In a televised address to the nation on Tuesday, Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal urged the Madhesi people to express their grievances through the ballot box. Umesh Sah Kanu (pictured above) was watching the speech live in his Birganj sweet shop, and said it was “just sweet talk”.
Kanu says he is not sure if he will vote in local elections on 14 May if Madhesi parties boycott it. However, he does not support another agitation. The last one last year ruined his business.
Back in Kathmandu, talks between the government and the Madhesi Front were deadlocked again on Wednesday. Tarai-centric parties renewed threats to disrupt elections in the plains if the constitution is not amended first.
Birganj professor Lalan Dubedi says: “The common people here are not that concerned about the amendment. But they will not vote if there is fear of violence.”
In Janakpur, Prof Surendra Labh says it was never about the amendment or constitution. “Madhesis feel they are discriminated by the state, and the government made it worse by not including enough Madhesis in recent appointments of judges and ambassadors.”
Labh feels Madhesi parties need a face-saver to agree to elections: “If the statute is amended, they can go triumphantly to their constituencies, but whether that will address problems plaguing the plains is another issue.”
So far, the Madhesi parties are staying firm even though there is no way the proposed amendment will get a two-thirds vote in Parliament because the UML, RPP and MJF (D) are all against it for different reasons.
RPP Chair Kamal Thapa told PM Dahal his party will not support the amendment. Dahal then asked Madhesi leaders to put the amendment bill on hold and vote on it after local elections in May. Madhesi leaders refused.
“The amendment is just an excuse to avoid elections,” says UML Chief Whip Bhanubhakta Dhakal. “Madhesi parties will find another excuse if the Constitution is amended. There should be elections with or without them.”
Former PM Baburam Bhattarai’s Naya Shakti party is also opposed to elections, and wants an all-party government. He is now competing for the same constituency with the Sajha Party launched by journalist Rabindra Mishra this week.
Surendra Labh in Janakpur sums it up: “Elections can take place without the Madhesi parties. That may end the constitutional transition, but it will prolong the political transition.”
Published on – Nepali TImes March 2, 2017