The drift between the ruling political parties and the agitating RJPN seems to be narrowing. This could pave the way for the RJPN to participate in the forthcoming local, provincial and parliamentary elections. All those who have been discriminated by the state are likely to gain mileage if the amendment proposal in the parliament is passed
In the process of implementing the Nepalese constitution promulgated on September 20, 2015, Nepal government has conducted local elections in all the provinces in the country except in Province No. 2, which is due on September 18. It has also started preparations for conducting provincial and parliamentary elections by January 21, 2018. The only decision that it has not been able to make is whether the elections at the provincial and parliamentary levels will be held together on the same day or on different dates.
In order to conduct the provincial and parliamentary elections in time, the Constituency Delimitation Commission was formed on July 20 under the chairmanship of Kamal Narayan Das, former justice of the Supreme Court. The Commission was given the mandate to complete its task of delimiting constituencies for provinces and the parliament (House of Representatives) within three weeks.
However, the newly formed Rastriya Janata Party-Nepal (RJPN) is opposed to the forthcoming elections in the existing situation. It had already boycotted phase one and two of the local level elections that have recently been conducted.
But of late the mood among the party workers has started changing. Some of its influential political leaders of the party have started making advocacy in favour of participation in the elections, which was well reflected even in the recently held three-day central committee meeting of the party held in Kathmandu on 6th, 7th and 8th August.
As the date of the third phase of the local elections in Province No 2 is round the corner, the party leadership is under immense pressure to give its decision whether it would participate in the elections or would boycott them in the same way as it did before.
RJPN assumes importance because it agitated for the cause of the Madhesis under the banner of United Democratic Madhesh Front (UDMF) showing its strength and helping to impose economic blockade for five months and also through the indefinite strike throughout the Terai region for six months in 2015-16 in their bid to oppose the constitution for its failure to address their issues. There had been major casualties, human rights violations and economic loss of billions of dollars during that period. Now with the unification of six Madhesh-centric political parties, it will not be in the national interest or even for any of the major political parties to ignore the demands of RJPN.
RJPN itself has proved that the Madheshis don’t only know how to disunite, but also to unite when it is necessary and this was well reflected during the first, second and the third Madhesh uprising in 2007, 2008 and also in 2015-16.
Nevertheless, as a new political force, the RJPN lacks visionary leadership and weak organizational structure. It does not have money and muscle power that matter most for winning the elections. And on top of all this, it has not yet made any preparation to contest the forthcoming elections.
But the main strength of RJPN is that it has genuine agendas like the demand for formation of one or two provinces in the Terai, population-based electoral constituencies, and proportional representation in state mechanism, and removal of discriminatory practices in citizenship related issues. Because of such agenda, the party is most popular in Terai and now it has also started gaining ground in the hills and mountain regions as well.
Of late, the ruling coalition of the Nepali Congress and the CPN-MC has started realizing that the elections in Province No 2 as in other parts of Madhesh in the absence of RJPN participation would not be sustainable. As such, the government has decided to table the amendment bill under consideration for a floor test in the parliament in mid-August. Also, it is learnt that the government has completed much of the homework for withdrawing the criminal charges against the political workers, declaring those as martyrs who were killed and giving due compensation to those injured during the Madhesh movement. In the meantime, the Supreme Court has also given its verdict in favour of RJPN to add 22 new local units in 12 districts of Terai.
With some of these developments, the drift between the ruling political parties and the agitating RJPN seems to be narrowing. This could pave the way for the RJPN to participate in the forthcoming local, provincial and parliamentary elections.
All those who have been discriminated by the state in Madhesh and other regions of the country are likely to gain mileage if the amendment proposal in the parliament is passed. This is a major step towards national integration.
Therefore, it is in the interest of all the Nepalese to see that the core demands of the RJPN are addressed and also that it participates in forthcoming elections at all the levels and contributes to peace and stability in the country.
A version of this article appears in print on August 14, 2017 of The Himalayan Times.