National Assembly member Brikshes Chandra Lal represents Rastriya Janata Party-Nepal in the upper House of the Parliament. He says the party’s recent decision to remove Mahantha Thakur as coordinator of the party presidium has led to dissatisfaction in the party, but that won’t lead to division of the party. Ram Kumar Kamat of The Himalayan Times caught up with him to know his views on some issues his party is facing and other contemporary political issues. Excerpts:
Interview with National Assembly member Brikshes Chandra Lal of Rastriya Janata Party-Nepal in Bagdole, Lalitpur on Saturday, January 5, 2019. Photo: Balkrishna Thapa Chhetri/THT
You and some other leaders of the party were dissatisfied when Mahantha Thakur was removed as coordinator of the party presidium. Removal of Mahantha Thakur from the post of coordinator of the party presidium has created uneasy situation in the party, but some of us are trying to normalise it. I must, however, make it clear that this issue will not lead to division of the party as rumoured. Our party should be able to assign appropriate role to each cadre and leader besides ensuring that democratic norms are always followed in the party. New leaders of your party say that removal of Mahantha Thakur from the post of coordinator was as per the statute’s provisions. What do you have to say? When the six Madhesi parties merged last year, they decided to treat all constituent parties equally irrespective of their strength in the Parliament. The former Tarai Madhes Democratic Party led by Thakur was the biggest outfit among the six parties that created RJP-N. The unified party should be acting as one party which has not been the case. Leaders should not tend to divide opportunities among themselves. I personally believe a leader who is committed to the Madhesi agenda should be at the party’s helm. I personally believe that Thakur commands more respect among people of Madhes than any other leader. A meeting of the RJP-N’s political committee, which was also attended by all six members of the party’s presidium four or five months ago, had unanimously decided to allow Thakur to hold the post of coordinator till the first general convention of the party. Therefore, there was no need to change the coordinator all of a sudden. I know there are some leaders who say that the party’s statute provides for rotating the post of coordinator of the party’s presidium among the six members of the presidium. This decision also has to be taken unanimously by the presidium. Our party statute has made the presidium the most powerful body that can take decisions on crucial issues. Some leaders say when your party decided to take part in elections last year, Anil Kumar Jha had written a note of dissent, but that did not prevent the party from taking part in the elections and Jha’s opposition now should not prevent the party from changing the coordinator. What do you say? What I want to emphasise here is that the party should try to hold dialogue with all the members of the presidium to convince them. All the nominations made in various party posts earlier have been rescinded. Even the nomination of a vice-chair and a general secretary was rescinded. Now if the party wants to nominate anybody for any post, then it should do so unanimously. We also have presidium system in our district chapters.  Initially all district chapters did not have chairpersons of the six Madhesi parties that merged to create the RJP-N in the district presidium, but now attempts are being made to nominate members in the district presidium arguing that in those districts’ presidium there was no representation from one or two of the former parties that merged to form the RJP-N. In Dhanusha, the party removed presidium member Dev Krishna Mandal and inducted Gyanendra Jha in his place. This is not fair. We have seen in other parties that have unified, that top leaders are united, but cadres of lower committees are not. Cadres of lower committees in our party are untied but our top leaders, particularly members of the presidium are not. Our leaders need to work in the spirit of unity. Critics say if your party’s general convention decides to go for single leadership, then some members of the presidium may quit the party to join other outfits. I do not think that the party should retain the presidium after the GC. Our presidium submitted the interim statute to the Election Commission stating that the presidium could be retained after the GC. While it is true that the party should take care of all the leaders and cadres, it should not retain the presidium after the GC. Federal Socialist Forum-Nepal has formed a task force to hold unity talks with like-minded parties. Is merger between your party and FSF-N possible? People of Madhes, including Muslims, Tharus and other deprived communities believe that the parties that have been championing the cause of deprived communities and groups should unite. People of Madhes favoured the unity of our six parties and they certainly want the FSF-N and the RJP-N to unite, but unity of the two parties should not happen due to somebody’s vested interest. Party leaders should not seek merger just to gain opportunities. The government made a good gesture towards your party by swearing in your party lawmaker Resham Chaudhary. Do you think the government will address your party’s other demands? Revision of provincial boundaries and constitution amendment are our major demands. Provincial boundaries should be revised in a way that ensures autonomous rule of Madhesis in Jhapa, Morang Sunsari, Banke, Bardiya, Kailali and Kanchanpur. We also demand population-based representation in the upper House of the Parliament. Currently Province 2, which has 5.4 million population sends eight representatives and there is another province with just 1.4 million population that also sends eight representatives to the upper House. This is not fair. We also want issues related to language to be resolved. As far as Resham Chaudhary is concerned, I think, the government should have ensured his swearing-in much earlier. He was neither present at the incident site the day the Kailali carnage happened nor was he involved in any conspiracy. The government certainly made a good gesture towards us and we will see how the government will respond to our other demands in the days ahead. We are conserving our political energy as we are trying to hold our party’s first GC in April. If the government ignores our demands, the RJP-N and other parties that want the constitution to be amended, will sit together and devise strategies to put pressure on the government. Will your party join the KP Sharma Oli-led government soon? I think my party should not join the government until the constitution is amended to address our demands. In fact, we should not even think of joining this government at this stage. How do you assess the Oli government’s performance? The government failed to provide civil servants to the provincial and local governments. As a result, the lower tiers of government have not been able to deliver service to the public effectively.   The country is in a state of disarray. The government has prepared a bill proposing to give enormous power to chief district officers which will make them like Bada Hakims (in-charge of district) as practised during the Rana regime. How can provincial governments do the job if there are Bada Hakims in the districts? Nepal Police has failed to nab those responsible for the rape and murder of Nirmala Panta. The government stopped investigation into the gold smuggling case after reports of involvement of powerful people in the case came out. Huge amount of government money was embezzled in the purchase of two wide-body aircraft by Nepal Airlines Corporation. The ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) gave the slogan of ultra-nationalism which has created rift between the communities. The government has formed a panel to probe alleged irregularities in the purchase of two wide-body aircraft. How do you react to this? The government should have waited till the parliamentary committee completed its probe of the purchase of the aircraft. The way the government formed a separate probe panel, undermines parliamentary supremacy.