KATHMANDU, June 1: The Rastriya Janata Party Nepal (RJPN) on Wednesday called off its protest program which the party had announced last week to disrupt the second phase of the local elections.
RJPN leaders said that the protest was called off due to the change in the elections schedule by the government. The protest program scheduled to last until Friday, the date assigned for the party to file candidacies at the Election Commission.
The second phase of the local elections, which was initially planned for June 14, has been rescheduled for June 28 after the date was revised for a second time in a week on Wednesday.
RJPN leaders said that the protest program was postponed in view of the hardship the people face. They said that the changed election date turned their anti-election protest meaningless. “The protest programs were announced to disrupt the poll campaign and process. With change in elections date, there has been change in election schedule and campaigning by the political parties,” said RJPN leader Mahendra Raya Yadav.
Despite suspending the protest programs, RJPN leaders said there has been no change in its decision to boycott polls. A meeting of RJPN top guns held in the Capital on Wednesday ended with decision to mount additional pressure on the government to fulfill its demands.
“We will decide whether to take part in the elections based on the steps the government takes toward addressing our demands. There hasn't been any change in our decision so far,” said RJPN leader Mahantha Thakur.
Thakur said that the constitution should be amended first if the government is sincere about accommodating us in the polls process. “Most of the leaders in the party think that the constitution amendment bill will never be endorsed if it's not endorsed now. Moreover, it will be difficult for us to justify the Madhes movement, which has already claimed more than 60 lives if we go to the polls under the existing circumstances,” said Thakur.
Not all RJPN leaders share Thakur's views. RJPN leaders who have stood in favor of participating in the election say that a decision to boycott polls looks no less challenging for the party. There is growing internal and external pressure on the party to take part in the polls while keeping the doors open for future agitation. Indian ambassador to Nepal Manjeev Singh Puri has advised the Rastriya Janata Party Nepal (RJPN) to take part in the second phase of the local elections.
The biggest pressure is coming from the local leaders and cadres, who allege that the top leaders have tried to sacrifice their career for personal gain, said an RJPN leader who favors taking part in the elections.
“Boycotting polls might benefit top leaders but it will have adverse impact on the careers of leaders at the grassroots. Many local leaders are already joining other parties to contest the election. If the party doesn't reconsider its decision, there will be more defections,” said the leader, adding that the party, or at least a faction, may decide take part in the elections at the end.