Rastriya Janata Party-Nepal which treated the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) as a political bête noire in the past, recently forged electoral alliance with the party to win two seats in the National Assembly. RJP-N’s electoral alliance with the NCP is being interpreted as an NCP exercise to induct the RJP-N in the central government and form a coalition government in Province 2 where the RJP-N has formed a coalition government with Samajwadi Party-Nepal. Ram Kumar Kamat of The Himalayan Times caught up with member of the RJP-N presidium Rajendra Mahato to know his views on contemporary politics. Mahato says his party will not join the government unless the government meets the party’s key demands. Excerpts:
Is your party ready to join the Nepal Communist Party (NCP)-led government at the centre and form a coalition government with NCP in Province 2?
Rastriya Janata Party-Nepal was established as a result of the Madhes movement. We had resorted to street protest against the discriminatory provisions of the constitution and our movement culminated in the border blockade. It was an exemplary movement as scores of people attained martyrdom for the Madhesi cause. People’s lives were badly affected due to the border blockade. Had the state addressed our demands, the situation would not have reached that state where agitators had to resort to border blockade, but the state acted irresponsibly, portraying the Madhesi movement as anti-Pahadi community movement. The ruling class portrayed Madhesis’ movement as being against the Pahadi community. The government responsible for political problems deflected blame by defaming the Madhes movement.
The Madhes movement that was launched in 2015-16 had certain goals, which we have not attained yet. People demanded that their identity be ensured and their rights protected in the constitution. The state acted against Madhesis as people of an enemy country.
Have the demands raised by Madhesi people been fulfilled?
Today, we are facing an acid test because in the past we had pledged to struggle to get our demands addressed. We should not join the government until our demands are met. We are more alert this time because we have seen in the past that due to Madhesi parties’ lust for power, they suffered divisions. Three Madhesi parties fragmented into 13 parties. We are not going to suffer the fate of the SP-N, which signed a two-point deal with the ruling NCP to join the government, but could not ensure anything. The government did not do anything to honour the two-point agreement. The SP-N had to quit the government much earlier when it knew that the ruling party was not going to do anything to amend the constitution. The SP-N exited the government only after it was humiliated by the ruling NCP. We cannot do what the SP-N did. Unless the ruling party amends the constitution, releases our cadres from jail and frees our MP Resham Chaudhary from jail, we cannot join the government. The constitution is not like the Gita or the Bible that cannot be amended. A rigid constitution digs its own grave. We have seen six past constitutions replaced by new ones as they failed to address people’s demands. If this constitution is not amended, it will suffer the fate of the past six constitutions and it will also be replaced by a new one. This constitution, enacted only to protect the interests of some rich people, is impeding the democratic process in the country. We should be mindful that the politics of values and norms has not ended in the county. Our elected MP Resham Chaudhary is in jail and dozens of our cadres are facing false criminal charges. First, these issues must be resolved, then only can we talk about joining the government.
Your party recently signed a two-point agreement with the ruling NCP to win two NA seats. Is this an indication of a future alliance with the NCP at the centre and in Province 2?
We signed a two-point agreement during National Assembly elections because there was no other alternative for us to save two seats in the NA.
There was no possibility of reaching understanding with the SP-N and the Nepali Congress for NA electoral alliance. In that twopoint agreement, we also said that we were ready to hold dialogue on contemporary political issues. This agreement has thus paved the way for negotiation between the NCP and the RJP-N. If the government addresses our concerns, we are ready to help the government. In fact, we had extended outside support to the government in the past, which we withdrew later due to the government’s failure to address our concerns. We cannot join the government or extend support to it without the government addressing our concerns.
Has the NCP asked your party to become a partner in the central government?
We have received direct and indirect offer related to joining the government several times. The NCP had also asked us to join the government before the SP-N became a coalition partner, but at that time also we raised the issue of constitution amendment. We demanded that our MP Resham Chaudhary be released from jail and false cases slapped against our cadres be withdrawn. The ruling party did not fulfil our demands. Therefore, we did not join the government. Even today, there is no change in our position.
But some of your party leaders are ready to join the government.
None of our party leaders want to join the government ignoring our agenda. We are not like SP-N that rushed to join the government without ensuring amendment to the constitution.
SP-N’s exit from the government has fulfilled your party’s condition for unification. What are the chances of unification with the SP-N now?
Our party is moving ahead with the goal of forming an alternative democratic force that can meet people’s aspirations, which the two old parties — the NCP and the Nepali Congress — have failed to meet. The old slogans of communism, capitalism and liberalism have all failed in the world and the agenda of dignity that was first raised during the French Revolution has caught people’s attention everywhere in the world these days. When Prithvi Narayan Shah built Nepal in the 18th century by unifying the principalities, he said Nepal was a garden of four varnas and 36 castes. No subsequent ruler of Nepal embraced Prithvi Narayan’s slogan. Subsequent rulers only tried to make Nepal their garden ignoring the interests of other communities.
This was the racial attitude that led to establishment of racial nationalism. Nepali people, who have been victims of racial nationalism, are trying to defend their dignity. We are championing the cause of cultural nationalism because we believe that only cultural nationalism can protect the interests of all communities in this multi-ethnic country. The NC and the NCP cannot establish cultural nationalism and these parties cannot take the country ahead now. We are the third party and SP-N is the fourth party in the Parliament. We should unify to create an alternative force with a view to championing the cause of all marginalised communities of the Tarai and hills.
The RJP-N and SP-N must unite to create an alternative force. There is no alternative to unification. I hope we will soon be able to iron out differences and merge our parties. There are some issues such as political ideology and organisational issues that we need to resolve before the two parties unite. SP-N leaders Upendra Yadav, Baburam Bhattarai and Ashok Kumar Rai have come from the left background but an alternative force cannot be created on the basis of the theory of communism. Communism and capitalism have failed in the world. We need ideological clarity between our parties before merger.
Unity with the SP-N will surely happen but we are also going to unify some other like-minded fringe parties that champion the cause of identity. Not only that, there is a large group within the NC and communist parties that want prosperity and development of the country but they are not happy with their parties’ style of functioning. They are also looking for an alternative and we are committed to creating such an alternative force.
The SP-N failed to connect the marginalised sections, particularly Madhesis of the Tarai and Janajaatis of the hills. How can you bring together all marginalised sections of the country?
All marginalised communities should unite to win their rights. They should not fight separately for their cause. We are going to transform our organisation as a national organisation because we have seen in the past when Madhes fought for their cause, it was easily defamed by opponents who termed the Madhes movement a communal and regional movement. Opponents often defame the Madhes movement by linking it with India. During the constitution making process, the Madhes movement was portrayed as an India-backed movement. As a result Madhes did not get anything and India was unnecessarily dragged into controversy. We have learnt a lesson from that. If all marginalised communities face the same kind of problems, then why should we not unite for our common goals and causes If all marginalised communities unite, they can create an alternative force by the next general elections.
The SP-N, that has formed a coalition government in Province 2, is worried after your party sealed a two-point agreement with the NCP to win two NA seats. Will unity with the SP-N happen now?
We forged the NA election alliance with the NCP only when we believed that a similar alliance with the NC and the SP-N was not possible. The SP-N should not worry about the two-point agreement. It should know that we were not worried when it was part of the NCP-led coalition government. We had asked the SP-N to quit the government for the sake of party unity. We also urged them to narrow down differences on organisational issues but they did not agree in the past. Everybody knows in what circumstance the SP-N had to quit the government. Upendra Yadav often says that unity with RJP-N was not happening because six members of the RJP-N Presidium lack unanimity. Yadav should not worry about differing voices within our party, although we have some problems due to the presidium system. If our party takes a formal decision about anything that will be final and differing voices within the party will have no meaning. We have experienced that our presidium has led to indecision in the party thereby affecting party organisation. We are going to remove this system in the first general convention of the party. There is a strong opinion in our party that we should unite with like-minded parties, but before that we should hold our general convention to create unified structure at all levels of the party. That will make it easier to merge the party’s structures when our party unites with the SP-N. In the districts, we have not unified the party structure after creation of the RJP-N. In the districts, we still have six structures representing the six parties that created the RJP-N. We are also thinking of holding special convention to unite our structures because holding the general convention may take a long time.
Do you think your demand of constitution amendment will be fulfilled through this Parliament where amendment seeking forces have very low strength?
This constitution serves the purpose of the rich class, but we want the constitution to be amended so that all Nepalis feel equal in the country. If the constitution is not amended, then this constitution will be replaced by a new constitution. Major parties are not in favour of saving this constitution.
SP-N tried to connect the marginalised communities of Madhes with those of the hills but the efforts did not succeed.
SP-N’s effort was partial because it did not go to different parts of the country with a multi-cultural agenda. We will launch new work plan in all the regions in an attempt to create the environment for a national movement. Madhes became a power to reckon with after a lot of people sacrificed their lives for the cause. Janajatis and Tharus also need to sacrifice lives for their rights. Rights cannot be won easily. People will have to fight a difficult battle to win their rights. The government says it has resolved all the issues as it held the three tiers of elections, but the government is only trying to sweep the dust under the carpet.
What are the major things you want to change in the constitution?
We had given our 35-point charter of demands in the past. When the issue of constitution comes up, we will discuss those issues but one major issue that we want to change in the constitution is that only the two provinces concerned should be consulted for altering the boundary of a province. Current provisions of the constitution stipulate that all seven provinces must consent for change in the boundary of a province. This is not wise because only the two provinces concerned need to be consulted. This provision is against federalism and it has to be removed. There should be a permanent federal commission to work on federalism issues. Only those countries of the world that have succeeded in settling political issues, whether that is the USA or other countries of Europe, have achieved the goals of development and prosperity. The USA brought its constitution more than 200 years ago, and that constitution still exists. This happened because it settled its political issues. India also brought its constitution 65 years ago, and that constitution also exists. Why should we change our constitution every 10 years The ruling class manipulates the rules in Nepal and therefore, we have failed to settle political issues. This constitution has snatched people’s rights that were ensured in the previous constitution and that must be rectified.
What will your party do to ensure constitution amendment?
Parliament is one platform for ensuring amendment to the constitution but I think that won’t be enough to exert pressure on the major parties. We will ultimately have to go to the people to win our rights and in that course we will form an alternative democratic force.
A version of this article appears in print on February 03, 2020 of The Himalayan Times.