--BY MADAN LAMSAL
Flames of the federalism debate are once again flaming high, reaching as far as Kailali in the far west, passing through Birgunj, Butwal and Surkhet. What began in Gaur and ended in Tikapur comes back to the memory. Now it’s Rupandehi. From time to time, the flames of federalism are being fuelled by the deshi ghee of anti-secularism and pro-monarchy arguments.
Why shouldn’t the flames take spark! In 2018 BS, Late King Mahendra divided the country into 14 zones and 75 districts. These administrative divisions are now being reshaped into seven provinces. This is not easy; some areas have to be split and others joined but no one wants to split their ‘areas’. A family that lives on the two sides of a street worries that they might have to go through the same kind of pain which was felt during the partition of India and Pakistan.
Then there are politicians who are worried that their electoral constituencies will shrink or they will lose their vote banks as the boundaries will be redrawn under federalism. So, naturally, people like them are bound to fan the fire of anti-federalism. Though it’s true that federalism came in the country not because anybody wanted it. The politicians badly needed to float a new slogan and they did. But their cadres took it so seriously that they eventually brought it in. It’s a different thing altogether that federalism has today become a Hobson’s choice for us. A choice between the devil and the deep blue sea. You try to patch up things in the east and then realise that that is creating disturbances in the west. Nothing seems to work. Neither this, nor that.
Indeed, it’s a task that needs both breaking and joining at the same time so how can you do both at the same time? Then there are those who will be satisfied by nothing. The UML doesn’t want to give an inch; the Madhesis won’t accept anything less than a mile; and the Maoists will never give up. And what can you say about the Nepali Congress; it is trying to please everyone – the UML, the Madhesis as well as the Maoists! On top of everything, we have ‘good neighbours’ and ‘friendly countries’ who are ready and willing to fish in the troubled waters!!
The big question is what can be done in such a situation?
There are two ways out. One, let’s try to improve and strengthen this ‘14 zone, 75 districts’ model. Two, let’s fan the fires of agitation between those for federalism and those against it. Let’s take the agitation nationwide. The flames of the federalism debate are yet to reach every corner and backstreet of this country. How would it be successful otherwise?
To become successful, any agitation needs a solid national-level leader. Nepal is yet to find such a leader. We have only local leaders. For example, KP Oli doesn’t want to think beyond Jhapa. Madhav Nepal doesn’t want to come out of Rautahat. Deuba is not ready to give up Dadeldhura and Deuda. Jhalanath is pretty happy in Ilam’s tea gardens and doesn’t want to be disturbed. Prachanda, too, doesn’t want to look beyond Rolpa, Rukum, Chitwan and Kaski. What about the Madhesi leaders- even their neighbours are not ready to count them as leaders! It’s because these leaders are not even the least bit bothered about the problems in their own backyard. God knows who instigates them and so, from time to time, they look like the Laakhe dancers!
So, leaderless, rudderless seems the boat of federalism. Who can we expect to lead the agitation?