Terai emerges as Nepal’s new kingmaker

April 14th, 2008 - 2:24 pm ICT by admin  

By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, April 14 (IANS) After centuries of neglect, Nepal’s Terai plains finally had its revenge when it emerged as the new kingmaker after the historic constituent assembly election. In the days to come, the Terai, which accounts for over 40 percent of the population and 116 of the 240 constituencies, is going to be a dominant factor in Nepal’s politics.

Two regional parties from the southern plains made a respectable debut, capturing 21 of the 173 seats declared so far, and emerging the fourth largest power after the Maoists and traditional rulers, Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala’s Nepali Congress (NC) and Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist.

The Madhesi Janadhikar Forum headed by Upendra Yadav won 15 seats and was leading in several Terai constituencies while the Terai Madhes Loktantrik Party (TMLP) of former NC veteran and minister Mahanta Thakur bagged six.

The Forum had been emerging as a powerful player in the Terai since late 2006.

Launched first as a social organisation, it became one of the frontrunners of the Madhes movement, the new struggle to wrest rights for Madhesis, Terai residents, who did not have citizenship and voting rights and were excluded from the bureaucracy, judiciary and army.

In the last two years, the Forum called a series of crippling strikes and blockades in the plains, cutting off food and fuel supplies from India and finally forcing the government to amend the constitution to provide for a federal republic with autonomous states.

In the course of the Madhes movement, the Forum has also shown itself capable of armed movement, like the Maoists in the past, and became the former guerrillas’ bitterest enemy in the plains.

It was feared that the emergence of the Forum would erode the Maoist base in the plains.

However, in a stunning reversal, it hit the prime minister’s party that had traditionally got its vote from south Nepal.

The exit of Terai leaders from the party on the eve of the election cost the NC dearly.

Former minister Vijay Gachchhedar joined the Forum and took his revenge by defeating Koirala’s nephew Shekhar Koirala.

The Terai parties would have performed even better if they had been able to reach an understanding among themselves.

Thakur and Yadav were initially seeking to be allies but fell out over seat sharing.

The Madhes movement has seen the divide between Nepal’s elite hill community and the disadvantaged plains people deepen.

Last week’s election saw the annihilation of the Nepal Sadbhavana Party (NSP), a partner in the ruling coalition. Originally a Terai party, the NSP split several times due to infighting and was no longer seen as a plains people’s party.

While a dissident faction, led by former minister Rajendra Mahato had won one seat, the NSP however is yet to open its account.

If the new government is not able to fulfil the aspirations of the plains, it could lead to another protest movement or even revolt for secession.

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