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04 November 2013

Nepal: Madhesi parties make tall promises to Muslims

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By Jivesh Jha

Kathmandu: In a bid to influence the Muslim voters who form a considerable chunk of the electorate in the Tarai, all the Madhesi parties are proposing populist programs to grab the attention of the community.

However, the Muslim voters are still silent and keeping their cards close to their chest.

The Madhes-based parties, especially Upendra Yadav-led Madhesi People´s Right Forum-Nepal (MPRF-N), Mahanth Thakur-led Tarai Madhesh Democratic Party (TMDP), Rajendra Mahato-led Sadbhawana Party (SP) and Sharat Singh Bhandari-led National Madhesh Socialist Party (NMSP) are going all-out to woo the Muslim vote bank.

The MPRF-N in its manifesto has pledged ´special region´ for the Muslims, mainstreaming of Madrasa education, setting up permanent Hajj committee, formulation of family law for the Muslim, representation on the basis of population, among others.

The party has selected 12 Muslim candidates under the first-past-the-post (FPTP) system and 11 under the Proportional Representative (PR) system for the November 18 Constituent Assembly election.

Likewise, the TMDP has envisaged the formation of ´Muslim Economic Development Project´, ´Muslim Employment Project´, ´National Muslim Communication Center´, mainstreaming of Madrasa education, free education to Muslim students up to the Bachelors´ degree and permanent Hajj committee.

TMDP has picked six Muslims candidates under the FPTP and 12 under the PR.

SP has proposed formation of National Muslim Commission to ensure the development of the community,

It has also proposed that Madrasa education should be developed and mainstreamed and Muslim community should get the identity based on their religion.

SP has selected 14 candidates from the Muslim community under the FPTP and 13 under the PR system.

In a bid to woo the Muslim voters, NMSP has proposed lofty programs for the Muslim community.

"Muslim community should get a separate reservation in all sate mechanisms, including civil service, the police, the army, university and health service," reads the party manifesto. The party has also demanded permanent high-level Hajj committee.


Besides envisaging a ´permanent high level central Madrasa educational committee´, the party has also stated that the issues of the Muslim community would be resolved through Islamic jurisprudence and the Muslim Personal Law.

The party also demanded a special right for the women belonging to Muslim community.

At a time when the Madhesi parties are floating populist plans to lure the Muslim community, the analysts have claimed the parties were using Muslim voters merely as vote banks and not working for their cause.

"Madhesi parties are using the Muslims as a vote bank just as Nepali Congress and the CPN-UML did in the previous elections. Both mainstream as well as Madhesi parties appear biased,” complained Mohana Ansari, Spokesperson of National Women´s Commission. "We are now conscious of our rights. No one should take us for granted."

“The ground reality is that neither the political parties representing us, nor the state have taken any initiative to ensure our proportional representation in the state machinery," she added.

She then went to accuse the Madhesi parties of being detached from the ´Muslim cause´.

"The Muslim voters play decisive role for any Madhesi party," claimed Ansari.

According to the latest census, the population of the Muslim community stands at 4.4 per cent of the total population.

Chairman of the Intellectual Muslim Association of Nepal (IMAN) Ijhar Mikrani said, “The best attitude that the Madhesi parties often apply to the Muslims is a patronizing one. Instead of focusing on Muslim´s empowerment, the Madhesi parties will run after power after the election ends."

However, Nazrul Hussain Falahi, General Secretary of National Muslim Forum, welcomed the move of Madhesi parties stating that at least they mentioned something for the community in their manifestos.

"Women are not seen as politically important as their votes are taken for granted and political parties assume that their voting patterns are mostly influenced by the male members of the family," said Falahi.

He further said that the candidates of Madhesi parties often distribute Lungi, Dhoti, and other forms of short term incentives to impress the Muslim voters.

(Courtesy: Republica)

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