Govt ready to put constitution amendment bill to vote when UDMF wants, says Nidhi

Kathmandu, January 14

Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister Bimalendra Nidhi said that the ruling parties were ready to put the constitution amendment bill to vote as and when desired by the agitating United Democratic Madhesi Front.

Talking to THT, Nidhi said the government wanted to take some time to move the process on the constitution amendment bill only to ensure passage of the bill, but if the UDMF wanted immediate voting on the bill, the government was ready for it. “If the bill fails, it will not serve the purpose of the ruling parties nor that of the UDMF,” Nidhi said, adding that the ruling parties were trying to convince the UDMF to prepare for local polls as the government wanted to do three things simultaneously — announce local poll dates, prepare for the same and do ground work to ensure passage of the constitution amendment bill.

Another government source said on condition of anonymity that if the UDMF agreed to take part in the local polls without making the passage of the bill a precondition that would be even better. “I know provincial and general elections cannot take place without the consent of the UDMF,” the source added. The source said the ruling parties wanted the bill to pass while preparing for the local polls, but if that didn’t happen, then conducive environment for polls would not be created, but that did not mean the government should not prepare for local polls.

Nidhi said the Nepali Congress and the CPN-Maoist Centre were ready to address the concerns of the UDMF regarding the report of the Local Bodies Restructuring Commission through amendment to the constitution to deprive the chief of village and municipal councils the right to elect the president and send representatives to the Upper House of the Parliament.

Nidhi hoped that the CPN-UML would also agree to the proposal of the ruling parties. If the chief of village and municipal councils were deprived of voting rights, that would help bring these units under the jurisdiction of the province, a key demand of the UDMF, according to Nidhi.

The UDMF says the LBRC report only creates about one-third of the local bodies in Madhes, which is home to half the population and if this report is implemented, it can adversely impact representation of the region as the chiefs of village and municipal councils will have the right to vote for a new president and send representatives to the Upper House.

“We are talking to the UDMF about what can be the best option for the country. We do not want to keep the UDMF in the dark regarding any matter,” Nidhi said.

Minister of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs Ajay Shankar Nayak said the government initially favoured initiating debate on the bill from the next meeting of the Parliament, but later it concluded that postponing the debate for some time would be good to win the confidence of opposition parties that are protesting the bill in the House.

Spokesperson for the Parliament Secretariat Bharat Raj Gautam said the Secretariat had issued public notice about tabling the bill and was in a position to start debate on the bill, but it all depended on when political leaders wanted the debate. “Parliament can finish the process on the bill in 15 days, but since parties are divided on the issue, it will take some time to complete the process,” he added.