Continued uncertaintyRecent incidents have yet again exposed Nepali society’s vulnerability to conflict
Two fateful incidents over the past week—one in the East and another in the Far West—punctured the veneer of the perceived political calm and peace in the country, exposing the fact that Nepali society continues to be vulnerable to conflict.
Police firings at Maleth in Saptari on March 6 led to the death of five supporters of the Madhesi Morcha, which is protesting against the CPN-UML’s get-out-the-vote rally. Three days later, a Kanchanpur local died when Indian security forces opened fire on Nepalis during an altercation over the construction of a culvert in Punarbas of the district.
The Maleth incident has further alienated the Madhesi population. The UML, on the other hand, appears to have only hardened its nationalistic position. In an incident that drew widespread public condemnation, the Indian Sashastra Seema Bal firing in Kanchanpur gave further ammunition to the UML to amplify its anti-India rhetoric. In addition, the incident has yet again wrong-footed India, the Morcha’s perceived patron.
Against this backdrop, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Home Affairs Bimalendra Nidhi is currently in New Delhi. Reports suggest that Indian leaders have conveyed their message to Nidhi that Nepal should accommodate all forces as the country heads to polls—a position maintained by New Delhi since the constitution’s promulgation in 2015. India has not made public its official position on Nepal’s announcement to go for local level polls on May 14.
With PM Dahal finding himself caught between a rock and a hard place—the Morcha on one side and the UML on the other—politics is in a deadlock. The UML, which continues to sit on the laurels of its position against the undeclared border blockade and its efforts to take Nepal’s relations to China forward, is in no mood to relent on its stance that the constitution amendment bill is against national interest. The Morcha, meanwhile, continues to insist that no amendment means no polls.
Given that the polls have been declared and that the country has a constitutional obligation to hold three sets of them by January next year, the need for the May 14 elections is urgent. We have also consistently argued that the absence of local bodies for nearly two decades has given way to “syndicate politics”, where unelected representatives of major parties and their local agents have taken over the local governance.
Until differences with the Madhes-based parties are ironed out, the country stares at another cycle of conflict and political uncertainty. The onus lies on the parties and top leadership to find common ground by displaying flexibility so as to make the much-needed local level elections possible. For his part, Nidhi could lodge a strong protest against the SSB firing in Kanchanpur while he is in Delhi.