The process of making public the results of the elections to the Member of the House of Representatives (HoR) and provincial assemblies (PAs) is in the final stage. These elections were held for the second terms of the second House of representatives and provincial assemblies after the promulgation of the Constitution of Nepal 2015. The elections to the HoR and PAs were held simultaneously across the country on November 20. It is now clear that 12 political parties will be represented in the federal parliament under the first-past-the-post (FPTP) election system and seven under the proportional representation electoral system. With the result announcement process by the Election Commission almost in the final stage, the parties have begun assessing the number of seats won by them and also started intensive talks and dialogue for the formation of a new government. One of the two new parties to be present in parliament in the capacity of national party is the Janamat Party led by Chandra Kanta (CK) Raut.
In the past, Raut led a secessionist movement in Nepal’s Terai-Madhes and was a part of underground politics in the country. Later he renounced his secessionist agenda and joined the political mainstream at the initiative of the then government led by KP Oli. In the recently concluded elections, the Janamat Party has emerged as a rising alternative political force in Madhes Province. It won one seat in the HoR under the FPTP system and secured 394,516 votes under the proportional representation system. The party fought the election with 'the loudspeaker' symbol. Janamat Party's Chairman Raut defeated veteran Madhesh-based politician Upendra Yadav, the chairperson of Janata Samajbadi Party, to win the HoR seat from Saptari-2. Born in the Mahadeva village of Saptari district, Raut is an engineer by profession. He says the people have trusted the Janamat Party and through the election have endorsed the issues related to health, education, good governance and farmers which the party has been raising. Raut has already met the leaders of the major political parties including Prime Minister and Nepali Congress President Sher Bahadur Deuba and CPN (Maoist Center) Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal and has expressed his will to help form a coalition government. Excerpts:
Q: How do you take the recently-held elections?
Answer. An election is a democratic process. I am very happy to have taken part in it and get public support. This is a formal means for acquiring public support. Whether or not our agendas have been approved by the people has been tested through this election. I am delighted that the people have expressed their opinion strongly by trusting us.
Q: The time when you started your political career and the present situation are not the same. How do you assess it?
A: In the past, we were not in the mainstream of politics. We had no ground to test our presence in the political sphere. We would organize public events, but had no indicator to measure the scale of public support. We would frequently face interventions from the government. Now we are in the mainstream of politics and have found a ground to exercise politics openly. We, through the elections, reached the people with the party’s agendas and got them endorsed. We are heading to the place where we are mandated to get our agendas endorsed.
Q: How do you feel about joining the mainstream of politics?
A: With the election, we are in open politics and are entrusted with establishing deeper ties with the people and realizing their issues more closely. This is one of the major differences we feel at the moment. We have totally exercised the rights granted by the State and the Constitution.
Q: As your maiden participation in the election, what do you think the people think about your party and what are their expectations?
A: We have realized that people are positive about our agendas which are not merely political as brought forth by other political parties. We have raised the issues of education, health and employment which were not the priorities of other political parties. In addition, corruption prevention, promotion of good governance and the issues of farmers were our election agenda and people have owned it, expressing high trust in the Janamat Party.
Q: Now your party is mandated by the people to play a role in the legislature. At the same time, the people expect you to facilitate their other needs such as health, education, irrigation and so on. How would you balance it?
A: This is the mass understating, but first of all, we should be clear that the function of parliament is not limited to the formulation of laws. It is also the place for holding in-depth discussions about the government’s policies and programs and the budget and determining them based on the needs of the people. This is the place for endorsing the government’s policies and programs. Still many school age children are out of school, farmers are clamoring for seeds and fertilizer. We will utilize this opportunity to raise voices for a national literacy campaign for children and smooth supply of fertilizers to the farmers. Parliament is the first place for recognizing the voices of the people’s representatives.
Q. How do you analyze the election results, the possibility of the formation of a coalition government and the suspicion of political instability? What is the role of your party in forming the next government?
A. We did see a two-thirds majority government in the past. It is not that a two-thirds majority government will be stable. Neither is it that the majority government brings political stability. Now, no party has acquired a majority. It has a positive side; this has barred a particular party from being egoistic. This has given a message that all should move ahead together by accommodating the voices and issues of all.
People have stressed the need for coordination and cooperation. The main point is intention. A political party and a leader with good intentions can go for long terms. Seats won by the Janamat Party have been a decision at present. We will play a decisive role in forming a majority government through parliament. The situation is such that governments in some provinces cannot be formed without the support of our party. We will lend our support to those who pledge to implement our issues including education, health and employment opportunities for the people.
Q. What is your message to other political parties and voters?
A. What I tell other political parties is that I would like to thank them for whatever took place and what they did in the past. They should embrace the message the people have given through the polls for positive changes. Otherwise, the people's revolt and disgust towards the political parties will grow. Now is the time for correction. We all must appreciate the people's mandate. We must move ahead focusing on service delivery and people's demands and issues. We must commit ourselves to their service. On their part, the people should continuously caution and make the politicians alert.
Q. What will be your first agenda upon entering parliament and after joining the government?
A. Our focus will be on service delivery to the people. At present, unemployment is a major problem. Thousands of youths are forced to go abroad for job opportunities. Employment opportunities should be created within the country. Increasing literacy rate, making health services accessible and quality, maintaining good governance, controlling corruption and ending dilly-dallying in service delivery are among our prime priorities. We will take initiatives for implementing them.
Q. You have risen as an alternative force in Madhesh. In this situation, what is your plan for cooperation with other forces in Madhesh?
A. There may be cooperation with anyone. The people's mandate given to us alone is not decisive. Cooperation with anyone is needed to form a government. So, there will always be possibilities for cooperation with anyone. The main issue is that our demands and issues should be taken positively. We have been here not just to become ministers and become a part of the government. An environment conducive should be created for us to work for the people. Even now, the people should not be kept in an illusion. A way out must be sought.