Federal Socialist Forum-Nepal lawmaker Pradip Yadav, who represents Parsa 2 constituency was at the forefront during the Madhes movement in his home city Birgunj. He knows the sentiments of the public very well. Ram Kumar Kamat of The Himalayan Times caught up with him to know his views on his party’s strategies to get the Madhesi agenda addressed in the Parliament. He said his party could quit the government after the party’s general convention if the government did not address the party’s demands raised in a memorandum submitted to Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli recently. Excerpts:
Interview with Federal Socialist Forum-Nepal lawmaker Pradip Yadav representing Parsa 2 constituency, in Kathmandu, on Sunday, Fenruary 3, 2019. Photo: Balkrishna Thapa Chhetri/THT
How fruitful has your party’s partnership in the Nepal Communist Party (NCP)-led government been for your party? We joined the government to amend the constitution and spur the pace of development, but we are not satisfied because the NCP-led government has failed on both fronts. Corruption has badly affected state organs. Therefore, our party recently submitted a memorandum to the prime minister expressing concern about these issues. If we fail to amend the constitution and spur the process of development that will disappoint the public. We will be blamed for not living up to people’s  expectations. We have also asked the PM to control corruption. We have told him that if the government fails to control corruption and resolve other political issues, the government will fail and his party, which is also a coalition partner, will also, have to take the blame for it. We warned the government that the ship we are riding could sink. Let’s see how the government moves ahead to address our concerns. If the government fails to improve its functioning, we may have to quit the government after our general convention, which will be held after three months. Your party and lawmakers are blamed for not criticising the government on major issues. We are not keeping mum. The Nepali Congress and the NCP are keeping mum on corruption, including the embezzlement of a huge amount in the purchase of two wide-body aircraft, but we have been raising this issue. I myself posed a question to the PM in the Parliament seeking to know when he will ensure amendment to the constitution. I also raised my concerns about the police bill and internal security bill. I said that these two bills could sabotage federalism and if that happened, it would be the start of authoritarian rule in the country. The PM, however, did not respond to my query on the issue of the two bills. My worry is that this government is trying to sabotage federalism. The police bill and internal security bill will treat chief ministers as army chief without the army. The police bill gives  provinces the right to appoint only police personnel up to inspector level and internal security bill gives sweeping powers to chief district officers as if they are kings. I think Province 2 chief minister may stage hunger strike against these two bills. What issues will you and your party raise in the current session of Parliament? We will raise our concerns on constitution amendment, citizenship bill and a few umbrella laws that the government has brought. The Parliament needs to enact a new federal citizenship law to grant citizenship to children of citizens by birth and those people who qualify for naturalised citizenship. We are committed to raising the issues we pledged to Madhesi and other marginalised communities. We will also raise the issue of gender discrimination, fast-track issues, postal highway and loss of government revenue in Ncell buyout. Your party formed a committee to hold unity talks with like-minded parties, but the RJP-N rejected the possibility of unity. What are your views on this? The FSF-N and RJP-N forged poll alliance in Province 2 and jointly contested the elections. It is the Madhesi voters’ earnest desire to see both parties unite and I personally believe that there is no option for the two parties but to unite. If these two parties, champions of the same cause do not unite, they will cease to exist. Fringe parties have no prospects now as they are required to meet the vote threshold in elections. Your party merged with the Ashok Kumar Rai-led Federal Socialist Party with the objective of uniting Madhesis and Janajatis, but your party has failed to expand its base across the hills where Janajatis have sizeable population. Why? It is true that we have not been able to expand our base in Janajati areas mainly because the level of awareness of their rights is still low. We are trying to organise our programmes across the country, including in far-flung Janajati dominated areas to sensitise them about their rights. Unless Madhesis, Janajatis and OBC unite for their cause, their empowerment won’t be possible. Janajatis are like Madhesis who have been deprived of their rights by the ruling class for long. I hope Janajatis will soon realise the causes behind their subjugation and support our party. Province 2 government had drawn the attention of the federal government to the citizenship problem, but these days, the FSF-N and the RJP-N are not raising the issue in the House. Why? A conspiracy is being hatched by the NC and the NCP (NCP) in the House to delay enactment of the citizenship bill. These two parties are deliberately delaying enactment of the bill but we will strongly raise the issue in the House. How hopeful are you about Madhesi and Janajati forces getting their agenda addressed soon? It is because of the struggle of Madhesis, Janajatis and OBCs that we succeeded in changing our political system from unitary to a federal system. All other major forces, including the erstwhile CPN-Maoist Centre had given up their demand for restructuring the state. But the government and the major forces are not willing to give autonomy to the provinces. The government is not ready to ensure inclusion of marginalised communities. We are busy devising our strategies on this issue. We will wait till our party’s general convention scheduled after three-and-a-half months. After the GC, we may quit the government and intensify our fight for federalism and empowerment of marginalised communities. Why is your party not speaking up against the government? It is not true that our party is not speaking up against the government. I have raised many issues in the Parliament criticising the government’s lacklustre performance and its inability to check corruption. My party Chair Upendra Yadav always encourages me to speak up against the government. Madhesi parties are often blamed for being Province 2-centric. What’s your take on this? We had to focus more on Province 2 during elections because it is true that Province 2 is our party’s stronghold. Apart from Province 2, we also have a good vote bank in Kapilvastu and Bhairahawa of western Tarai. It is prudent for a political party to protect the stronghold and try to expand its base to other areas. In the days ahead, we will intensify our party activities in other parts of the Tarai as well. What are your views on the two programmes aimed to empower women of Province 2 — Rs 100,000 insurance for all daughters born after mid-January 2019 and ‘Save the daughter, educate the daughter’ programme? The federal government has not given enough resources to the province to carry out necessary programmes, yet, province-2 has done the right thing by launching these two programmes in the province where dowry remains a big problem and women suffer the most.