Prabhu Sah is a central committee member of Nepal Communist Party (NCP) and party President of Province No. 2. Sah was elected to Federal Assembly from Constituency no. 3 of Rautahat district. Sah is the ruling party member at the federal assembly, though, in Province 2, his party is in the opposition.
Out of 7 provinces, NCP is the ruling party in 6 provinces. However, Sah thinks his party is not much weaker in Province no. 2 as well.
With the NCP’s victory at Pipara Rural Municipality formerly won by Rastriya Janasakti Party, Sah claims his party’s influence in the Madhesh is on a rise. Here are the excerpts of the talk Khabarhub had had with Sah on the issues like by-election, Province No.2, federal government’s performance:
Nepal Communist Party had nearly got two-thirds majority in the last election. How do you evaluate your party’s popularity in the last election and the voters’ response in the election held on last Saturday?
I think it’s not the right time to make a judgment about our Nepal Communist Party yet. One should wait for a 5-year tenure to make such judgment. By-election only reflects the mood and the people’s will. Considered that way, our party is becoming more popular than before.
Let me remind you of 2017 held for 753 local levels, CPN-UML had won 295 mayors or chairpersons whereas the then Maoist had won 104 mayors/chairperson making 401 levels in total. That means nearly 53% went to the party. Both party’s won in 442 positions for the deputy mayor. This becomes 58%. Out of 6742 wards, NCP (UML) had won in 2500 wards whereas 1102 seats were claimed by NCP Maoist making a total of 55%.
The election shows that Nepali Congress got only 34% then. In the by-election held recently, out of 52 positions which is more than 60%.
Nepali Congress which had got 34% has shrunk to 25% now. This shows the increasing trend in the election. We need not bother about the present status; rather let Nepali Congress, the main opposition bother about it.
In the by-election, NCP had to face defeat in most of the places it had claimed to be its ‘vote pockets’ e.g. it saw defeat in Bhaktapur and Chitwan, and won only with sympathy votes in Kaski. Nepali Congress seems excited at its success of breaking the ‘Red pockets.’ Only 16% attended the Libang election. How do you take it?
Out of Province Assembly and Federal Assembly, we have won in three positions. So far as the positions, you said, we lost, we need a good critical review, yet in the overall result, we have won in many places.
When you launched an armed rebellion you had a dream, do you stick to it? Is it possible for you to go to the place you started with?
We launched the movement based on the Nepali context, but there were various factors influencing such movements in many ways. We should keep on trying, we should be optimistic. As the people having different opinions and convictions have come to work under one party, it’s natural to have some differences. We are testing various systems and trends. We are optimistic. After the enforcement of the new constitution, federalism, pluralism, and democracy are under implementation.
The incumbent system is not like the one desired by Maoist as we made a compromise through agreement. Hand in hand with other political parties, we made the interim constitution and later the Constitution of Nepal. Our obligation has to be understood. We could not stick to our ideologies alone.
When there is a difference between the leadership and the party guidelines, conflict rifts are the natural results. However, it has to be minimized.
Our dreams then and the reality now seem to be in two extremes, however, if we become more realistic, the changes seem natural.
Is the –ism or ideology you advocated for still there in the plan or you have dropped it making yourselves liberal enough the situations to come?
Whatever the –ism or thought it may be, the concern should be on whether that serves to the public or community or not. None can and should stick to one principle forever. One should be liberal enough to update oneself to social needs and expectations. One should upgrade it. Ideologies and guiding principles also should be modified as per the time, circumstances, context, geophysical structure.
So you conclude that there were some errors of judgment on your part, as some aspects of the ideologies were not much relevant. Is it so?
Yes, it was. But for the Maoist, other parties of the past had not included the agenda of federalism, republican state and three layers of government. We are proud of it, but not much satisfied yet as the federalism has not ended the discrimination as we expected.
The hypothesis of the Maoist movement was to end discrimination and address diversity. 1 bigha makes 10 plots in hills and 10 bigha makes 1 plot in the terai.
We had assumed the federalism to function on the basis of geography and diversity; however, the system we are following now has something like that if not as expected. I told earlier as well, we are experimenting.
Out of 7 provinces, your party is leading the government of 6 provinces, are you satisfied with the way the governments are functioning at the federal and provincial level?
If evaluated from the perspective of national interest and empowering the people, the government is functioning well. The legislative and judiciary duties to be facilitated by the government are also executed well. It has ensured good governance as well. So, there is no need to be upset about the performance. We should not judge the government in isolation, we have to remember the chaos and disorder of the past. Monarchial, feudalistic attitude is still influencing; we have changed the system not the attitude. It takes time.
How much time does it take?
There had been a political transition for 12 years. The transition of transformation to be extended to every nooks and corner after the proclamation of the constitution is still there. No magic wand can bring the desired change so easily. Many things change as per the social evolution. I feel the incumbent government should lead the government towards optimism.
Only 16% of people cast their vote in Liwang, Rolpa, yet you said the peace is restored?
A new constitution is prepared by the people’s representatives and is promulgated. However, there are some groups who had reservations about the constitution, they were against it when it was declared and are still against it. We believe their issues can be addressed under this constitution; those who do not believe in it should express themselves in a democratic way, violence is not acceptable.
In the province, you head as party Chair NCP is in opposition when the Madhes based party is leading the government. Does it show that Madhes-centered parties are turning the apple in the voters’ eyes?
After the establishment of the Communist Party in Nepal in 1949, there have been many massive movements in Madhesh. In the election of 1958, when Nepal Communist Party won only 4 seats throughout the country, it had won 3 from Rautahat alone. When NCP was still not known to many people, the communist movement was at the rise in terai.
But unfortunately, our failure to overcome racism shrunk our party there lately. Our inability was cashed by reactionaries.
The formation of the communist government in 6 out of 7 provinces is not an ordinary event, it’s something the parties like Nepali Congress should think deeply about as well. The area NC used to claim as its pocket has placed Congress in the third position.
Pipra, the home town of Mahanta Thakur, the senior leader of Rastriya Janatantrik Party, has given us victory in the by-election.
It also shows that even in the core areas of the Madhesi community and the areas bordering with India, our base is getting firmer. The parties like Rastriya Janta Party and Samajbadi Party are losing their hold. Samajbadi Party is losing its hold in Saptari, the home district of senior leader Upendra Yadav. The NCP has won in Siraha, the district known as the center of the Madhesh movement.
You have been criticizing the government of Province No. 2 for its inefficiency and ineffectiveness, what is the government there doing?
We have been saying that our hold in Province 2 is increasing, it’s so because we have worked for the people and the provincial government has failed to do so. The cause of their decline is the irregularities and corruption. The recent by-election result shows that the only alternative to the poor governance of the province no.2 is the government formed by NCP. In all districts of Madhesh, communists are the only competitive forces.
Can you cite an example of poor governance and corruption of Province 2?
There are many instances in public. Province 2 is the smallest province of the country, where the province can be visited in a day. There are 13-14 ministers in such provinces whereas other provinces have only 6-7. Province 3 where even Kathmandu, the capital city lies spends less for the luxury of the ministers and elected representatives than Province 2. Isn’t it an indication of corruption and poor governance? In most of the human indexes including Human Development Index, province 2 is at the lowest, what are the plans the government of Province 2 made in that direction. Cursing the center for everything does not help all the time.
It says that the center or the Federal government did not provide it the rights, budget. What about that?
How can it be that it got budget to distribute vehicles, cycles, buffaloes, but not for the development works? The budget allocated to Province 2 is somehow similar to other provinces i.e. around 39 billion. Where has that budget gone or where is it scheduled to be used for? If they cannot spend the development budget, what’s the use of having such a big cabinet, I mean, so many ministers?
The only campaign that seems positive is the ‘Save Daughter’ campaign. The development activities are almost nil. Previously, people used to go down towards Madhesh for education and health facilities, now it’s reversed. What’s the government in Province 2 doing to address it?
You are the main opposition party, what are you doing to curb corruption?
Our party’s province committee has decided to launch an awareness campaign against corruption in province 2. We have realized that as opposition, our role has not been much effective as well. Now we have realized and are all set to address it.
It is often said that Singh Durbar has an evil eye towards Madhesh and they have a negative attitude towards Madhes.
It was so before. They used to say the Khas Arya, Hill people discriminated Madhesh and did not empower; however, now the rulers there are not the Khas Arya hill people. What are the chief minister, his cabinet, and others in power there doing to end injustice, corruption, discrimination now? Recently, after the flood in Madhesh, they wanted to distribute relief funds through the Chief Minister Relief Fund, actually, it was said to be via parliament. However, it was distributed by Forum MPs only. If we cite the instance from Rautahat, the forum candidate who was defeated in the election, took the relief and kept it at his home. They discriminated even in relief. Is it just? The people are watching everything. They are seeking the difference between the attitude of Kathmandu based government and Janakpur-based government. This by-election result is the outcome of their misdeeds, corruption and poor governance.
Why isn’t the state mechanism curb such corruption? There are institutions like CIAA.
I think they will start functioning soon. Sooner or later it has to go that way. The relief meant for flood victims and fire victims should reach the right hands. There should be transparency, accountability but it’s something lacking in Province 2.This is only the example. They are distributing tractors, there is no transparency about its cost and the beneficiaries. Faults are countless. In federal government tender bidding is a must in the construction work worth or above 10 million rupees, should not the province government abide by such regulations? They are distributing 2.5-5.0 million in a chunk, where are the developmental activities in the province?
Will NCP join hands with Nepali Congress or it will go ahead alone?
What I am saying is the corruption and irregularities of the Province 2 government should be stopped. The wrongdoers should go behind the bar. The people’s needs should be addressed. The government there has failed to make it the government of all, it is entangled in its party politics. In some cases, there are 3 Rastriya Janatantrik Party leaders of the party in a single ministry.
They are sharing the resources among party leaders, when and how will they work for the public? The physical infrastructure is poor; the government should invest in it. This election has come with good omen. The corrupt won’t get people’s favor. Provided they don’t learn from the election messages, in the next election the existence of Madhesh-centered parties will be at stake.