Gachhadar to Big 3: Show your cardsMadhesi Janadhikar Forum-Loktantrik Chairman Bijaya Gachhadar has finally thrown the ball into the major parties’ court by asking top three leaders for a concrete proposal
As exhaustion and frustration sets in among disgruntled parties after many failed attempts at negotiations, Madhesi Janadhikar Forum-Loktantrik Chairman Bijaya Gachhadar has finally thrown the ball into the major parties’ court by asking top three leaders for a concrete proposal on how they plan to address the demands of the Tharus and the Madhesis.
“We asked them to clarify first their common position on the disputed issues. The dissatisfaction over the federal model should be addressed,” Gachhadar told reporters after a meeting on Tuesday.
Prime Minister Sushil Koirala, CPN-UML Chairman KP Oli and UCPN (Maoist) Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal had reached the MJF-Loktantrik office in Sanepa to meet Madhesi leaders including MJF-L Vice-chairman Jitendra Dev, Sarat Singh Bhandari of the Rastriya Madhes Samajbadi Party and Raj Kishor Yadav of the MJF-Ganatantrik.
This is the first time the PM and the top party leaders reached out to the disgruntled parties—indicating perhaps the urgency and desperation as Tarai continues to burn two days after the promulgation of the new constitution.
Gachhadar, an architect of the 16-point agreement that eventually paved the way for constitution promulgation, has consistently taken a pragmatic approach to dealing with his differences with the major parties.
The failure even to bring him on board has cast doubt on the sincerity of the three party leaders.
Other Madhesi leaders are waiting to see how negotiations with Gachhadar and his team unfold.
“An agreement with Gachhadar will be a litmus test on whether discussion with other Madhesi leaders leads to a deal,” said Chandra Kishore Jha, a journalist and political analyst. He said the contents of the deal will largely determine the response of other Madhes-based parties.
The Sanghiya Loktantrik Morcha has sought major revision to the seven-province federal set-up so as to address the grievances of the Tharu and Madhesi communities that oppose the new constitution.
During a meeting with leaders of the major parties, MJF-L chief Gachhadar, who also heads the Morcha, demanded common position of the three parties before discussing the matter further.
Demarcation of federal boundaries remains the only issue hindering the two sides from reaching an agreement. Leaders present in the meeting said Gachhadar insisted that federating the country into eight provinces was a must to address the concerns of all the agitating groups. He has sought extension of Province 2 from Parsa to Morang in the East, and formation of a separate Tharuhat province from Nawalparasi to Kailali.
“Our party has made it clear that it has no problem even if Jhapa, Chitwan and Kanchanpur are kept in Hill provinces,” said a leader. MJF-L leaders said there are chances that the Tharu stronghold of Kailali, which is at the heart of the contention, could be split between the Hills and the Tarai for the sake of consensus.
Gachhadar, who facilitated an agreement between the major parties when they were deeply divided, has hardened his position following the promulgation of the constitution. Sources said he is in no mood to support the major parties without substantive agreement on the federal model. In doing so, he intends to take credit for the success of talks as other Madhesi parties continue to snub the government’s call for dialogue.
Though Gachhadar has strong support from the Tharu community, it remains unclear whether the Madhesi constituencies will own up any deal that he signs.
Tuesday’s discussion ended after top leaders agreed to meet on Wednesday with a joint proposal on the delineation. MJF-L leaders remain hopeful of an agreement on Wednesday, before the PM’s scheduled departure for the United States to attend a UN conference. Dahal said they were close to an agreement with Gachhadar. The prime minister is trying to finalise the agreement, said Dahal.