Madhes Politics Of Farce And Self-affliction : Dr. Narad Bharadwaj
As the constitution-drafting process enters its last leg with the endorsement of its draft by the Constituent Assembly session for sending it to the people for popular feedback, the Madhesi political forces that have boycotted the CA sessions for some time must be in a quandary about whether to change course to a gainful political deal or steer ahead and face a do or die situation.
With the desertion by Bijay Kumar Gachhedar-led Madhesi Janadhikar Forum (Democratic) from the 30-party opposition alliance to sign the 16-point deal with the ruling coalition, the Madhesi regional forces, which have been stealing the limelight in the political theatre ever since the Madhes uprising of 2007, appear to have suddenly lost their luster as they stand poised to face the most complicated impasse of their political history.
From the view point of outside observers, this situation has come not because of the sudden success of the ruling coalition to win over the UCPN-Maoist and MJF (Democratic) to the camp supporting the eight province model of federalisation for the country but because of the Madhesi leaders’ arrogant bellicosity and an aggressive pursuit of parochial politics.
From the time of Vedananda Jha and Gajendra Narayan Singh, the Madhes-based political forces have engaged in political maneuvers which have earned them more ridicule than a stronger political base and clout among their constituencies. An obsession with some ambitious Madhesi elite politicians to present Madhes as an iconic power platform rather than a common glory of all the Nepalese people has alienated them from the general sentiment of nationhood, which is a common tenor of the thought process in all Nepalese citizens.
When the Madhesi leaders talk of Madhes and Madhesis, the rest of the people feel left out in their scheme of things and fail to understand how the political parties which think about nothing but Madhes can provide a national perspective to their political strategy, strengthen the bond of national unity and protect the national integrity.
The rejection of the Madhesi parties by the voters in the Constituent Assembly Election of 2013 should have been enough for the Madhes-based political parties to inspire an introspection to discover where they had gone wrong. But no one among them appears to be willing to make a fresh beginning by casting aside the traditional shibboleth of Madhesism that has frozen Madhesi politics for so many years in lifeless stagnation.
The excessive zeal of the Madhesi leaders for carving out autonomous provinces entirely consisting of the territory of the Teri on an east-west basis has cost them the sympathy and good will of the entire hill people and also the majority of the Madhesi people. Only a few Madhesi elites who are aspiring to monopolies over power and the resources of the Teri are against entering the process of promulgating the constitution on the basis of the broadest possible consensus. he wrong policy strategies which the Madhesi leaders are following are resulting in fragmentation and splits in their parties.
With the loss of one of the most outstanding Madhesi political leaders, Bijay Kumar Gachhedar, who demonstrated extraordinary statesmanship to break free from the captivity of parochialism, that too, just in time to be a part of finalising the draft of the constitution and the final process of promulgating the constitution, the fringe political parties of Madhes are likely to face either extinction or eventually drift towards further radicalism, which remains a menace for national integrity and national unity. However, it is important to understand that if a political party is guided by an ideology that does not resonate with the people, it is sure to lose its power base and end up in its own internal disintegration.
The Madhes-based fringe political parties are threatening to go on an agitation if their demands for federal structuring based on ethnic and regional identities are not met. Recently a senior Madhesi political leader, who is against the 16-point agreement, threatened to impose a blockade against Kathmandu using the Madhesi alliance. Some of them even gave a veiled threat that if their demands were not heard, people like CK Raut would take up weapons to fight against the unitary government of Kathmandu. From their description of the situation, it appears that the course of politics that they are proposing is only a lesser evil which the Nepali people are doomed to accept as their ineluctable fate.
However, the ground reality of the Terai is not as terrible as characterised by the vindictive threats of the Madhesi leaders and a section of the intelligentsia who are churning out all kinds of hill-Terai dichotomies to prove that the Terai and hills cannot be administered in a single geographic and demographic entity and that Madhes should have an east-west model of federalism if it is to remain an integral part of Nepal.
In their eagerness to promote their isolationist politics, the Madhesi political leaders have turned a blind eye to the sentiments of the common people who have, through the Constituent Assembly election of 2013, rejected their assessment of the existence of social disaffection in Madhes against what they call ‘Kathmandu’s colonial ambitions’.
The failure of the Madhesi political fraternity to flow with the dominant national current and their penchant to rejoice at the politics of margin has left them ever weaker and divided. No sooner had Bijay Gachhedar joined the ruling coalition to expedite the process of constitution drafting than another doyen of Madhes politics Upendra Yadav jumped ship to join force with Ashok Rai to form the Federal Socialist Forum. Only future will tell whether Upendra Yadav will gain political advantage by joining hands with a racially charged political entity with the nomenclature of Ashok Rai.
But with his decision to accept the latter as a strategic bed fellow, he has irreparably scuttled the plank of the Madhesi alliance, forcing it to take recourse to the wildest political cards like CK Raut and the armed gangs on the Nepal-India border in addition to seeking an unlikely intervention from the Indian government in helping them salvage the sinking ship of Madhes politics.
In their desperation, the Madhesi politicians are crossing the line of decorum. The United Democratic Madhesi Front consisting of the Terai Madhes Democratic Party, Federal Socialist Forum-Nepal, Sadbhawana Party and Terai Madhes Sadbhawana Party-Nepal resorted to an uncomely and childish act of burning copies of the draft constitution at Babarmahal last Wednesday when it was in the process of being endorsed by the Constituent Assembly.
By doing so, they have only exposed their proclivities to drift towards tyrannical mobocracy, instead of showing respect for the values of majoritarian democracy. The constitution was burnt in Nepal even in the past. But that constitution was not made by a Constituent Assembly as is the case with the present day constitution. Burning a constitution promulgated by the Constituent Assembly will be tantamount to striking at the very roots of the principle of people’s sovereignty, which will never be forgiven.
Ushering a new era
They should understand that history does not always revisit political stages with benign condescension towards its creators. As Karl Marx has said in his Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon, ‘History repeats itself first as a tragedy, then as a farce’. Wishing for the unthinkable is the privilege of human beings only. No one can deny that indulgence to the Madhesi politicians. I, for one, do not believe that the Madhesi politicians who have the benefit of access to the rich reference of the glowing tradition and culture of Mithila civilization will allow to reduce themselves to a farcical position by stepping aside from the opportunity of ushering in a new era of democracy and prosperity by being a part of the great historical process of promulgating the new constitution.