Between a rock and a hard place

  • The task of carrying on protests will be difficult for Madhes-based parties after the loss of popular ground
- BIRENDRA P MISHRA

Sep 26, 2017-The third phase of local level elections in Province 2 was completed peacefully on September 18, 2017 with the participation of the Rastriya Janta Party Nepal (RJPN). The election was held for 136 units in place of the 127 that was determined earlier. The counting of votes is in progress and results are coming in. Though the declaration of final results may take about a week more, as has happened in the earlier two phases, some of the fallouts are obvious.

Major dilemma

First, the three major political parties, the Nepali Congress, the CPN-UML and the Maoist Centre, have outwitted the Madhes-based political parties by forcing them to participate in the local level elections through the creation of an unavoidable political condition. These parties put the RJPN in a situation where they had to choose between two courses of action, both unfavourable or undesirable. By participating in the election before their demand of amending the constitution was met, the Madhes-based parties deviated from their original demands, risking the chance of losing the election by not getting sufficient votes. However, if they had not participated, they could have lost their voters, who are interested in attaining local power. 

The governments formed after the promulgation of the constitution on September 20, 2015 succeeded in forcing Madhesi parties to participate in the local level elections even without amending the constitution. These parties just showed their pseudo seriousness by holding dialogues with the Madhesi outfits, but announced the dates of elections first for one phase and then for two phases and finally for the third phase of elections without the final consent of Madhesi parties. The number of local level units was increased slightly as an indication that the major parties were serious about the genuine demands of the Madhes to have local level units in proportion to their population. The government increased the number of local units from 127 to 136 in Province 2, leaving units in all other districts unchanged. Thus, the support of major parties to the demands of the Madhesi outfits is questionable.

Decreasing influence 

It is a fact that Madhes-based parties who came to prominence with the Madhes uprising of 2007-08 secured considerable votes and seats in the first Constituent Assembly (CA) election. However, the parties fragmented, going from a total of three to a total of 13 parties, resulting in a considerable loss of credibility. Consequently, their number in the second CA decreased  significantly and failed to influence the course of the CA and the content of the constitution. However, protests for the amendment of the constitution continued. Against their demands for amending the constitution, the government went on to form the Local Level Restructuring Commission (LLRC), which submitted its report without giving due weightage to 

the proportionality of population living in the region. 

The Madhesi outfits have been entrapped in a dilemma. Interestingly, two major Madhesi parties, one led by Upendra Yadav and another by B K Gachhadar, participated in the first two phases of the elections, causing dissention amongst all Madhes-based parties. It is largely possible that this will divide the votes among the Madhesi outfits and help the national parties like Nepali Congress and CPN-UML considerably. The matter does not end here. The newly formed RJPN, is a conglomeration of six parties and has not assumed the real shape of a cohesive party as of yet. This will also affect the prospects of the candidates of the party, as there is every possibility of intra-party conflict owing to factionalism arising from the six founding parties.

Apart from this internal factor which influenced the parties to contest local election, it is commonly believed that India has also played an important role in convincing the parties to participate in the election, as India wants to show that it is supporting the present coalition government till the provincial and federal elections take place and even beyond that.

The dilemma that the Madhes-based parties had to face was not easy to address; now the task of carrying on protests seems difficult after the loss of popular ground in the region. They may lose sentiment votes and supporters. However, if the issues of Madhesis are not addressed, the dilemma will not only hound the Madhesi outfits alone but also the entire nation in the days to come.

Mishra is a former Election Commissioner

Published: 26-09-2017 08:27

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