extent, we have become successful to install such a government in Province-2. To which we call the Madhes region that has technically been split into six pieces. But the people of the Madhes have endorsed our demand of carving out two federal states and governments along the plains of 20 districts.
In short, the people’s mandate for our party through their vote in the elections proved that our demand and the movement were right. Secondly, the hurdles and obstacles continuously being appeared on the path of the constitution implementation also embolden our claim that the constitution has flaws and shortcomings.
What message did the people convey to your party through their mandate in the elections? Have they given a mandate to launch a campaign of development and prosperity or continue the movement of rights and identity?
The issues of development and movement are interlinked. We can’t see the two separately. We were in agitation for the past few years. The essence of the agitation was the peace and prosperity. But our argument in this context is that peace and prosperity in real sense will be impossible until the common people realize the ownership in the mechanisms of the power and politics. That is why we are insisting that until the due rights of the common people are ensured, dream of development and prosperity will only be a mirage. Now the people endorsed our struggle of rights and identity through the recent elections. They also gave the mandate that they are also yearning for the development and prosperity as well. Respecting the people’s mandate, we will take the two agendas of development and movement side by side.
Furthermore, the Madhesi people sacrificed a lot during the movements launched by the Madhes-based parties for the agenda of federalism. The previous elections were a kind of referendum over the federalism, and the people of the country endorsed it. The Madhesi people also had a dream of Madhes Government. That dream symbolically came to true in Province-2. The Madhesi people also mandated all the national parties to address the demands of the Madhes-based parties by amending the constitution in the federal parliament.
It is said that the ruling CPN-UML and CPN-Maoist Centre parties and Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli have wanted to take the Madhes-based parties on board the government. Did the government side officially approach your party for it?
The ruling parties and their leaders have not yet approached our party and leaders on the issue of supporting and joining the Oli-led government. They have not even informally talked to us about the issue. The current government is not a political untouchable to our party. If they approach us, we will take it positively and talk about the conditions and models of the power sharing.
If they approach and urge your party to support and join the government, how will you and your party react and respond to it?
We are ready to talk with the ruling parties about our support and participation in the government. However, our backing and joining the government will not be unconditional. In the recent past, the government and the ruling parties used to refuse address our demands through the constitution amendment on the pretext of the lack of required number in the parliament. But if our party supports the government this time, this government will secure a two-thirds majority in the House of Representatives. It means that the number of the parliamentarians will be sufficient to amend any article and clause of the constitution. At such a situation, the ruling parties must accept our demands and amend the constitution in exchange for our support. If the ruling parties decline our terms and conditions, we will sit in the opposition bench of the parliament. At that situation, we will support the government on the basis of its merits and demerits.
A few weeks back following the completion of the federal and provincial elections, External Affairs Minister of India Sushma Swaraj visited Kathmandu and met all of the top leaders across the five major parties. You were also present in the meeting held between the RJP-N top leaders and Swaraj. What was her message to the Nepali leaders and what is the underlying meaning of her visit?
The recent Kathmandu visit of Swaraj was exaggerated a little bit negatively in the Nepali media. But she was purely on a goodwill visit. I think, she was very cordial and candid during her meeting with all the Nepali leaders, including us. During her meeting with us, she congratulated and expressed happiness over our participation and victory in the federal and provincial elections, commenting that our remarkable victory was the result of the unification among the six Madhes-based parties.
During her stay in the capital, she tried her best to convey a main diplomatic message that Nepali politics has started moving towards stability, and India is very happy and optimistic with this new phenomenal politics of stability. She also clearly told us that whatever Nepali politicians desire and want to do is Nepal’s internal business. India has nothing to do with them. India has always prioritised mutually deep, cordially and friendly relations with Nepal. She also stated that whichever political party or leader formed a stable government the Indian government was keen to wholeheartedly work with it.
Moving to Province-2, the Federal Socialist Forum-Nepal has recently formed a coalition government with the major help of your party. What are the visions and plans of the two ruling parties to make the province one of the most developed and prosperous provinces in the country?
This is very serious and challenging issue. The functioning as well as the success and failure of the Madhes government in Province-2 in the five years will determine the future of federalism in the country. Most of the lands in the province are fertile and agriculture-friendly. The ruling Madhes-based parties will work to develop the agriculture sector as an industry. A lot of irrigation plans and projects will be devised and planned for it. Secondly, we will try our best to establish a number of industrial corridors in the province as all its eight districts have plain lands bordering India. We will ensure a secure environment and provide special incentives for it.
Thirdly, connectivity and population density are the another positive aspects of the province. So, constructing hobs of education and health will be another priority of the Province-2 government. It will also help reduce the illiteracy rate and promote health index of the districts that are unfortunately similar to those of the districts in the Karnali province.
What is your party thinking about the name and the permanent capital of Province-2? Besides Nepali, which will the other official languages of the provincial government?
-As far as the matter of the permanent capital in the province concerns, the two-thirds majority of the provincial assembly will decide it, considering the location that will be in the centre of the province and equally accessible to the people of the province. Our party is not preoccupied about any city or town. The permanent capital might be Janakpurdham that is currently functioning as a temporary one.
As we believe that the federal government should adopt multi-lingual language policy, we will also stress the same policy in Province-2. Besides Nepali, Hindi language will be named as another official language to connect the people of Saptari and Parsa districts. English might be another official tongue of the provincial government.
Province-2 is the heartland of the Madhes but it does not represent the whole Madhes. Only eight districts of the whole Madhes region are in it. The federal setup in the Province-2 and the rest part of the country is the result of the rounds of Madhes Movement. That is why the new name of the province will be kept in a way that will reflect the spirit of only a part of the whole Madhes region and carry the message of the Madhes Movement.