Rajendra Mahato is one of the top leaders of Rastriya Janata Party Nepal, the country’s main Madhesh-based party. Mahato was one of the leaders who protested the new constitution saying that it curtailed the rights of the Madheshis. Mahato and his then Madheshi Morcha allies continue to claim that it was the Madheshis, not New Delhi, who enforced a blockade on Nepal in 2015. As Nepal prepares to host Indian Prime Minister Modi, who is to land in Janakpur, Province 2, on Thursday, Mahato has camped himself in the historic city. Onlinekhabar recently talked to Mahato about Nepal-India relations and Modi’s impending visit. Excerpts:
This is the first time in recent years that a foreign head of government is starting his Nepal visit by landing in a place outside Kathmandu. Your comments on Modi’s plan to come straight to Janakpur from India?
I say that the visit is absolutely fine. We need to remember that the days of the centralised government are gone. This visit also sends a message that Nepal has already entered into the federalism age. There was a time when Nepal had only one capital, but now things have changed. Also, regardless the route Modi takes, he is visiting Nepal and he can choose any route he wants. This time he has chosen to start his visit from Province 2; we are happy that he did so.
The other thing is that he wants to offer prayers at the Janaki Temple and that is done early in the morning. Similarly, any Indian who wants to come to Janakpur does come via Kathmandu, so why would Modi do that?
But why are critics so skeptical about Modi’s visit to Janakpur?
There are a group of people in this country who only look at the negative side of things. The members of this group have become horse without reins. They have the habit of writing whatever they feel like. We should not give these kinds of people undue attention.
When you contested the elections in Janakpur, you had said that you will seek India’s support for the development of Janakpur…
Modiji had been waiting for a long time to come to Janakpur. His visit was cancelled on two occasions. He has said that this time he will definitely come. During the course of the visit, the governments of the two countries will hold talks and various agreements will be signed. We have heard that the two leaders will inaugurate the ‘Ramayana Circuit’. It is important for Nepal that Janakpur becomes a part of this circuit. It will help develop Janakpur as an international tourist hub. We would not have received this kind of publicity even if we had invested millions!
Don’t you think the visit is politically motivated?
What does it mean? I didn’t get you.
Does it mean that New Delhi wants to run parallel ties with Kathmandu and Madhesh?
The Prime Minister of a neighbouring country is coming to Nepal. Is it not right for our Prime Minister to receive him? Instead of welcoming him, should Oliji be pelting stones at him?
Having said that, I would like to reiterate one thing. The era of centralised government has ended in Nepal and the country has now entered into an era of federalism. If you want to talk about Madhesh’s relations with India, we have always said that we have ‘roti-beti’ ties with India. These are ties the people have developed, not by the rulers of the two countries.
You must also see that Modiji is also visiting Muktinath. Why isn’t anyone asking why he is going there? The answer is: people have prejudice against Madhesh.
Is it because of the blockade?
Our protests were supported by people around the world, not just those in India. Even the people in the hills supported it. It was us! We enforced the blockade, why would Modi say sorry for it?