Bhattarai: Amend constitution within 10 days, I’ll convince Yadav to face elections

baburam-Bhattarai-840x405Naya Shakti Nepal coordinator Baburam Bhattarai says he can convince the Madheshi Morcha to take part in civic elections if the ruling coalition can get the constitution amendment bill passed in the next 8-10 days. “If the constitution is amended, I can guarantee that they (Morcha) will take part in the election.

Bhattarai, who received a lot of criticism on social media after his demand to postpone elections, was in a ‘secret’ meeting with Socialist Forum’s Upendra Yadav when peoplenepal.com visited Naya Shakti’s office in Babarmahal. Excerpts from an interview:

Naya Shakti’s meeting on Wednesday decided to press the government to create an environment for election. However, the very next day the party issued a statement, along with Upendra Yadav’s Forum, demanding that the election be postponed. How did this sea-change of sorts happen in one day?

No, the statements do not contradict each other. First, I would like to begin by reminding you that Baburam Bhattrai played a role, as the chairman of the Constitution Dialogue committee, in drafting the constitution. Although an incomplete constitution was promulgated at the end, he remains committed to it. I have a clear opinion on the issue. I say, let’s complete the constitution, address the demands of the dissidents and go together for elections. This is what I have been saying for the past one-and-half years, and that is what I say now. That the elections at all levels (civic, provincial and central) should be held before December/January next year is  the official stance of Naya Shakti and that is also my stance.

That was what we indicated at in our statement (the first one), and the statement we issued jointly with the Federal Socialist Forum is no different. The only difference is that we had been saying that elections at all levels be held simultaneously, but in course of negotiations we decided that the better option would be to conduct central level elections first, then provincial and then the civic elections. That is the right way of doing it.

Does that mean you are standing against an election that is taking place after 20 years?

The election that we are talking about is not taking place under the 1990 system. This is going to happen under the constitution of 2015. That is why this is going to be the first-ever elction under a new system. That this is something that’s happening after 20 years is not true. We will be conducting elections for the first time in the federal setup.

Under the federal setup, the province is under the centre and the local bodies are under the ambit of the province. That is why the right way to condcut elections is to do it at the centre, at the province, and then in the civic bodies. But what is being done is just the opposite, even when ground-level strucutres have not been put in place.

Balananda Commission’s report has not been made public yet. The commission has not recommended anything on the status of ‘protected areas’ and ‘special areas’, which were on its mandate. That is another reason why time is not ripe for local elections.

 

The Prime Minister is putting his effort into getting the amendment passed. The bill is already under consideration in Parliament. Monsoon is fast approaching, and if elections were not announced, it would have been impossible for the people to go to vote before the rains. What mistake did the government commit by announcing elections?

He (Prachanda) tabled the amendment bill in November. He should have gotten it passed. If he wanted to, he could have done it withing a week to 15 days. But he stayed idle for three months. This did not happen because of time pressure, it happened because of his lack of will. The Prime Minister played a ‘dual’ role when it came to the issue of constitution amendment. While he said one thing to KP Oli, he said something else to the Madheshi leaders. That is why he has lost his credibility.

That he has declared elections means he does not want to get the amendment passed. That is what we’ve understood. What he’s done is fuelled the conflict. Naya Shakti does not want that to happen. That is why we’ve demanded that the elections be postponed.

There are many people on socioal media who say that you reached an agreement with Upendra Yadav immediately after he returned from New Delhi. There are also those who believe that your agreement is in the the interest of the neighbouring country.

In today’s day and age, it would be a joke to say that someone who’s returned from the US sneezes because he’s been to the US. If someone is to be influnced by the opinion of others, he does not need to visit the country of the influencer. But what I feel is that if someone raises questions over Baburam Bhattarai and Upendra Yadav’s commitment to nationalism, that would be wrong. That is why I feel there’s no point in discussing this.

So, if the constituion amendment bill is passed, are you ready to face elections?

If they can get the amendment passed in the next 8-10 days, the May elections will happen, and Naya Shakti Nepal wants elections to happen.

But the joint statement says you want the elections postponed.

No. That’s 100 per cent unture. We want the electoral environment to improve, and a large chunk of the population to not be left dissatisfied. That is all we want.

You have demanded that an all-party government be set up to conduct elections. Do you want another Khil Raj Regmi to take over?

What you need to understand is that corruption has become pervasive in Nepal. Political parties have implemented ‘quota’ based nominations at all levels. The way they are appointing justices and AIGs has dangerous implications for democracy.

The same is happening at the central level. They have already agreed that Prachanda government will conduct local elections, and Sher Bahadur will take over to conduct other elections. Why was this necessary?

That they are saying that they want to conduct elections when they are in power, indicates that they want to use state resources to produce results favourable to their party. That is why we need an all-party government to conduct fair elections. Even when the constitution was being drafted, we had proposed that a constitutional provision be made to form an all-party government to conduct elections. But the proposal was not approved. That is the same issue we have raised again.

Will Naya Shakti participate in elections in the status quo?

We do not want events to take that unfortunate course. We want to see forces that are outside of the constitution brought under the constitution. If that happens, the government can even prepone the elections. We would have no objections.

 

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