UPENDRA YADAV, former foreign minister and president of Madheshi Janaadhikar Forum, is trying to do balanced politics. Following a split, the party has been reduced in its size and role. Yet, MJF is a force to reckon with. The budget episode gave a context in which Yadav spoke to NEW SPOTLIGHT in his party’s parliamentary office. Excerpts:
How do you describe the present political crisis?
The present crisis is the result of distrust and mistrust among the country’s three major political parties, namely, UCPN-Maoist, Nepali Congress and CPN-UML. Nepali Congress and CPN-UML consider UCPN-Maoist as a party with arms in its hands and Maoists consider Nepali Congress and UML as parties eager to suppress them at any time, once they disarm.
But Maoist leader Prachanda has been saying that it is the foreign elements, particularly India, which does not want Maoists in the government? How do you look at this?
There is some truth in Prachanda’s statement. However, India is not the only factor now .There are several foreign actors working in the country -- some in disguise of INGOs and some in others. For instance, some INGOs have been taking extra initiative in the constitution making process. They are sending our CA members abroad and supporting various local NGOs to hold the conference, training and other such things. This way they have been making the situation complicated. I don’t mean that all INGOs have been doing this kind of thing. Some are very supportive also.
Do you believe India can change the situation?
Being a close neighbor with so many commonalities with Nepal’s social, political, religious, cultural and geographical aspects, India can make a difference in the present situation. India helped us to settle the 10-year long violent insurgency, just within a couple of days.
How can India make the difference?
As all of us know how India helped in forging the 12-points agreement between seven political parties and Maoists. Thanks to that agreement, the present change was possible. If India takes initiatives like in 2005, Nepal’s problems will be solved in an hour. If India positively supports us, nothing is impossible in Nepal.
Your statement indicates that India has a major influence in Nepal’s political parties. Does it not?
Not only in political parties, India’s influence is there in all aspects of Nepal’s life. Whether one terms it fortunate or unfortunate, this is Nepal’s reality. From centuries, India has influenced Nepal. There are many reasons behind it. Nepal’s geography is a major factor. Economic dependence, cultural and religious commonalities, open border and social relations all are there. We have very close interactions with India. One cannot break this relation. This is the reality of Nepal.
How do you look at the influences?
We can also use this influence in the broader context of national interest. For our economic prosperity, we need India’s support and cooperation. We can use this influence in this direction. India is going to be economic super power and we can get a lot of benefits from it. It will be positive. Even our other neighbor China has made big economic progress; we also need to tap this for the benefits of the country. If we try to use these influences for the petty interest of particular political parties, that will be a disaster for all of us.
How much do you blame political leadership for the present political scenario?
Yes it is very weak. We have a tendency in Nepal that one needs foreign backing to continue in power and they ask external powers to be in power. From elections to formation of government, there is a tendency to seek support from external powers. Nepal’s political leadership and mentality is so poor that we knock the doors of external power to be in the leadership of party. Since our leadership quality is so weak and greedy that they can sacrifice everything at the cost of power. In this scenario, it is natural for Nepalese people to face this kind of hardship.
If there is a widespread involvement of external elements in Nepali politics, what needs to be done?
First of all we need to develop economic, political and institutional strengths. Without such capabilities, it is impossible to reduce the foreign influence. Another important thing is the quality of political leadership. If we have a leader who always works in keeping with the interest of the country, we will find a respite.
Maoists are demanding to sign a new agreement replacing the 12-points agreement. How do you look at this?
If you are unable to fulfill commitments and follow the road map of earlier agreement like that of the 12-points agreement, I don’t think there is any meaning to sign another agreement. As per the 12-points agreement, Maoists should have completed the integration of their combatants and other parties should have supported framing the new constitution. Nothing is happening.
Your comments justify Maoists argument that India is meddling in Nepalese politics. Don’t they?
Since the time of Prithvinarayan Shah to now, India has remained a strong factor in Nepal’s politics. India played key roles in 1951, 1990 and 2006-07. No one can deny it.
If that is so, why are Maoist leaders, including Prachanda, harping on a tune against India’s interference?
This is a typical communist mentality. All Nepalese politicians follow a similar trend, like Maoists. If India backs them to go to power, they don’t mind to hail its role as supportive to uphold the democratic value. Once they are out of power, they criticize and even condemn India.
It means UCPN-Maoist and Prachanda’s relations with India are not good?
I don’t think so. India cannot ignore UCPN-Maoist party as Maoist is the largest party of the Constituent Assembly. This is the reason Indians are giving due recognition to CPN-Maoist party despite their anti-Indian slogans.
UCPN-Maoist leaders said that they were out of power because of India. What do you say?
We cannot cover our own weakness by criticizing others. If we unite, we can form the government on our own. The problem with our local leaders including Maoists is that they don’t see their national interest first but what they care more is personal interest. If Maoist can make alliance with other parties, no one can stop them from forming the government.
What do you think is a stumbling block for Maoists to form the government?
If Maoists are honest, they should support the process of integration of their combatants. Maoist leaders, including Prachanda, should stick to words and commitments they made. If Maoist frequently changed their stands and words, they will lose their credibility and trustworthiness. Maoists need to show that they are a political party not an armed group.
How can you solve the present problems?
There is need of coordination, cooperation and harmonious relations among the country’s major political parties. If they continue to have this kind of situation, the country will go to conflict again. This is not the interest of anybody. We don’t have other alternatives than to have compromise and consensus. If there is a conflict again, the country will have to pay a high price and people will suffer. Even after that they have to come to negotiations table for the solution. The road to conflict is a long and tedious road.
What role have Madheshbadi parties been playing?
Frankly speaking, we have a little role but it is the country’s three main parties, UCPN-Maoist, Nepali Congress and CPN-UML , which will determine the course of politics. Only common agreement among them is to deny the rights of Madhesh. Madhesh based parties have already tendered their demands to three parties. Our first demand is to settle the differences in constitution writing through discussions, second to prepare a working plan to lead the peace process to a logical end. The third is the need of a consensus government. If we want to write the new constitution by May 2011, we must form a consensus, an all-party government. We need to have a government to write the new constitution and to bring the peace process to a logical end.
As all parties are demanding prime ministership, what suggestions do you have?
First of all, we need to decide who is going to lead the government. We can divide portfolios on the basis of the percentage of vote we secured in the CA elections. Political parties agree to form such governments but they fail to implement it. This is because of mistrust and misunderstanding.
How possible do you see it is to bring the constitution by May 2011?
If the situation continues like this, I don’t think we can produce the new constitution. The need of the time is to form the consensus government. There cannot be a party in opposition and others in the government.
How does your party view the recent Maoist act in the Legislature-Parliament?
We oppose both the moves. Presenting the full budget by the caretaker government was itself an unconstitutional act. Similarly, it was anti-parliamentary practice to manhandle CA members by Maoists. We condemn the Maoist act.