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Did Terai People Need To Punish Madheshi Leaders?

Issue March 2017

Did Terai People Need To Punish Madheshi Leaders?

Siddhi B Ranjitkar


Yes, some Terai political analysts have said because Madheshi leaders have misused the people’s mandate and they have been doing everything possible to mislead the people even now without having the people’s mandate. They have caused the death of more than 60 Terai people due to their so-called political protests they launched erroneously stating they have been doing for the rights of the Terai people. The correct path for them to follow is to grab the opportunity the upcoming elections have given them of going to the people for asking the fresh mandate rather than going after the bait for the amendment to the constitution Prime Minister Prachanda has floated. They might not be able to tear down the Prachanda government, as the RPP is there to prop it up.


In the first general elections held to elect the first Constituent Assembly in 2008, Terai people voted for the Madheshi leaders as the mandate for speaking up for the Terai people but what they did was that the then leader of the United Democratic Madheshi Front (UDMF) Upendra Yadav bought the office of the vice-president for the morally questionable man called Permanda Jha in conjunction with NC and CPN-UML: the two main political parties that had resisted to the demands of the Terai people.


Then, Upendra Yadav formed a government with the Maoists and became the deputy prime minister with the policy of the foreign affairs in 2008. Mr Yadav totally forgot the rights of the Terai people and totally engaged in the foreign affairs and visited foreign countries in other words enjoyed the majestic life as much as possible. He blew up the Madheshi People’s Rights Forum (MPRF) into pieces. He took one piece and later on merged with another party to form a political party called Federal Socialist Forum, Nepal (FSF). Currently, he is the president of this party.


Then, in the second general elections held in 2013 to elect another Constituent Assembly after the first one was dissolved without completing the crafting of a new constitution, the Terai people punished all the so-called Madheshi leaders and their political parties for selling the past mandate for some offices, and voted them out in other words the Madheshi leaders have no mandate to speak for the people. They have only 49 lawmakers in the 601-member parliament today. Then, they have difficulty even to keep their heads above the water. A few Madheshi leaders elected to the CA members have been simply dangling around, as the major political parties were not for listening to them because they did not represent the people in general.


On September 20, 2015 even facing the tragedy of the massive devastating quakes that hit the central Nepal on April 25, 2015, the CA passed the new constitution, and the then president announced the promulgation of the constitution. The three major political parties such as NC, CPN-UML and UCPN-Maoist monopolized the crafting of the new constitution and promulgating it. Naturally, even some rights given to the people in the Interim Constitution of Nepal of 2007 were skipped in the new constitution promulgated in 2015. Madheshi leaders did not participate in passing the new constitution and immediately came out of the CA to burn down the new constitution more than 90 percent of the CA members voted for.


These so-called Madheshi leaders stripped off the people’s mandate have to do something to survive in the politics. So, they went to the Nepal-India border, and shut down the border crossings for the supply trucks coming to Nepal and the export supplies taking to India. They promised the family of anybody losing the life in the protest an amount of NPR 5 million after they would come to power. They went to have the free lunch on the Indian side of the border so generously Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had provided the protestors for enforcing the blockade that Prime Minister Modi denied to impose on Nepal. If he had said that the blockade was his doing then he would need to face the international law that prohibited such thing.


About five months, Nepalese bravely faced the shortage of supplies challenging the Indian stand on not opening the border for the supply trucks coming to Nepal. The international pressure and the determination of the Nepalese forced Modi to change his mind, and opened up the border crossings leaving the poor Madheshi leaders high and dry. They became practically orphans, as they have no people’s mandate and no support of Modi, too.


What to do was the big question nagged the Madheshi leaders. Ultimately, they went to take a shelter in the former chief minister of the Bihar State of Northern India Mr. Laloo Prasad Yadav: once indicted for corruption and then served the jail term in India before again being the railway minister of the central government of India. Laloo deliberately or otherwise have the Madheshi leaders talk to him on camera so that not only the Nepalese but also the whole world could see them.


Laloo knew that these guys have no people’s mandate; he also knew that nobody could do anything politically without the people’s mandate in democracy. He gave the Nepalese leaders the brush-off of their request for his support for them to continue the so-called protest or their movement for the rights of the people. He sent the Madheshi leaders back home even without a lunch. Thus, the Madheshi leaders suffered from the acute humiliation of Laloo.


In Nepal, Madheshi leaders continued to keep their heads above the water making several demands for the Madheshi people whom they did not represent in the parliament. They did not have any hope from the government for keeping their respiration going on when the coalition government KP Oli presided over. So, they wanted Oli to go as soon as possible. They placed their hope on Modi again to do something for removing Oli from the office.


Whether it was due to Modi or somebody else hard to say but Oli had to go in 2016 giving the way for the coalition government of NC, CPN-Maoist-Center, and RPP presided over by Chairman of CPN-Maoist-Center Prachanda. All the Madheshi leaders supported it. By that time, Oli had been very arrogant thinking that the battle Nepalese people had waged against Modi facing the hardship of shortage of daily-need supplies actually he fought and won. Oli as the prime minister was responsible to mitigate the sufferings of the common folks but he did not do rather waited to see how it would come out. Oli also thought that he had so much of the people’s support nobody would topple him from the power.


Oli thought that he had the support of all Nepalese in the battle against Modi, and he was the incarnation of the great 18th century unifier Prithvi Narayan Shah to cut off the nose and ears of anybody that did not follow his stand on not meeting any demand of the Madheshi leaders. Oli and his colleague Jhalanath Khanal even thought of installing the statue of PN Shah on the Chandragiri Hill they erroneously thought Mr. Shah had first time saw the so beautiful Nepal Valley.


After Chairman of Maoist-center Prachanda became the prime minister of the coalition government, Madheshi leaders have some hopes for meeting their demands for making the Madheshi people to have the rights to do whatever they think is good for them. They expanded their demands. They announced that they would not allow the general elections to the local units, then to the provinces, and finally the federal parliament to hold without amending the constitution to suit them. They became the masters of their demands.


The coalition government registered an amendment to the constitution apparently to meet the demands of the Madheshi leaders but they were not happy with the amendment proposal, and the opposition CPN-UML particularly Chairman Oli vowed that he would not let move the amendment proposal even an inch in the parliament. Oli ordered his lawmakers to block the parliamentary proceedings to stop the amendment proposal going anywhere.


Oli’s lawmakers blocked the parliamentary proceedings for the full month stopping any business of the parliament. This was what Oli thought how the democracy to work. Then, after a month, Oli showed his political fatigue and let the parliament run but he continued to say that he would not allow to meet any demand of the Madheshi. As already said Oli thought that he held the sword of PN Shah and with the sword he could stop anybody doing anything against his will.


At the same time, Madheshi leaders incited the Terai people to rise up against the CPN-UML. This time, they did not promise any amount to the family of anybody losing the life in course of the actions. They have to be satisfied with the standard the government has set for the loss of life. At the behest of the leaders, some of the Terai people came out to say that they would not allow CPN-UML leaders to enter Terai. They even held a farewell to the CPN-UML in Terai.


This was surely not tolerable to the man called KP Oli that thought he held the power of the PN Shah. Oli wanted to hold a showdown with the Madheshi leaders. He announced to hold the East-West political campaign starting in the first week of March 2017. He shepherded all CPN-UML leaders and the cadres to Jhapa: the eastern part of Nepal to launch the campaign. They started off the campaign with the good score in Jhapa. They thought that the campaign was working correctly, and they could dictate the people with the PN Shah’s swords in their hands.


However, by the time, they reached Saptari, they faced the incredible stiff resistance from the cadres of the UDMF. Oli retreated from his stand on going ahead with the campaign at the predetermined area and went to the safer place to hold a rally but that did not save him from the onslaught of the NDMF cadres. They were unwavering to scuttle the rally.


UDMF cadres faced the helmeted security forces armed with the hard transparent plastic shields and clubs. The security stopped the forces of the UDMF cadres on the way preventing them from going to foil the CPN-UML rally. The local administration mobilized the security forces from the adjoining districts to beef up the security. The security forces stood as the wall but the UDMF cadres also firm to break up the security wall to go to the CPN-UML rally and halt it.


In a showdown on March 6, 2017, five innocent people lost the lives. The police seeing the uncontrollable mass of the UDMF cadres and learning from the past mistake of not using the live shots then losing the lives of the security forces first opened fire of the tear gas, and then the rubber bullets and finally the live bullets killing three innocent people on the spot and injuring many. Later on, two more died in the hospital while undergoing medical treatment. Then, of course the dead became the martyrs and their families received NPR one million each.


Clearly, CPN-UML leaders lost the balance of mind while UDMF leaders emerged as the winners for the time. After the loss of five lives in Saptari, the CPN-UML leaders except for the Oli came back home in Kathmandu while Oli went to his home district: Jhapa. Probably, Oli went to his quiet home to think coolly what his next move should be. The sword of PN Shah he had held had been in the state of breaking up. However, UDMF leaders had been very happy despite the loss of five lives because they thought that they won the political game played at the cost of the innocent common folks.


Madheshi leaders have threatened the Prachanda government to pull out the support they have given placing the government in the margin. Some coolly thinking Madheshi leaders asked the top Madheshi leaders for some time to see if they could get anything out of the government before taking any drastic actions, as withdrawing the support for the government would lead them to nowhere. So, UDMF leaders gave seven days to the government for thinking over their demand before they would end their support for the government. After the expiry of the deadline, the Madheshi leaders really pulled out the support for the government on March 14, 2017.


By then the prime minister had already brought in the chairman of the unified RPP Mr. Kamal Thapa to the cabinet giving him the deputy prime minister. Prime Minister Prachanda shrewdly and smartly secured the majority votes in the parliament if he needed to face in case of the Madheshi leaders going out of his hands. Prime Minister Prachanda gained the support of 37 lawmakers belonging to the RPP while losing 49 Madheshi lawmakers in the parliament. Madheshi leaders even winning in the showdown again lost the political game making them need to sail on a political boat to the unknown destination.


Prime Minister Prachanda continued to float his bait for Madheshi leaders of meeting their demands. Prachanda seemed to continue to have the indefinite dialogues with the CPN-UML Chairman Oli and then with the Madheshi leaders. Oli was not for any amendment to the constitution. He was so determined that he was sure not to allow the amendment to the constitution even with the two-thirds majority if the government garnered for the amendment.


Deputy Prime Minister Kamal Thapa declared that he would rather quit the office rather than voting for the amendment bill in other words he was for supporting the government to prolong the life of the government in case the Madheshi leaders tried to end it but not for amending the constitution. Kamal Thapa had been a partner of Oli in opposing the demands of the Madheshi leaders in his previous incarnation of deputy prime minister.


For achieving their goal of getting the amendment to the constitution to suit their needs, probably, Madheshi leaders would need to go a long way without the people’s mandate before they really could make it happen. If they correctly understand the people’s mandate is the need for doing anything properly in the democracy they would take up the opportunity of participating in the upcoming general elections to the local governments. They could show the world that they have the people’s votes. Then, they could start changing everything from the grassroots level as the village councils and municipals councils would become the local parliaments that would have the power to formulate laws not going against the constitution.


However, the Nepalese media have it that some Madheshi leaders are against giving the power to the local governments. They want to keep the power with the provinces. Some political analysts have explained that the Madheshi leaders are mostly with the background of landlord in Terai. So, they did not want to lose their authority. Probably, this simple thinking led most of the Madheshi leaders to disagree with passing the district authority to the village and municipal units.


Now, going back to the East-West campaign of the CPN-UML presided over by KP Oli, some political analysts have asked what amount of money KP Oli and his colleagues are spending on this campaign from where they have received the money. They have continued the campaign. They have held rallies in Chitwan and Nepalgunj. They need millions of NPR to keep the cadres active, to run the vehicles including hundreds if not thousands of motorbikes for the travel of leaders and cadres, and to bring people to the rally. All these things cost a lot of money.


Political analysts gave the logical answer to the second question of from where the money came from was that CPN-UML leaders had been in the government, which was surely the means of making money. Recently, the Nepal Electricity Authority revealed that the previous government in other words the government KP Oli presided over for nine months had diverted the major electricity to a few large industries causing the prolonged power outage to the common folks, and other industries and business. While this power diversion to a few industries has caused the tremendous loss to the country in term of not being unable to run the factories, business and household appliances, the concerned minister or ministers must have made humongous gains as the reward those industries receiving the uninterrupted power supply have paid them even when the nation has to live in darkness for most of the hours of the day. So, CPN-UML leaders have no problem of money to hold any rally or to run any campaign.


Leaving aside the East-West campaign of the CPN-UML, Madheshi leaders needed to demonstrate the political maturity participating in the general elections to the local units means the local governments, going to the people and convincing them of what they have been for are really for the benefits of the people, and asking the voters to vote for their agenda is the democratic means for achieving to get their demands met. They need to put their demand for an amendment to the constitution on the ballot and get the mandate for that. Probably, that is the only correct path for everybody to follow particularly for the Madheshi leaders that have lost the people’s mandate in the previous elections. So, they could forget about forcing the amendment to the constitution through any other violent means rather go for the people’s mandate.


Also Madheshi leaders need to forget about preventing the elections to happen, as nobody would be able to stop the general elections schedule for the mid May 2017. So, if the Madheshi leaders did not want to miss the bus on the way to getting the power, they needed to let their cadres and local level leaders to run for the various offices at the grassroots level governments otherwise other political parties would monopolized the local governments leaving the Madheshi leaders high and dry.


March 15, 2017

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