RJP-N ups ante, says it will disrupt pollsBack-to-back negotiations between the governing alliance and the Rastriya Janata Party-Nepal (RJP-N) broke down on Sunday following which the agitating party, under the banner of the Sanghiya Gathabandhan, later in the day decided not only to revive but scale up its protests, aiming to disrupt the second phase of local polls scheduled for June 28.
Back-to-back negotiations between the governing alliance and the Rastriya Janata Party-Nepal (RJP-N) broke down on Sunday following which the agitating party, under the banner of the Sanghiya Gathabandhan, later in the day decided not only to revive but scale up its protests, aiming to disrupt the second phase of local polls scheduled for June 28.
The RJP-N, a unified force of six Madhes-based parties, is leading the Sanghiya Gathabandhan which also includes Janajati forces.
On Saturday, the ruling Nepali Congress-Maoist Centre alliance rejected the RJP-N’s proposal to delay polls by a few days.
“We have decided to launch fresh protests on Monday as talks have failed,” said Mahantha Thakur of the RJP-N, who is also leading the Gathabandhan, at a press meet organised to make public the protest programmes.
The RJP-N has maintained that the governing parties failed to translate their promise to amend the constitution before the second phase of polls into action. “The Gathabandhan is forced to resort to protests as the government failed to address our concerns despite our repeated requests and a series of negotiations,” said Thakur.
Besides constitution amendment, the RJP-N has also demanded that its cadres who were detained and who have been facing various charges in relation to Madhes and Tharuhat movements be released. The RJP-N has also made increasing the number of local units a precondition for participating in the polls.
The government on its part has requested the Supreme Court to vacate its stay order against the move to increase number of local units, amended the Local Level Election Act-2017 and the Act Related to Political Parties-2017 in what it calls its bid to facilitate the RJP-N’s participation in the polls.
“But the initiatives taken by the government are yet to be implemented,” said Thakur.
With the RJP-N’s protest announcement, clouds of uncertainty are again hanging over the second phase of polls. Speculations are also rife that the government might hold the polls on the scheduled date of June 28 even if the agitating parties refuse to participate.
This could, some fear, stoke violence. As part of its protest programmes, the Gathabandhan has announced torch rallies to general strikes.
It has said it will padlock election offices on June 16, the day parties are to file nominations, and enforce indefinite general strikes from June 24, with an aim to foil the June 28 elections.
On Sunday itself, there were sporadic incidents of scuffle in some eastern Tarai districts.
“The government has invited violence in Madhes,” said Keshav Jha of the RJP-N.
Amid concerns of violence in the Tarai districts in the wake of RJP-N’s hardened position, especially following the breakdown of Sunday’s talks, Minister for Home Affairs Janardan Sharma said the protest announcement came just as the government was “working to fulfil the agitating parties’ concerns gradually”. “It is surprising,” he said.
Asked whether the RJP-N has completely got into protest mode, one of its leaders, Rajkishor Yadav, said, “We have not closed the door for talks completely.” “What we mean is we don’t want to engage in unproductive talks anymore,” said Yadav.
June 12 Torch Rallies at district headquarters
June 13-16 Strikes in Tarai districts and eastern Hills
June 16 Padlocking election offices, lathi rallies
June 19 Lathi rallies at district headquarters
June 24 Indefinite general strikes with an aim to foil elections