When the left alliance won the general elections and provincial polls in six of seven provinces in 2017, the Madhesh-centric alliance, comprising Federal Socialist Forum-Nepal and Rastriya Janata Party, won majority seats in Province 2. Many of the analysts then feared that it would aggravate the conflict between the central government and the Madhesh and Madhesh-centric parties.
But surprisingly, the two parties not only extended their support to the KP Sharma Oli-led government; Upendra Yadav-led Forum became a part of it. Nevertheless, their demand for constitution amendment is still pending.
As Oli completed the first year in office, Onlinekhabar has talked to Madheshi politics analyst, Tula Narayan Sah, to explore multiple dimensions of the centre-Madhesh relationships.
It was expected that the Madheshi parties would have to struggle against the Oli government. But, they are now Oli’s partners. How do you evaluate it?
The Madheshi society is wondering why the parties are supporting the one whom they fought against for years though he [Oli] did not give anything. Therefore, the society is not excited about their participation in the government; it is silent instead.
Time will tell what the parties will gain or lose from the partnership, but it has essentially changed the direction of Madheshi politics. Their identity and nature have changed, seriously.
The Madheshi parties have power in both places, in Kathmandu and Janakpur [respective capitals of federal and provincial governments]. Their journey to power in Janakpur is natural, and the votes they received were sufficient to run the government. But, the Madheshi community has taken their role in the central government as something unnatural.
I want you to go back to the scenario before the elections. The Madheshi parties had launched a movement; but Kathmandu’s response was negative. They [Kathmandu leaders] attacked the Madheshis’ demand that the local governments be kept under the provincial governments. They said those leading the movement could not win the polls; hence they protested. The Madheshi leaders were defensive; they could not encounter the charges. These charges forced the leaders to join the elections.
The mandate they received in the election was clear: rule in Janakpur and struggle in Kathmandu. But, that did not happen. Therefore, the Madheshi society is not excited.
What is the difference between KP Oli and Upendra Yadav for the Madheshis? Is it only their surname? No, the nature of their politics is different. Therefore, the Madheshi society expects Upendra Yadav, Mahantha Thakur and Rajendra Mahato to struggle for political rights through constitution amendment.
For the Madheshi people, the goal of Madheshi parties is struggle for political and constitutional rights whereas the goal of national parties is power and luxury. Now, the politics of struggle partnered with the politics of luxury.
But the leaders are still saying that they supported the government after an agreement for constitution amendment.
No one has ever said that constitution amendment is impossible. Oli is also honest in this respect as he has been repeatedly saying that the constitution is a dynamic document and it is amendment on the basis of need and usefulness. He has not changed his view till now. I was very clear that the Madheshi parties would get nothing by blaming KP Oli. It has been proved now.
The Madheshi parties joined the government; and they have their own reasons. They will go to the streets tomorrow, with different reasons. But, whether they ‘supported’ the government or ‘submitted to’ it should be debated. The debate is inevitable tomorrow.
What do you think? Is it a support or submission?
It has to be debated. There are some other issues in the Madheshi politics that require immediate debating. For example: Were the Madheshi parties right in blockading Kathmandu without leaving the Constituent Assembly? Was it a need or a betrayal to vote for Sushil Koirala for the prime minister? Did they impose the blockade on their own or they fell into India’s plot? Did India support Madheshi parties or used them? Everything has to be reviewed honestly.
Why is the review not taking place now?
A big section of the Madheshi society is interested in the government at various levels. It is natural in the beginning because the government means power and luxury. The Nepali Congress and the then UML also passed through this stage earlier. The Madheshi parties are replicating them now.
People with critical perspectives are scarce in our society. They do not want to open up. If anyone dares to speak up, they will face attack from all corners. People entertain praises. But, the situation will not remain constant.
No one in Madhesh is speaking against bills drafted by the Federal Parliament. The centre is increasing the right of CDOs, attacking the essence of federalism; but no intellectual speaks against it, except Chief Minister Lalbabu Raut.
Few months ago, the Teachers Service Commission conducted an examination. It called the candidates of Province 2 to centres of Hetaunda, Sindhuli and Biratnagar, but did not establish an exam centre in the province. But, it did not matter to anyone.
Recently in Janakpur, a minister assaulted a secretary, but no one launched any organised protest. Likewise, police arrested and killed a youth in Saptari, but no human rights activist spoke about it. Where is the culture of questions and criticisms in our society?
It seems the parties had sufficient votes to run the provincial government. But, what did force them to support the Oli government without being assured of the amendment?
It is the lust for power. Now, one party is onboard the government; if it leaves, the second will go.
They may justify the move, saying many of their demands have been included in the constitution.
It’s right. They have made contributions to what we have achieved today. If Upendra Yadav had not led the Madhesh movement in 2006/07, federalism would not have been possible today. If Mahantha Thakur did not quit the Nepali Congress to form the Tarai Madhesh Democratic Party and if he had not tied partnership with Upendra Yadav and Rajendra Mahato, the proportional representation elections would not have been included… But, the question now is whether we should discuss the next course of action after the promulgation of new constitution.
In the past, Madheshi people have favoured alternative forces in most of the elections. Do you think any other force can emerge as an alternative to the RJPN or Forum in the next polls?
It will be too early to make a prediction now. But, it is clear that people seek alternatives every time. However, the situation today is slightly different. All sections of the Nepali society except Madheshis support the constitution promulgated under the leadership of KP Oli. Even international powers, which once demanded the amendment, have supported Oli’s line now.
The prime minister has been successful to keep Prachanda, who had emerged as another powerful leftist leader, under his command. The Madheshi leaders have also supported his government. Therefore, KP Oli is the most successful and powerful political leader today.
The government has just completed its first year last week. The Madhesh did not see any violent movement in this period. Do you think it was also indicative of the government’s success?
This is a significant political achievement, for KP Oli as a person and for the government as well. It is an unprecedented achievement.
How did they achieve it?
The Madheshi parties had raised many issued, but the government addressed them all with a one-point agreement that the constitution would be amended on the need basis. But, Oli is so powerful today that constitution amendment is possible only at his mercy.
Published on February 18th, Monday, 2019 4:08 PM