By Pushpa Raj Pradhan
After talks with the government on Sunday afternoon, the Rastriya Janata Party (RJP) announced its agitation programmes, instead of participating in the 28 June elections. When different rounds of talks with the government failed, RJP was compelled to announce thyat it will not only boycott the local elections, but also obstruct the government attempts in holding elections on 28 June.
The government, to develop an environment for RJP’s participation, had postponed the election date set for 14 June. In its latest effort, the government has amended the Election Law 2016 by giving time to RJP to register the party at the Election Commission and also its election symbol. Furthermore, the government had already decided to add the number of local bodies from the existing 744 to 766. Against the government decision, the Supreme Court had given an interim order stating that as the second phase of election date has already been set, until the final hearing, the government should not implement its decision of increasing the number of local bodies. When the RJP took the stance for increasing the number of the local bodies on the basis of population, the government, on 11 June, appealed to the SC to return its previous decision. The RJP has demanded for increasing the number of local bodies before the 28 June elections. Furthermore, RJP wants amendment of the constitution even by postponing the second phase of election and also declaration of martyrs and compensation for those who were killed in the Tarai agitation and also medical expenses for those who have been wounded in the past agitations.
If the SC will allow the government to implement its decision for increasing the number of local bodies, the election commission will have to print another ballot paper in the districts where the local bodies have been increased. Also, the Commission has to reschedule the voter list on the basis of their changed address. Can the Commission manage these works before the 28 June elections, it is doubtful.
RJP leaders are saying that there is no hurry in holding elections without addressing the Tarai issues. The second phase elections date can be postponed if the government really wants to make a success of the second phase elections.
Indeed, June and July are rainy season and it may affect the elections. Therefore, if the 28 June elections is postponed, it may not be possible to hold the local elections before the festivals such as Dasain, Tihar and Chhat. The government is not ready to wait till the last week of October or November for the second phase of the local elections. The government has scheduled to hold provincial and federal parliament elections in November.
In this as-it-is situation, RJP will not take part in the elections, said RJP leaders. However, the government is trying its best to bring the RJP to join the elections. PM Sher Bahadur Deuba has given word to the Madheshi leaders that immediately after the local elections, the government will amend the constitution. Deuba is strongly committed to amend the constitution by managing necessary votes (two-thirds majority). However, due to a constraint in time, the constitution cannot be amended before the 28 June elections. UML leaders are saying that the party can think on amendment of the constitution only after the 28 June elections. RPP is in mood of supporting the constitution amendment motion if it gets DPM and four important portfolios in the government. If RPP will support, the government the government will have to manage some more votes only, which can be managed from the small parties in the Parliament. Therefore, Deuba is confident on the amendment of the constitution even if UML will not cooperate. Earlier, on the voting day for amendment of the constitution, ten members of RPP were absent. However, this time, if such an act is repeated, such RPP MPs will be sacked from the post of MP. According to the law, the party can terminate such MPs permanently.
Election without the participation of RJP could be counter-productive. Therefore, the government is showing maximum flexibility to bring the RJP to join in the elections. On 10 June, the RJP leaders demanded postponement of the 28 June elections to manage time to amend the constitution. However, NC and MC leaders denied to postpone the election.
When RJP saw no chance of amendment of the constitution, it has decided to strongly boycott the 28 June elections. Organizing a press conference on 11 June, RJP announced a violent agitation programme to disrupt the 28 June election by organizing bandhs, strikes, torchlight rally, stick rally, capturing government offices, etc..
Confrontation is likely between the government and the people in the Tarai districts if the government uses force to hold elections. At least, in 11 districts, the election can be affected. Furthermore, such a government move may invite a bloodbath in the Tarai districts.
If the RJP will not participate in the local elections, questions can be created on the legitimacy of the new constitution; validity of the local elections, including the local elections already held
The Tarai agenda will become further strong and the situation in the Tarai districts may become violent.