RJPN under pressure as third phase local poll looms

Published On: August 9, 2017 08:16 AM NPT By: Roshan Sedhai

KATHMANDU, Aug 8: Pressure continues to pile up on the Rastriya Janata Party Nepal (RJPN) leadership to participate in the third phase of local elections even as the party wrapped up a crucial meeting on Tuesday without changing its official stance on poll participation.

Despite three days of intense deliberation, a central working committee meeting of the party ended without taking a concrete decision on the elections.  The meeting was called to hammer out the party’s strategies in the backdrop of the approaching civic polls in Province 2 and resolve the disputes over leadership and organization. A total of 127 local units are scheduled to go to polls on September 18.

After the meeting, RJPN leaders said the party’s official position remains unchanged: that the three point agreement between the Federal Alliance and the ruling alliance should be fulfilled prior to the local elections. 

“The top leaders might change their mind depending on how things unfold in the next few weeks. Until then, we stick to our decision to boycott the polls unless our demands including constitution amendment are met,” said RJPN Vice-chair Brishesh Chandra Lal. He said that the government should put the amendment bill to vote. 

“It’s true that putting the bill to vote does not necessarily guarantee amendment. But the government is using the lack of political consensus as an excuse without even making a sincere attempt. If the bill fails despite sincere attempt by the government, we may change our mind,” said Lal when asked whether the party is ready to accept if the bill fails to garner the required two-thirds votes in parliament. 

RJPN leaders said that the meeting concluded inconclusively after the party presidium was divided over participating in the elections. 

Three leaders in the presidium - Rajendra Mahato, Anil Jha and Raj Kishore Mahato - insisted boycotting the polls unless demands were met. Many central committee leaders maintained the same position. 

But several other leaders including Mahendra Raya Yadav and Sharat Singh Bhandari stood in favor of poll participation. Some leaders warned that another boycott would weaken the party and its agendas. RJPN and some fringe parties in the Federal Alliance had fully boycotted the first phase of the polls and fielded independent candidates in some constituencies in the second phase of the local elections. Many RJPN leaders had later criticized the party presidium saying that the boycott did not serve the larger interests of the party. 

During the meeting, Mahendra Raya Yadav and Bhandari had said that another boycott would be tantamount to a political suicide. They insisted on using the elections while simultaneously pushing the party’s agendas. 

“All know that boycotting the civic polls will push us behind other regional parties which have already decided to go to polls. So there is no alternative to going to polls regardless of what happens to our demands,” said a leader.

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