Out of the box

  • Major and Madhesi parties, and Delhi should avoid politics of brinkmanship

Jan 28, 2016-

Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli on Tuesday held an hour-long interaction with a select group of journalists in Baluwatar where he strongly defended the new constitution—describing it among the best in the world. He also defended the fast-track process claiming that if the constitution had not been promulgated on September 20, there was a strong possibility that it would never have been finalised. Oli raised the specter of conspiracy that was at play to stop the constitution process. But what has now become a hallmark of his speeches, he kept short of offering specifics, choosing instead to resort to partisan innuendos.

Even after five months of unrest in the Tarai, the prime minister seems unable to internalise the fact that the Tarai grievances need to be dealt with politically. On the contrary, he singularly blames the Madhesi parties for using threats and ‘the politics of blackmail’ to force an amendment. It is this kind of messaging from the top that is sending a very divisive signal to the agitators. It vitiates the environment created by the constitution amendment. It sends a wrong message to the protesters that unless they continue disruptive forms of protests, they are less likely to get heard in Kathmandu’s power corridors.

Upendra Yadav and Mahanta Thakur, two senior Madhesi leaders, feel Prime Minister Oli’s approach is very divisive. In fact, Yadav has gone on to state that Oli’s hubris has hugely contributed to the protracted Tarai crisis. Clearly, Madhesi leaders like Yadav and Thakur seem eager to put an end to the border stand-off; they have indicated as much on many instances. But they fear a backlash from their cadres on the ground if they do so without a semblance of victory. This is why we have consistently argued that the impasse needs a political solution with space for both sides to claim victory.

The prime minister has for far too long pandered to the ultra-nationalist crowd, instead of being results-oriented. This approach only fuels polarisation between communities. Now the protracted stalemate has even divided the Madhes, forcing even the moderates to adopt a radical position. This could complicate the negotiation further.

On Tuesday, key Madhesi leaders like Rajendra Mahato began forming a ‘mega alliance’ of Madhesi parties to further step up pressure on Kathmandu. Another Madhesi leader Upendra Yadav, who leads a party with  larger federalist forces including Janajati groups, seems worried about the growing perception that the Madhesi constituency has a strong Indian link.

There is no denying that the first amendment endorsed on Saturday is positive and has certainly moved things forward. The international community, including India, welcomed it with a caveat. The UN echoed the general Nepali sentiment that the amendment should ease border restrictions. Yet even four days after the amendment, the blockade remains intact.

The major and Madhesi parties, and New Delhi seem to have boxed themselves in. The repercussions of the blockade have been deeply damaging. The country cannot sustain this kind of brinkmanship any longer. Time has come for all sides, including India, to think outside the box for an early resolution to the blockade and the Tarai crisis.

Published: 28-01-2016 10:01

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