Province 1 is still undecided about its nameThree years on, consensus eludes the parties and lawmakers in the province.
The legislative assembly of Province 1 remains undecided on what to name the province even three years after its formation. On May 2, 2019, the provincial secretary had published a notice calling on the lawmakers to register the name and the capital of the province. More than a year since the notice was issued, the process of deciding the name and the capital of the province have barely moved forward.
Soon after assuming his office Chief Minister Sherdhan Rai had announced that his government would immediately propose a name for the province. He never delivered on his promise.
Similarly, the ministers of the province had on more than one occasion specified the dates on which the province would be formally named. But none of their commitments materialised.
In the third session of the provincial assembly in May 2019, Biratnagar was designated as the permanent headquarters of Province 1 by a two-thirds majority of the provincial assembly. The fifth session of the provincial assembly had prioritised finalising the name of the province, but the matter remained unresolved throughout the session as well as the next, the sixth or the summer session, which ended in July 2019.
The parties in the provincial assembly then assured to decide the name of the province during the winter session that began on February 6 this year. But once again the issue could not be settled.
Chief Minister Rai says the parties are divided on what to call the province.
“There is a risk that giving the province one name could hurt the sentiments of certain groups of the public. Since there are people of various castes, tribes and faiths in the province, we are planning to come up with a name that is accepted to all,” he said. “We are working towards finalising the name in the upcoming seventh session of the provincial assembly.”
Assembly Speaker Pradip Kumar Bhandari, said no agreement has been reached on the name of the province so far.
“Neither the parties nor the assembly members have arrived at a consensus,” he said.
Though various organisations representing different castes and religions have also been submitting memorandums to the Speaker recommending names for the province, it will be up to the legislative body to decide what to call the province.
The Nepal Communist Party has 67 seats in the 93-member provincial assembly and the Nepali Congress, the main opposition, has just 21 seats.
Likewise, the Samajbadi Party Nepal has three members while the Rastriya Prajatantra Party and the Sanghiya Loktantrik Rastriya Manch have a seat each. There is also one independent seat.
According to the constitution, a two-thirds majority of the provincial assembly should pass the name of the province. Although the ruling party has a two-thirds majority, the party lawmakers themselves are divided on the matter.
Umita Bishwakarma, an assembly member from the ruling party, said: “The lawmakers are divided on whether to name the province Kirant, Limbuwan, Khumbuwan, Koshi, Sagarmatha, Koshi-Kirant or Koshi-Sagarmatha.”
Kedar Karki, the chief whip of Nepali Congress, said, “The provincial government hasn’t been able to finalise the name of the province despite enjoying a two-thirds majority in the assembly. They should come to a consensus and decide on the name already.”
“The Nepali Congress has been urging the government to decide the name of the province from the onset of the winter session.”
Khinu Langba Limbu, a NCP lawmaker, said the province’s name should represent all castes and tribes.
Rajendra Rai, another NCP assembly member, agrees with Limbu.
“The province should get a name that represents the identity of all castes and tribes living in the province.”
So far, only four of them have decided their names—Bagmati, Gandaki, Karnali and Sudurpaschim.
The remaining three provinces are still going by their numerical identities of 1, 2 and 5.