Majority of Morcha leaders agree to draft proposal, but tepidlyThe Samyukta Loktantrik Madhesi Morcha (SLMM), an alliance of seven Madhes-based parties, on Wednesday showed signs of owning a constitution amendment proposal that the government is planning to register but remained non-committal about certain issues.
The Samyukta Loktantrik Madhesi Morcha (SLMM), an alliance of seven Madhes-based parties, on Wednesday showed signs of owning a constitution amendment proposal that the government is planning to register but remained non-committal about certain issues.
The governing parties—CPN (Maoist Centre) and the Nepali Congress—had put the draft of the amendment proposal for discussion on Wednesday at a meeting with the Morcha leaders at Baluwatar.
Most of the constituents of the Morcha, with reservations, expressed readiness to take ownership of the proposal. The agitating Madhes-based parties have been demanding that the proposal should address four key issues—provincial boundaries, representation in the Upper House, citizenship, official language of provinces. Redrawing of provincial boundaries has been a key demand for the Morcha for long. To address the boundary row, the government in its proposal has planned splitting Province 5, which has 13 districts.
As per the proposal, Province 5 will comprise Tarai districts—Nawalparasi, Rupandehi, Kaplivastu, Dang, Banke and Bardiya—and seven Hill districts from it will be in Provinces 4 and 6.
The Sanghiya Samajbadi Forum-Nepal (SSF-N) led by Upendra Yadav has already warned of disowning the proposal if “it fails to address Morcha’s all concerns in entirety”.
Yadav was conspicuous by his absence at Wednesday’s meeting.
Morcha’s other allies, however, have said they will support the proposal even if it falls short of addressing their demands in entirety.
While the Maoist Centre and the NC have come up with somewhat clear proposal on provincial boundaries, there is still a lack of clarity on other issues.
On citizenship issue, the governing parties have said it could be addressed on the basis of what is said in the interim constitution, but they have stopped short of giving specifics.
The two parties have proposed making population the main basis for the representation in the Upper House, as per which each province will send a minimum of four representatives to the national assembly and other seats will be allocated on the basis of population ratio.
“We do have some reservations, but the proposal will partially address many of our demands,” said Sadbhawana Party Chairman Rajendra Mahato. “The Morcha will take ownership of the draft with reservations if it is registered in line with the understanding reached with the agitating parties.”
Mahato though called for registering the amendment proposal without delay, he put some caveats, saying there “is still no guarantee that the final draft will be prepared as per the understanding reached with the Morcha”.
“So the Morcha is careful about not making its views public without going through the contents of the proposal until it enters Parliament,” said Mahato.
Tarai Madhes Loktantrik Party Chairman Mahantha Thakur, who was also present in the meeting, echoed Mahato, saying, “We will comment only after studying the contents of the amendment proposal.”
SSF-N Co-chairman Rajendra Shrestha, who represented his party in the meeting, outright rejected the governing parties’ proposal, saying “it does not address the demands of marginalised and excluded communities”.
“The federal boundaries should be revised based on the report submitted by the erstwhile state restructuring commission,” Shrestha maintained his long-standing position. “The governing parties’ bid to seek a solution to the boundary row without changing the number of provinces won’t work,” he added.
During the meeting, Maoist Centre Vice Chairman Narayan Kaji Shrestha had sought commitment from the agitating Madhesi parties that they would participate in the elections after the tabling of the amendment proposal.
“I fear the Madhesi parties could disown the amendment proposal after it is registered and disrupt elections,” he told the Post. “There is no point in tabling the amendment proposal if the Madhesi parties are considering disowning it later.”
The main opposition CPN-UML has already rejected the proposal.