India says Madhesi leaders should join Nepal polls
Many believe New Delhi wields influence over Madhesi leaders because of the geographical proximity of the Terai region. India also has a stake in desiring political stability in the Terai because of the open border between the two countries.world Updated: May 30, 2017 19:37 IST
A day after the Nepal government deferred polls to local bodies by a week, Indian ambassador Manjeev Singh Puri met top Madhesi leaders on Tuesday and took stock of the political situation.
Media reports in Kathmandu said the Indian envoy insisted the Madhesi leaders, who recently formed the Rastriya Janata Party Nepal (RJPN), should join the elections now scheduled for June 23.
The Madhesi leaders appraised Puri about the ground realities and their conditions for joining the polls during the meeting held at the Indian embassy.
Puri discussed the new political situation after the Nepal government’s decision on Monday to defer the polls to ensure the participation of the Madhesi parties, Madhesi leaders and Indian embassy officials said.
Puri reportedly said there was a slim chance of amending Nepal’s new Constitution, as demanded by the RJPN, and urged the Madhesi leaders to focus on polls rather than resorting to protests.
“Being the largest democracy, India cannot oppose the elections but it is their call whether to take part in the elections or not,” an Indian diplomat said on condition of anonymity. The Madhesi leaders told the Indian side that they were waiting for the government’s response to their demands, the diplomat added.
RJPN chairman Mahantha Thakur, Sharad Singh Bhandari, Rajendra Mahato and Anil Jha were among the leaders who attended the meeting.
India’s policy towards Madhes has reportedly changed and New Delhi has nudged the leaders to join the elections. The Madhes-based parties, however, are divided over participating in elections to local government bodies, which are being held after two decades.
Many in Kathmandu believe New Delhi wields considerable influence over the Madhesi leaders because of the geographical proximity of the Terai region. India also has a stake in desiring political stability in the Terai because of the open border between the two countries.
India has suggested that Madhesi leaders could consolidate the gains they have made by uniting on a common platform by joining the electoral process. Other forces could take the political advantage if the Madhesis insisted on boycotting the polls.
The Madhesis have called for the new Constitution to be amended to give them a fair share in an inclusive state.
“Though we are interested to join the polls, without full assurance and action that the government is going to address our demands, it is impossible for us to contest the elections,” said Sharad Singh Bhandari, a prominent Madhesi leader.