-Deuba requests RJPN leaders to take part in polls
-RJPN says participation impossible until demands are met
-NC rejects proposal to defer polls yet again
KATHMANDU, June 11: Three-way talks between Nepali Congress, CPN (Maoist Center) and the Rastriya Janata Party Nepal (RJPN) to resolve the longstanding stalemate over local polls ended inconclusively Saturday after RJPN leaders rejected a request to take part in the second phase local elections under the existing circumstances.
RJPN's fresh rejection come as a major setback to Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba, who was elected just a week earlier with a near two-thirds majority vote including the votes of RJPN lawmakers.
Deuba had summoned the party leaders for talks in the hope of bringing the agitating parties on board and ending uncertainty over the second phase local elections slated for June 28.
However, RJPN leaders, who have been threatening to boycott the polls, insisted that at least some of their demands should be met if they are to participate.
During the meeting, PM Deuba requested RJPN to take part in the elections, setting the existing differences aside. Deuba said his government would gradually fulfill all the demands of the agitating parties, but did not give any clear timeline.
“We have already done what was doable. It's not possible to meet the other demands due to time constraints and lack of political consensus. I want to clarify that I will take concrete steps for constitution amendment once the local polls conclude,” Deuba told RJPN leaders, according to those present in the meeting.
Though RJPN leaders hinted at settling for constitution amendment after the polls, they said their other demands including non-political ones should be fulfilled to give them a reason to go to the polls. RJPN has called for en masse release of their protesters who are currently behind bars, withdrawal of criminal charges against those facing trial in connection with the killing of on-duty police officials, declaration of martyrdom for those killed in protests, and monetary relief for their kin. They have also demanded increase in the number of local units before the elections.
The RJPN said that the government should be ready to postpone the elections once again if it feels time constraints.
“If there are time constraints, the polls should be postponed, but the government should do more to address our concerns. We won't contest the elections under the present situation,” said RJPN coordinator Mahantha Thakur, according to party leaders.
RJPN Vice Chairman Brishesh Chandra Lal told Republica that the party plans to resume protests to disrupt the election activities if the government goes for polls without meeting their demands.
“We will oppose the polls forcefully if our demands including constitution amendment are not met. RJPN will appeal to the public for civil disobedience,” said Lal.
He said the RJPN will make its official stance public after a meeting with other allies in the Federal Alliance.
It's too early to tell whether the RJPN will stick to its current stance as negotiations are still in progress. If it does, it is likely to pose some challenges to the EC in holding free and fair elections, at least in some districts of the central tarai.
Leaders of rival Madhes-based parties who have already decided to go to the polls claim that RJPN's boycott threat is mere an attempt to cash in on public sentiment. They said that the party or at least some factions will join the polls.
Unlike RJPN, the Upendra Yadav-led Federal Socialist Forum Nepal and the Bijaya Kumar Gachchhadar-led Nepal Loktantrik Forum are currently campaigning for the polls.
Education Minister Gopal Man Shrestha, a NC leader close to Deuba, told Republica that the government has no intention of postponing the polls again. He said that the government has already done whatever possible.
“We postponed the polls and changed the law through fast track after they sought enough time to get registered with the EC. Other demands cannot be fulfilled right now,” said Shrestha.
NC leaders said that they would continue to engage with RJPN leaders to reach a consensus.
“They (RJPN leaders) also understand that it is not easy to boycott polls as other parties have already joined the polls. The prospect of consensus has not yet ended,” said an NC leader.