Tailoring a compromise

  • Upendra Yadav and Oli govt need to reach out to Madhes and explain why alliance is beneficial

Mar 8, 2018-

The Sanghiya Samajbadi Forum Nepal (SSF-N) led by Upendra Yadav looks set to join the government. And the party reckons that not doing so will severely damage it over the next five years. On the other hand, it also believes that simply joining hands with the left alliance without some political guarantees could undercut its core constituencies in Tarai. After all, the party waged a very long campaign for a constitutional amendment that would, among other things, revise the boundaries between provinces. A very large section of the Madhesi population was on their side because of this cause, and to a large extent, it was because of the SSF-N’s advocacy that they fared well in elections last December in Province 2. The Madhesi population continues to look towards the SSF-N for the resolution of their dissatisfaction with the constitution.

The problem is that the disputes over the constitution are not so easily negotiable. During their protests in 2015 and 2016, the core demand of the Madhesi parties was to revise boundaries between Provinces 1 and 2 in the east, and Provinces 5 and 7 in the west, so as to extend the territories of the Madhesi- and Tharu-dominant provinces. This was unacceptable to the other parties, especially the CPN-UML. It is unlikely that the SSF-N will be able to deliver on this particular demand.

This means that negotiations over a possible constitutional amendment will now have to focus on other issues besides boundary delineation, such as increased representation for Madhesis, recognition of languages, issues of cultural sensitivities and so on. In addition, there could be amendments to allow an easier process towards revising state boundaries if the provinces want to do so in the future. If the left alliance agrees to such an amendment, it could provide somewhat of a face-saving gesture for the SSF-N.    

Now that the left alliance is in an immensely strong position, its leaders would do well to demonstrate flexibility and agree to an amendment that would fulfil certain demands of the SSF-N. This would go a long way towards repairing relations between the Madhesi population and the state. For his part, Upendra Yadav and his supporters will have to reach out to the population of Province 2 and demonstrate to them that the agreement that they have reached with the government is in fact to the benefit of the province. If the left alliance can’t fulfil all the Madhesi grievances, it’s important to at least strike an agreement that convinces the Madhesi population that the governing parties are keen to repair the damage that has occurred in the past and that a longer-term strategy is still in the works. The political significance of having a key Madhesi party in the federal government cannot be overstressed.

Published: 08-03-2018 07:42

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