We hope the govt will show sincerity in bringing us on board the elections

  • Interview Rajendra Mahato
- Post Report, Kathmandu

May 29, 2017-Amid preparations for the second phase of local level elections in the remaining four provinces, the Rastriya Janata Party Nepal (RJP-N) has announced a series of protests and their decision to boycott polls unless their demands are met.

Tika R Pradhan spoke to Rajendra Mahato, leader of the RJP-N, about the possibility of the RJP-N’s participation in the elections, the government’s inability to uphold the three-point agreement that was signed, defectors of the Madhes cause and possible party alliances to improve electoral prospects. 

The Rastriya Janata Party Nepal (RJP-N) were preparing for local elections and also holding talks with the government to reach an amenable consensus, so what led to the recent adverse turn of events?

We have been involved in a long drawn out affair of protests and a blockade that began about one and a half years ago.  

Immediately after the promulgation of the constitution, we declared the need for amendments. When the current government was being formed, we reached a three-point agreement where we agreed that for our support of the government, the government would fulfil certain demands we made.

For example, the number of local units in the provinces would be increased in accordance to population; a high level probe commission would be formed to look into incidents of killings, arson, vandalism during the Madhes movement; the kin of those killed during the movement would be compensated and the costs of treating the injured would be borne by the government; those killed would be declared martyrs; and cases filed against the Federal Alliance leaders and cadres would be withdrawn.

However, while we have given our support to the government, it has not complied with the terms that were set.  

When the elections were set for May 14, we yet again declared that we would not take part in the polls until our demands were met.

It was at this time that Upendra Yadav (who still held leadership of the Federal Alliance) declared that the Federal Socialist Forum Nepal (FSFN) would take part in the local level elections before the constitution amendment.

This came as a let-down to the Madhesi, Tharu, Aadivasi and Janajati communities. 

And yet the first phase of the elections happened anyway? 

The government said that it was not possible to address our demands before the first phase of elections, so they asked for an extension of one month for the second phase of elections—to June 14.

The understanding was that the intervening period would offer time for negotiations.

However, our concerns have still not been addressed and we could be compelled to boycott the polls.

Still, we are hopeful that the government will make a sincere attempt to bring us on board the election process. If this does not happen, we will oppose the polls. 

Do you agree outgoing Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal’s claims that his government made serious efforts to address your demands?

Yes, the Dahal government has tried to address the demands, but what use is trying if it has not resulted in any concrete outcomes? Dahal has had good intentions, but his government has still not been able to do what it guaranteed when assuming office.

Dahal’s Cabinet has decided to add 22 local units in 12 Tarai districts and give metropolis status to Biratnagar and Birgunj, but this is not the same as increasing local units in accordance to population. 

Also, six Madhes-based parties formed an alliance to form the RJP-N recently, and our party has yet to be registered in the Election Commission.

We have six different election signs; we just have to choose one. That can be sorted quickly once the political problems are sorted out.   

You have been holding talks with both the outgoing PM and incoming PM—Dahal and Nepali Congress president Sher Bahadur Deuba? What are they saying?

The RJP-N recently met with top leaders of the NC, the CPN-Maoist Centre and the CPN-UML. We stated our position clearly: that we wished to take part in the elections but only if our demands are met. Other than the constitution amendment, all other demands are within the purview of the government to execute. 

Your protests will have dire consequences for election preparations and possibly even elections. On the other hand, you could also become an irrelevant and poor political player in the eyes of tens of thousands of those who want elections, including in the Tarai?

We do not care when the elections are held; all that we demand is that they are held after our demands are met.

If not, then we will not let the polls take place. It is not our intention to disrupt the polls. We are protesting because we want our demands to be met.

The candidacy nomination process is taking place on June 2. Either our demands have to be met by that date, or the nomination process will have to be postponed.

If neither of these events occur, then we will initiate a second wave of peaceful protests after that date. 

There is talk that many RJP-N leaders or cadres are already defecting to other parties because they are desperate to take part in the local elections?

That is not true. In fact, now the protest programs have been declared, there is an even greater possibility that Forum Nepal and Forum Loktantrik will join the protests. 

I also believe members of the NC, CPN (Maoist Centre) and the CPN-UML will be ready to fight for the Madhesi cause. 

If the ruling coalition doesn’t resolve your demands, you will have a political option to call them out in your campaign and appeal to voters accordingly. Why not let the voters decide who and what they want?

The local level elections are not a place where the agenda of our parties should be put to a litmus test.

These are units where local level development initiatives and plans are implemented.

The federal parliament election could be a place where the agenda could be determined.

And I also believe that those nominees from various parties who are in confusion about their stance will join our protests after June 2.

Once the candidates have been declared, those who are not chosen will definitely join our cause and strengthen it. 

What is your position on that recent verdict issued by the Supreme Court (SC), which has asked not to increase the number of local level units and redelienate the boundaries?

It’s difficult to understand the Supreme Court. When the government added 25 local levels to the number recommended by the Local Bodies Restructuring Commission (719 local levels), the SC did not object.

However, now they object to the addition of 22 local levels. There is neither rhyme nor reason behind this verdict. 

Published: 29-05-2017 08:34

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