Monday, September 25, 2017
KATHMANDU: In Nepal, the police recently arrested a prominent Madhesi leader Dr Chandra Kant Raut a.k.a. CK Raut allegedly for ‘involvement in organized crime against the state’. Although this is not the first time that Dr Raut has been taken into custody under such a charge, it is however interesting to see Prachanda’s government behind this action.
Dr Raut, in the recent past, had praised Prachanda as a ‘true leader’ and enthusiastically supported replacement of KP Oli led government with that of Prachanda. He believed that with Prachanda at the helm, the negotiation with the government on Madhesi issues would make more headway.
That said, Prachanda’s government did take measures to address the demands of the agitating Madhesi people. It even tried to register a constitution amendment bill on citizenship and boundary demarcation issues which are at the heart of the agitation. Last year, Prachanda’s party withdrew its support from KP Oli government charging it of failing on various fronts, including the above.
After the withdrawal, although he became the Prime Minister, Prachanda’s image suffered a serious dent. He was blamed of playing into India’s hand and compromising on issues of national interest. That said, his government nevertheless looked strong. However, the decision to arrest CK Raut raises several questions:
Firstly, it suggests that Prachanda’s government is about to collapse. Without this fear in mind he wouldn’t have taken such a hasty step. After this, if his government falls he would like to be seen as a martyr as he did during his first tenure as the Prime Minister in 2008 when he resigned after he failed to get support from the then-President and his coalition partner ULM against then-Army Chief General Rookmangud Katawal who thwarted several government decisions. Now, again his government has failed to deliver almost all the promises it had made when it came to power. The frustration with the government is swelling and even India doesn’t look satisfied with its performance.
Secondly, CK Raut’s sudden arrest suggests that Prachanda is readying himself for the upcoming elections, local as well as general. With this he tends to show himself as a leader who is not afraid of antagonizing India. Ever since his government took over, he is being blamed of working on India’s behest. For the last two decades, since 1996, Prachanda has cultivated his image as an uncompromising nationalist leader. But in his earnest to become Prime Minister he repeatedly took steps which went against that image. This led to several splits in his own party. So it looks that with this decision he wants to reclaim his image which in recent months has been taken over by his rival KP Oli.
Thirdly, the arrest also hints that Prachanda’s honeymoon with the South Block has ended. India supported replacement of KP Oli government with that of Prachanda because it believed that Oli was a threat to its interest and that he was leading Nepal China’s way. India believed that the new government would undo Oli’s decisions. The Oli government signed several agreements with the China government and, even if just on paper, did end India’s monopoly in various sectors including oil and power. But after six months in power Prachanda has nothing to show.
Additionally, according to the compromised deal with the Nepali Congress Prachanda has to step down after nine months. So there is fear that when the time comes, he will have nothing to show for his achievements to his supporters and hencem will not be able to present his case strongly during elections.
Further, if there is any ‘hidden’ reason apart from those mentioned above behind Prachanda’s move then it doesn’t bode well for Nepal’s future. For if under pressure from Madheshi leaders, who are currently in negotiation with the government, Prachanda has decided to bypass them by making a hero of CK Raut then he is doing so at his own as well as the country’s peril.
At present, CK Raut is just a political figure without a large mass base. He is only good for making provocative claims time to time demanding secession of Tarai (Plain) from Nepal. Currently there are three visible leaders of Madhesh who have following amongst the Madheshi population. They are Upendra Yadav, Rajendra Mahato and Mahanth Thakur. And if they are neglected or superseded then there is every chance that Nepal might witness the rise of its Bhindranwale.