CPN-UML Vice-Chairman Bamdev Gautam has been leading the party in the absence of Chairman KP Sharma Oli, who is currently in Thailand on a medical trip. Recently, Onlinekhabar caught with him to discuss the current political developments ahead of the May 14 elections. Translated excerpts:
Of late, Nepali Congress President Sher Bahadur Deuba seems to have taken an aggressive stance against the UML. Is it because you are standing in between him and the Prime Minister’s chair?
In the past, we had joined the Nepali Congress-led government; but, they (Congress) refused to join our government last year. They propounded a fake theory that rivals should not form alliances. In fact, NC President Sher Bahadur Deuba is a leader devoid of any principle; he lacks ideology and his accusations against us come as no surprise.
He criticised Chairman KP Oli for his sarcasm. But, isn’t his sarcasm evidence that Oli has command over Nepali language. I have concluded that Deuba is not well-versed in Nepali. He should not have commented on anything that he does not know of! Not only does he lack the command over the language, he also Deuba does not have any vision to lead.
Can you please clarify if UML is trying to prevent Deuba from landing the premiership?
We extend our best wishes for his premiership. But, as an opposition party, it is only natural for us to try to break the ruling coalition and form a new one. If their alliance was strong enough, they would not need to blame us. If the alliance goes against the interest of the country, we will surely break it.
Have you assured Prachanda (PM Pushpa Kamal Dahal) that if the Nepali Congress pulls out, you will back his government ?
The Nepali Congress is our main rival. When Oli was Prime Minister, the party understood that a deal between the Maoists and the UML to handover primiership was the alliance’s weakest link. That is why it played the card to snatch Prachanda. Deuba should not have any complaints if we do the same with him now.
The UML-Maoist alliance is theoretically more natural. We are likely to form an alliance again and it will last for long. This is very clear.
Will you form the alliance just after local level elections?
No! We are not interested in running the government until the provincial and federal elections take place. After January next year, the UML will lead a Communist government.
I have been talking to Prachanda in this regard and he has agreed to my proposal. But, it seems he fears Deuba, and that is why reluctant to let go of the Congress.
Earlier, Prachanda had signaled that he could back for PM. But, is it true that your own comrades were against this idea?
I have helped Prachanda a lot. Therefore, he frequently says he would support me for PM. I do not have any problems within the party. If Prachanda had not allied with the Congress, I would already have become PM.
So do you wish Oli gives you a chance when the UML gets to lead the government?
I do not need anyone’s favour. I just deserve the job. Party members have faith in me.
Why? Aren’t you happy with Oli?
We had an understanding that Oli would give the party reigns to me when he was elected the PM. Likewise, we had agreed that he would hand over the parliamentary party’s leadership to me after being elected Chairman. But, I do not have any complaints about what he’s done.
Let’s change the topic now. Why did you protest the new Constitution amendment bill that the government introduced to address the demands of the agitating parties?
The new constitution amendment bill is more regressive than the one the government replaced with it. We cannot accept it.
But, the government dropped the issue of provincial border delineation in this bill. How can it be regressive?
We object to two major provisions of the bill. The first is the proposal to curtail the right of chiefs and vice-chiefs of local bodies to elect members of the National Assembly. This provision poses a long-term threat to the nation because it weakens the local government.
Attempts have been made to limit the voting rights for the National Assembly to a handful of people and depriving the citizens of their rights. This is part of a grand design to make Nepal a multi-nation state.
The second objection we have is on the amendment to Article 274. The amendment proposes to shift the right of the the provinces to the centre. It wants to end all foundations of the rights granted to provinces. This is against constitutionalism and federalism. We cannot support it.
What about rest of the issues?
We do not support them either. We protest the amendments proposed on provisions of language and citizenship. But, we do not have any problem with the proposal to form a commission to finalise the delineation of provinces.
Isn’t it a double standard on the part of your party that you say you are in favour of polls but obstruct the government’s efforts to convince the Madhesi Front to contest elections?
No, we cannot accept any proposal that handicaps the constitution or invites threats to the sovereignty and integrity of the country just because doing so will get the Morcha to contest elections. Elections can be held even if the Front does not agree. We cannot submit ourselves to the those who warn of secession if their demands are not met.
Isn’t UML responsible for blocking the Madhesi Front from polls?
There will not be any solution unless we understand that the Madhesi Front is not the Madhesi people. The Front just has the support of few thousands of Madhesis, whereas our party has millions of them.
If they want UML to agree on the agendas pushed by foreign agents by using the Madhesi Front, the UML cannot agree with them.
Tell me why you are so rigid on the issues of Madhesh?
They (the Madhesi Front) do not speak of for the people of Madhesh. They never say anything on how the lives of Madeshis can be improved. They just have one concern: the plain land from Jhapa to Kanchanpur is their territory and other parties dominated by hill people should have no place there. Do you think that is what the Madheshi people demand? Do you think it grants Madheshis the rights they seek?
The Madhesi Front is just a puppet of foreign power centres. The true representative of the Madheshi people is UML.
But, why have you been defensive in Madhesh?
Criminal forces of the ruling parties have been attacking our leaders and cadres in the guise of the Madheshi Front. We have been tolerating it. If it continues and the government fails to protect our people, the UML itself will form security bodies for self-defence.
Don’t you fear a drubbing during the polls in Madhesh?
Please do not think that we will submit ourselves to the warning that the country will be split if the demands of Madhesi Front are not met. Let Deuba do it, we do not have any concern. The new demands of Madhesi Front are just the demands of its leaders, not that of people.
Can we conclude that the local polls have become uncertain because of you?
No! The ruling parties and the government are not working for the polls. We just have 30 days left for the election, but the government has just filed a constitution amendment bill. It takes at least 21 days for the bill to get endorsed. And, how can you prepare for the elections in the remaining 10 days? It is clear that the government does not want elections.
Elections must be held at any cost to avoid any constitutional vacuum after January. We are committed to holding local, provincial and federal elections by January. But the government seems to be uninterested.
Published on April 14th, Friday, 2017 11:25 AM