Morcha seeks pledge on state demarcationAs representatives of major parties and the Samyukta Loktantrik Madhesi Morcha (SLMM) continue discussions to iron out differences on contentious issues of the constitution, each side looks determined to drive a hard bargain, taking the negotiation process back to square one, and it has now boiled down to Morcha’s 11-pont demand versus major parties’ four-point proposal.
As representatives of major parties and the Samyukta Loktantrik Madhesi Morcha (SLMM) continue discussions to iron out differences on contentious issues of the constitution, each side looks determined to drive a hard bargain, taking the negotiation process back to square one, and it has now boiled down to Morcha’s 11-pont demand versus major parties’ four-point proposal.
The key difference is: the SLMM is seeking at least a prior political understanding on the “timeline and framework” of state demarcation while the major parties have proposed settling the issue through a political committee in three months from the date of its formation.
During a meeting with major parties on Thursday, SLMM leaders reiterated that they had no objection to three-month timeframe for resolving the demarcation row if major parties define legality and terms of reference of the proposed political committee, categorise disputed districts and make an unequivocal pledge for one more province in the Tarai plains.
Even if both sides agree on a framework of state demarcation, which the taskforces formed by the SLMM and major parties hope to achieve through ongoing deliberations, constituency delineation and laws pertaining to inclusive proportional representation are likely to tie both sides in knots.
Madhes-based parties have proposed making population the sole basis for constituency delineation and representation of federal provinces in the national assembly. If population is made the sole basis of constituency delineation, the Tarai plains will have 83 out of 165 electoral constancies—and more representation—as the Tarai is home to 51.5 percent of total population.
In addition, the current Madhes province will have twofold more representation in the national assembly than sparsely populated provinces of Mid and Far-Western regions.
The SLMM has also insisted that the list of population clusters entitled to special protection from the state and reservation in state bodies should be revisited so
that Article 42 could be more specific on “who will benefit proportional representation and how”.
The Constitution Amendment Bill, waiting a vote in Parliament, has taken both population and geography into account, enlisted 17 population clusters entitled to protection from state and equal representation of all federal provinces in the national assembly.
Taskforces engaged in informal deliberations since Wednesday are hopeful about finding a meeting point on revision of federal boundaries.
During two rounds of meeting on Thursday, Nepali Congress and the UCPN (Maoist) leaders hinted at redrawing the boundaries by addressing due concerns of the agitating group but without making any specific proposal.
“We are ready to revise federal boundaries paying due attention to principles of identity and capability and past reports of state restructuring commission. Similarly, other disputed issues will also be settled in the spirit of the Interim Constitution,” said Mahesh Acharya, a representative from the NC in the taskforce.
The NC and UCPN (M) have also agreed to give “credible assurances” on revising federal boundaries after discussions with their leadership.
The CPN-UML, however, has stood firm against making any specific pledge on boundaries. The party has agreed to change some words of the Constitution Amendment Bill.
Morcha leaders said that NC’s “more flexible stance” has raised hopes that the Tarai standoff could come to an end soon.
“The NC looks more flexible in resolving all issues in line with past agreements. If they translate their words into a concrete proposal, we believe it can help resolve the crisis. But the revision proposal that the NC registered today cannot address our concerns,” said Rajendra Shrestha, co-chair of Sanghiya Samajbadi Forum-Nepal. The two sides are scheduled to meet again on Friday for issue-wise discussion.