Nepali Communists against federalism, inclusive state
Monday saw the formation of the Federal Democratic Forum (FDF), an alliance between Madheshi People’s Right Forum (MPRF) and National Madhesh Socialist Party (NMSP) and five other Janajati political forces. Many see the formation of FDF as a response to the Pushpa Kamal Dahal-led Federal Democratic Republican Alliance (FDRA) comprising of UCPN (Maoist) and the Madhesi parties in the ruling coalition. Republica’s Biswas Baral and Gani Ansari sat down with MPRF Chairman Upendra Yadav, a key player in national and Madhesi politics post 2007 Madhesi Uprising, to talk about the new alliance and its future plans.
What is the rationale for the creation of the Federal Democratic Forum?
What the Madhesis, Dalits, Janajatis and other marginalized groups want is social justice. In this day and age, democracy without social justice is meaningless. Only federalism with strong identity component and constitution with federalism and proportional inclusion of all groups at all organs and levels of government can guarantee true representation of the diverse Nepali society. Congress and Communist forces are not capable of leading these agendas. The aim of the new alliance is to bring in one place all the communities that have been historically exploited and discriminated against from east to west, from hills to Tarai plains. We hope to enhance dialogue and cooperation among these oppressed and marginalized groups, with the ultimate goal of creating a national democratic revolutionary party which will consolidate the agenda of a federal democratic republican Nepal.
The Federal Democratic Republican Alliance has also been purportedly created to consolidate the federal agenda. How do you differentiate your alliance from FDRA?
I believe the formation of different alliances is a healthy development. But the sole aim of the Dahal-led alliance is to save the current government. This is evident from the fact that the forces under FDRA are not ideologically united, as it consists of people of all persuasions, from communist extremists to former hardcore royalists. This is a coalition without a core belief and a clear roadmap. On federalism, take my own experience as an active participant in the communist movement. What I learned was that communism and federalism, and communism and inclusiveness, are polls apart. Especially if you talk of the Maoists, they don’t believe in federalism, inclusiveness, pluralism and multiparty democracy. The UCPN (Maoist) is advocating a path it does not believe in. Its ultimate goal is to capture the state and forcefully change the society. Let us be clear: the Maoists are not federalists. From the time of the formation of the Maoist party until the Madhesh Uprising, not a single Maoist document mentions federalism. The Maoists made a cosmetic ideological leap to cash in on the wave of federalism that swept the country during the 2007 Madhesi Uprising.
Do you imply all communist forces in the country are anti-federalists?
For communist forces to adopt the federal agenda, they will have to say they no longer adhere to the doctrines of Marx, Lenin and Mao. But if they abandon these doctrines, will they be communists at all?
If so, can we say FDF will not include any communist force?
Look, there can be agreements to work together on particular issues. But there is no possibility of ideological unification.
What about the other mainstream parties?
You have to understand that Nepali Congress and CPN-UML still believe that federalism was imposed upon them. Madhav Nepal has clearly said that federalism and Constituent Assembly were not UML’s agenda. In this situation the agenda of republicanism, federalism, inclusiveness and secularism cannot be taken ahead by communist forces, a fact which has been proven by the country’s recent past. It is in order to consolidate these agendas that the country needs a new social democratic force.
You said that formation of different alliances is a good thing. But don’t you think alliances will further polarize the fractured Nepali polity?
Instead of different political forces working separately, it’s much better to pool together likeminded forces to push particular agendas. Thus alliances also create an environment for strong articulation of issues and thereby facilitate political negotiations. But look at what is happening now. The NC-UML alliance says there can be no negotiations without government change. But the Maoist-led alliance is in no mood to relinquish government leadership. This has created a state of constitutional and political impasse, which has put the country firmly on the path of failed state. But neither of the two alliances seems interested in the larger political and constitutional issues. All they are concerned about is power. This situation must come to an end. A solution has to be found by following established democratic precedents and moving ahead in an atmosphere of mutual acceptance.
What role will the new alliance play in breaking the current political and constitutional deadlock?
Currently, political forces in the country can be classified under four broad categories. The first category comprises of Madhesis, Dalits, Adivasis and Janajatis. This is a group of ethnic forces. The way the three main political parties are trying to move ahead by ignoring these ethnic forces, the country is sure to meet with a terrible accident. The second group consists of communist forces, which includes UCPN (Maoist), CPN-UML, among others. The third group comprises of democratic forces, including NC. The fourth group comprises of regressive forces, which has started to make its presence felt. In the past, the people fought against the regressive forces and in favor of democratic republican forces, currently represented by the first three groups. Only extensive dialogue and cooperation between these three forces can result in meaningful agreements.
First, there should be an understanding between these pro-republican democratic forces on constitutional matters. Since the dissolved CA had completed 90 percent work on constitution, political parties and constitutional experts should sit together to complete the remaining 10 percent work. If a draft constitution is not prepared on this basis, there is no guarantee that even a new CA will be able to come up with a constitution. Such a draft will have to be circulated among the people and be approved by the newly elected CA cum parliament or parliament.
The FDF concept paper is silent on single- or multi-identity based federalism. The issue of autonomous Madhesh province you have been raising is also not included. Can you tell us why?
We have touched upon principles in our concept paper, not particulars. The principle is that Madhesh and all other provinces should be autonomous. This provision of federal autonomous states has already been included in the Interim Constitution. Now there has to be discussions on the nature and number of provinces by stepping on that provision. Look at the current state structure: Isn’t it a caste-based regime? One or two caste groups have occupied more than 90 percent of positions in bureaucracy, security forces and civil services. Their culture and language are dominant too. On the one hand, you say there are nearly 125 tongues, that there are people from many cultural backgrounds, and these are a source of national pride. On the other hand, the whole state structure is controlled by one or two caste groups. In other words, the current dispensation is a caste-practiced state. First, this state of affairs has to come to an end. Nepal’s multi-nationality and multi-ethnicity character has to reflect in the new constitution. When the center is well represented, the provincial states will naturally be inclusive. State restructuring at its heart should solve the problem of identity crisis of Madhesis, Janajatis and other marginalized groups.
Some say the country will break up if all identities are recognized. But if you look at examples from around the world, countries have broken up because they have failed to recognize people’s identity. Take the cases of former USSR, Yugoslavia, Sri Lanka or Rwanda. We have to learn lessons from them that neglecting the question of identity always backfires.
The FDF concept paper provisions for federal states with the right to self-determination and self-autonomy. Could you elaborate?
What we are saying is that the state should implement the UN covenant on the right to self-determination, to which it is a signatory. The right to self-determination is a fundamental right of all people; no state can deny it. Nepalis have not been asking for the right to self-determination as defined by Lenin, whereby a province has the right to secede. What they are asking for is the right of a people to decide their own future. We also want self-autonomous states as in the US, Canada, Brazil, the UAE and Switzerland. Each state has its own executive, legislature and judiciary and its own laws, but all of them cooperate at the center.
What is the immediate roadmap of the FDF alliance?
We have a two-pronged strategy. First, we will work to find solutions to pressing national problems. Second, we will look to add to our strength by bringing into our fold the political strengths of oppressed and marginalized sections from the mountain, hill and plain regions. The current alliance is only a starting point. We will continue adding to its strength until we come to a point where a new party can be formed from among like-minded political forces under the FDF umbrella.
If we look at the history of political alliances in Nepal, such alliances soon break down. If they don’t, they fail to honor their agenda. For instance, the FDRA was formed with a four-point understanding between the Maoists and the Madhesi parties. But none of the four-point agenda has been honored. How will FDF be any different?
The participants in the ruling coalition didn’t ink the four-point deal with a view to implementing it. This deal was only a means to power. It is true that even in the past there have been many unsuccessful alliances, but we believe we should move ahead by learning the right lessons from past failures.