RJP's suicidal move

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Rastriya Janata Party Nepal (RJP) has announced protest programs including general strike to disrupt the upcoming second round of local election.

Formation of RJP with merger of six Madhes-based parties had sent a positive message both to the plains and the hills. Coming together of six Madhes-based parties for the purpose of election sent a message to the hills that the election will indeed be held. Many, on the other hand, had hoped that unification of the six separate parties will form a strong Madhes-based party that will do well in the upcoming election.

That hope has been dashed but there is still time to correct that.

We urge RJP to withdraw the protest programs and utilize the opportunity of election. We also draw RJP’s attention to the harm disruption of the election will inflict on Madhes and RJP itself.

Setopati has been clear on its stand about constitution amendment right from the beginning. We have been saying constitution amendment is necessary to address the discontent seen in Madhes from the time of promulgation of constitution. We want to remind here that was precisely what the top leaders had promised at the time of promulgating constitution. We have, therefore, been urging all the major parties to show same flexibility on the issue of constitution amendment. But we have also been saying that the Madhes-based parties should accept the result if the constitution amendment could not be passed in lack of the required two-third majority, and participate in the local election.

We have said so based on the values, norms and spirit of democracy. Belief in democracy means accepting the people’s mandate, whether on the issue of forming government or promulgation and amendment of the constitution. The balance of power in the parliament, therefore, prevails—should prevail—on the issue of promulgation and amendment of the constitution.

But the spirit of democracy runs much deeper than the parliamentary arithmetic. Democracy isn’t just a system of the majority rule but also one that hears and incorporates even the voices of small and big opposition parties. Democratic spirit requires accepting the legality of even the marginal voices and listening to that. The Madhes-based parties are in a minority in the parliament, but the Madhes movement and sacrifice of over four dozen Madhesis in the movement have established their demands in a big way.

The largest, third largest and fourth largest parties in the parliament seem to have accepted that. Rastriya Prajatantra Party (RPP) has not changed its decision to support constitution amendment even when it is not in the government. But the second largest party in the parliament has not accepted the essence of constitution amendment right from the beginning.

We can disagree with CPN-UML on the issue but we should not forget that it is free to take the decision it deems is right. RJP or any other party cannot impose its opinion about the issue of constitution amendment on UML just like UML cannot impose its conclusion that constitution amendment is not necessary on RJP.

The parties that are supporting constitution amendment, therefore, should continuously work to garner two-third majority without prejudice toward any party. We believe that Nepali Congress (NC) and CPN (Maoist Center) that lead the ruling coalition are making honest efforts to that end. RJP itself also has not criticized their efforts.

RJP has demanded immediate addition of local units in Madhes as the main condition to participate in the election. The Cabinet had already taken a decision to add the number of local units. But the Supreme Court (SC) blocked the decision through an interim order. The government has already filed an application at the SC for vacation challenging the interim order.

The SC’s order can be criticized but it must be honored in a democracy. But RJP has taken the decision of boycotting election by rejecting the SC order. It has announced protest programs including general strike with an objective of disrupting the election.  

This is not just unfair, but also belittles the efforts made within and outside the parliament for constitution amendment. RJP is a small force in the power of balance in the parliament with just 24 seats. But political parties much stronger than RJP have backed its demand of constitution amendment. Almost two-third majority of the parliament, including the largest party, supports the demand of constitution amendment put by the Madhes-based parties including RJP. UML has also stated that discussion on constitution amendment can be held after the election.

We believe that the efforts made by the major parties -- to resolve the issues raised by the minor parties and make the constitution acceptable to all -- as per the spirit of democracy are significant.

We live at a time when even some matured democracies have gone astray. Some of them have witnessed bitterness between and betwixt the ruling parties and the opposition to an extent that prevented dialogue, support and cooperation. India, which is touted as the largest democracy, the United States of America and the United Kingdom are the burning examples.

The efforts that our parties make for dialogue and the agreement that they forge at the last minute, notwithstanding the plethora of shortcomings, are our priceless assets. We all need to acknowledge this. It may take some time but we believe that the constitution will be amended. The number of local units in Madhes will be increased by the next elections even if this does not happen now.

That is why we again urge RJP to give up its hauteur.

We have been making it clear from the very beginning that the local elections should not be halted. Even if RJP fails to exhibit its wisdom and does not take part in the election withdrawing its agitation by June 16 -- the deadline for candidacy filing, the election should be conducted on June 28 as scheduled. RJP, which has cast votes in the formation of new government at the center, has no moral grounds to prevent the election being held to choose the local governments. RJP certainly is acquainted with the fact that corruption is rife and development works are stalled in the local levels in the absence of elected local government.

We have no doubt that RJP won't be able to obstruct the election if all major parties and other Madhesi parties opt for it. If election is held with RJP boycotting it, then it is certain that the party's political existence will be threatened and it won't get a chance to justify missing this historical opportunity. What will RPP say at that time?

Will it say the major parties betrayed and did not keep their promise on the issue of constitution amendment? Who will believe were RJP, that has not said so even now, to say so in the future? Can it say the government should have added the number of local units irrespective of the SC verdict?

RJP, that has been making a suicidal move, should forget its momentary rage and grievances for a moment and ask itself how rational its reasons for boycott of the election are.

The history will judge more on the facts than the rage of any person or group. The RJP decision to disrupt the election will not be justified then.  



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