Realpolitik of Local Polls: Threat to Minority Rights

Kundan Kumar
Kundan Kumar

First Madhesh Andolan 2006-7 led to the foundation of safeguarding rights of diverse ethnic minorities oppressed from generations by the Particular ethnic political establishment of Nepal. This revolution which escalated over subordination of minority groups in Madhesh, is often referred to as the milestone which allowed various others historically dominated groups to openly assert for their rights. Madhesh Andolan voiced for inclusive and participatory governance mechanism to incorporate ethnic diversity of Nepal. In the first round of Constituent  assembly election in 2008  Madhesh based political parties gained strong ground and established themselves as a force to be reckoned with. It not only challenged the mono-ethnic hegemony but also established the importance of reconciling with such various ethnic groups within in the power structure of Nepal. This largely opened the door for first ever major political seat for minority in the nation. The first ever Presidential election saw all major political parties nominate Madhesi as their candidate Ram Baran Yadav Madhesi face of Nepali Congress supported by CPN- UML and MJF was competing against Ram Raja Prasad Singh, candidate of Communist party of Nepal Maoist. While the former was elected as first President of Republic of Nepal, it in general reflects to the efforts and effects of Madhesh revolution.

The balance of power within the political system was transforming and this led into speculations that Madhesh in coming days will dominate the political system of the state. However fraction within the major political parties of Madhesh into smaller political units only allowed already powerful forces take advantage of the situation which in turn made Madhesh eventually more vulnerable and politically unstable. Eventually this fissure became a major setback in 2013 constituent assembly election, where Madhesh based parties competed against each other and divided the Madhesi and eventually lost many seats. It should be noted that, under the proportional representation voting, Madheshi Parties did retain their vote percentage i.e. majority of Madheshi voted for the Madhes based parties.Divide and Rule policy of already dominant political parties saw Madhesh fall into disastrous position. The federal structure defined by the constitution 2015 made sure Madhesh initial demand of state based on identity was sidelined. Madhesh province was demarcated with only 8 core districts and cut to size. Opposing the state dictatorial and biased governing mechanism another Madhesh revolution escalated in September 2015 post promulgation of constitution. More than 50 Nepali citizens, most of them Madheshi, have lost their life while many in Madhesh are targeted every day. The current humanitarian crisis in Madhesh is one among many talked about issues around the world. It has allowed many states to openly criticize Nepal for violating Human Rights mechanism. The government decision to conduct local level election has once again raised question over state seriousness over Madhesh demands.

Media has often been biased which has further deteriorated situation. Major Political parties in government have time and again promised amendment in constitution prior to local election in Madhesh but have unfortunately failed to do so. The demand of Madhesh based political parties to formulate election constituencies on the basis of population is minimum to assure their participation in election. Participation in election is equally important for Madhesh based parties but not at the cost of being marginalized. The current situation favors them more than any other political parties within Madhesh.

It remains very interesting to see how things shape up in future when the government has already postponed local elections for the third time in Madhesh. However it will be only against the will of the people, if Madhesh based political parties enter into election without amendment in present constitution. It will not only lead into severe criticism from within the region but will also put in vain all the former efforts to secure rights for the people of Madhesh.

Election symbolizes democratic will and power of the people but only if resources are distributed among all. Madhesh based political parties must remain firm to their stand over participation in election. It will advocate their concern for which they have been constantly fighting for two years. However at the same time one should equally understand the very essence of election within democratic system provided equal opportunity to maximize their regional interest. History suggests Madhesh based political parties can regain their position within the region but for that Madhesh must remain firm and united to their demands.

The realpolitik of  this election is to legitimize the sham-federalism of Nepal, ignore the aspirations the various ethnic groups established by previous revolutions and maintain the status quo.