Dr. Narad Bharawaj
The call of Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda Tuesday to the Madhes-based parties to seek change through the ballot box by dropping their demand for constitution amendment is a bold move towards saving the country from an imminent constitutional crisis. This initiative from the head of the government has also effectively pulled the plug on the politics of negation being pursued by the Joint Madhesi Front to put the country on to the path of perpetual agitation.
The promulgation of the constitution by an overwhelming majority of the Second Constituent Assembly had put an end to the polemic on the issue of restructuring of the state that had raged for more than seven years. Failure of the three major parties playing key roles in making and promulgating the constitution to take a firm and unified position on its implementation had provided space for the Madhes-based forces to indulge in venal politics.
The unity among the major three parties broke after they successfully weathered through the crisis brought about by the Madhes agitation and the Indian blockade following the promulgation of the constitution. Unfortunately, this turn of event set the country on the path of retrogression. The ruling coalition of the CPN (Maoist Centre) and the Nepali Congress formed after overthrowing the Oli-led government joined the chorus of constitution amendment being prescribed by external powers and their proxies within the country.
The ruling coalition’s soft corner to the adamant course of the Madhes-based parties regarding constitution amendment was responsible for the prolonged stalemate on the issue of constitution implementation. But the CPN (Maoist Centre) and the Nepali Congress did not realise or feigned not to realise that any amendment to the constitution would be impossible without the support of the CPN (UML).
If the ruling coalition had realised this earlier and accorded priority to election without wasting so much time in a futile endeavour for constitutional amendment, it would help the Madhes-based political forces to be aware of their ground reality. At the same time, it would also help the bigger parties to formulate realistic strategies for forming political equation that could create conducive environment for implementation of the constitution and would simultaneously strengthen their political power bases.
The previous coalition government of the CPN (UML) and the CPN (MC) had scored impressive achievements during its tenure. It forced India to lift blockade. The Madhes agitation was allowed to burn out of steam. Diplomatic relations with China and India were put on an even keel and the post-earthquake construction was expedited and the post-quake psychological panic was effectively dealt with by instilling a sense of strong social support. But situation worsened after the present coalition took over. Even after more than six months in the office, the ruling coalition has not achieved significant progress on any of the above sectors to justify its policies.
Nepal–India relations are still strained even after the state visits of Nepal’s Prime Minister to India and Indian President Pranab Mukherjee’s visit to Nepal. Nepal-China relation, too, is not in its best state. The victims of earthquake are still living under temporary shelters, and the implementation of the constitution has not moved ahead.
Belatedly though, with the declaration of the date of local election for May 14, 2017, the country has freed itself from political inertia. If the election does take place on the announced date, more than 35 thousand elected people’s representatives will take over the leadership of democratic institutions at the grassroots level. This will not only lend momentum to the implementation of the constitution, there will be democratically elected people’s representative to take on the forces of disintegration that are misleading the people in the absence of robust democratic institutions.
The local bodies are the outposts of a democratic system. To fill them with the elected representatives should have been, naturally, the first priority after the promulgation of the constitution. But the external and domestic enemies of the people were able to mislead the country by entangling Nepal’s political discourse in a mesh of conspiracy and fallacious debates.
The Madhes-based parties are still shouting hoarse threatening to boycott the election and do everything within their power to foil it from happening. This is most undemocratic and reactionary position they are flaunting without an iota of shame. These parties had respectable presence in the First Constituent Assembly (CA). But they lost their position in the Second CA because of their anti-national and unpopular stance. The agitating Madhes-based regional forces should have taken right lessons from the position accorded to them by the electorate. But they appear hell-bent to pursue the course which is doomed to meet with a failure.
These forces are continuously drawing their sustenance from external forces and are driving wedges in the society. They are hoping that foreign powers will exert pressure on their behalf to get them ensconced on the high seat of power. But this is a daydreaming which will never come to fruition. The Nepalese people have not forgotten their role in bringing misery and deprivation during their agitation orchestrated by Indian blockade. If they were responsible political forces, they should have apologised with the people and corrected their course by honouring the sentiments of the people.
Influence of the Madhes-based political parties has been waning and the number of their followers has declined palpably. If they want to survive as a viable political alternative, they should be aware of the fact that their wrong political orientation is alienating them from the people and projecting them as forces out to destroy Nepal’s social diversity and geographical integrity.
The Madhes-based forces have been following an ideology of negation. They have refused to accept democratic change and have disowned the constitution. Their hatred towards election shows that they are not ready to limit themselves within democratic norms, which requires all the political parties to renew their mandate to function as the representatives of the people through periodic elections. If they refuse to participate in the scheduled local election, they are sure to put themselves in a precarious position of being sidelined by the people through exercise of their franchise.
The Madhes-based parties have been greatly weakened because of their anti-national and unpopular activities they have conducted after the promulgation of the constitution. If they are serious about their political future, they should reconstruct their image of nationalist forces and practice moderation. The ruling coalition has declared the date of local level election realising that the path of placating the regional and ethnic forces by amending the constitutional clauses will not give a way out from the present day impasse.
The Mahdes-based political parties, too, should realise that their parochial attitude will never assure them a perch in the mainstream of politics. If they harbour the ambition of achieving a status among national political forces, they should shun the politics of alienation and adopt a process of enter- regional integration. It is time for them to realise that they are no longer in a position to call shots in the current political equation. They are, in fact, about to be compelled to fight an existential battle. For political forces aspiring to rule, avoiding battles is not always possible, but it is necessary to wait until more favourable battle alignment is achieved.