After CK Raut’s deal with government, the guessing game continues

  • Raut aide hints at a new party, but analysts say the Madhesi activist has been co-opted by the establishment
- TIKA R PRADHAN, Kathmandu

Mar 12, 2019-


Friday’s deal between the government and CK Raut, coordinator of the Alliance for Independent Madhes, has left many guessing what plans the Madhesi activist--and even Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli--has up his sleeves.

There are speculations that Raut might join the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP), but a leader close to Raut told the Post that he would work to “strengthen” his base with a view to forming a new party.

“Raut has informed our leaders and members that our next move would be decided within a month,” Jasar Yadav, an aide to Raut, told the Post in an interview on Monday afternoon. “Though things are yet to be finalised, most probably we will form a new political force. We are not going to continue with what we have been doing,” Yadav said, asserting that the Raut-led alliance has given up the agenda of a separate Madhes.

Raut, under the banner of Alliance for Independent Madhes, had for the last six years been making a pitch for “liberating Madhes and Madhesis from the oppressive regime controlled by the hills people”.

The Madhesi activist, who has been in and out of jail several times in the past many years, was last sent behind bars five months ago. On Thursday, the Supreme Court ordered his release. A day later, he appeared at the City Hall in Kathmandu, sharing the stage with Prime Minister Oli. He signed an 11-point deal with the government. Raut committed to honouring the constitution and the country’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and dignity. The government committed to dropping all charges against him and other leaders of his alliance.

Raut’s supporters claim that there are around 800,000 people in Nepal and abroad who rally behind him.

But political analysts doubt Raut will be able to make much of a difference in Madhes politics--or national politics for that matter--even if he forms a new party.  

Chandra Kishore, a political commentator who closely follows Madhesi politics, said it would not be easy for Raut to expand his organisational structure.

“He had been carrying an extremist agenda all along and that might have struck a chord with many in the region for various reasons--one being the people’s anger at the discrimination they face,” Chandra Kishore told the Post. “But to create one’s political space, one needs a proper political agenda.”

But some say Raut may use his “personality” to his benefit.

For those who had not heard Raut speak when he campaigned for an independent Madhes, his speech at the City Hall came as a surprise.

When Raut delivered his speech on Friday, he unleashed a full-scale charm offensive and heaped praise on Oli. With a wavy hair--parted in the right--covering his ears and a moustache, Raut, in a black suit, white shirt and red tie, spoke in a soft and controlled manner.

“That’s his personality,” Tula Narayan Shah, another political analyst, who has known Raut for about two decades, told the Post. “He has an attractive personality. He has sacrificed everything for the sake of the Madhesi people,” said Shah.

According to Shah, Raut has many advantages to excel in politics--good personality, clean image, the sacrifice he has made and the community. “And youths account for a majority of his followers,” he said.

If Raut forms his own party with Madhes as its base and Madhesi people as its constituency, his immediate contenders will be the Rastriya Janata Party-Nepal and the Sanghiya Samajbadi Forum-Nepal.

Raut may also use people’s disenchantment with these two Madhes-based forces to gain ground along the plains. There is yet another advantage for Raut: while the two Madhes-based forces are largely concentrated in the eastern Tarai district, his alliance has managed to cover the districts along the plains from east to west.

But that won’t be sufficient, said Chandra Kishore.

“Raut now needs to come up with a clear vision. He also needs to clarify to the people how he could bring about a change by being in mainstream politics,” the analyst told the Post.

Raut, during his speech on Friday, did not touch upon the issues surrounding constitutional amendments. Instead, he appeared to be on the same page with ruling party leaders.

“Calls for constitution amendment have not died down in Madhes. But Raut was talking about ‘prosperous Nepal, happy Nepali’,” said Chandra Kishore, casting doubt if Raut would really stand for the Madhesi cause in the coming days.

“Prosperous Nepal, Happy Nepali” is a slogan oft-repeated by Oli. Raut uttering the same phrase on Friday led some observers to believe he has acquiesced.

“The latest episode is nothing but a government-orchestrated drama in an attempt to create a third force in the Madhes,” said Bijay Kant Lal Karna, a professor of political science. “The Oli government used three tactics--threat, tempt and co-opt--and it has been successful. By propping up Raut, this government wants to negate the two existing Madhes-based forces.”

The two Madhes-based forces, which had serious reservations about the constitution and were demanding an amendment, did not raise the issue while being part of the Oli government. The Rastriya Janata Party-Nepal withdrew its support to the government last week.

With Raut’s full “commitment to the constitution”, there is now little threat for the government from him, whose outfit the administration identified earlier as the biggest national security threat.

“Hence, all this plays to optimum benefit of the Oli government,” said Karna.

Chandra Kishore also said that existing moderate forces become weaker when “the state joins hands with an extremist force”.

“We have to wait and see how politics in Madhes unfolds in the coming days. It all depends on what kind of a move Raut makes,” he added.

Though Raut’s close aides stress forming a new party, many have already started seeing a berth booked for Raut in the ruling communist party.

“No one should be surprised if he is appointed a minister,” said Karna

Published: 12-03-2019 08:07

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