I didn’t discuss statute amendment with any Indian official, says Nidhi

Opinions are divided on the number of local bodies even within my own party

Kathmandu, September 3

Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister Bimalendra Nidhi said he did not discuss the issue of constitutional amendment with any Indian government official during his recent India visit.

Talking to journalists here today, Nidhi said he only told Indian leaders about the government’s priorities.

“I told the Indian leaders that implementing the constitution by accommodating the aspirations of people was our government’s priority. Such discussions often happen in international politics. There is nothing strange about it,” Nidhi said, adding that he also told Indian leaders that completion of the peace process, elections and promoting  relations with Nepal’s two neighbours were the government’s priorities.

On the controversy regarding the letter for Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Nidhi said it was like an appointment letter. “That letter stated that I was visiting India as a special envoy of the prime minister,  Nidhi said and added the idea of sending two deputy prime ministers as special envoys to the two neighbours was PM Pushpa Kamal Dahal’s idea.  He also said that the PM’s decision to send envoys had yielded positive results.

He said he talked about constitutional amendment issues at two programmes organised in India during his visit — one was at a programme organised by Nepali Janasamparaka Samiti and another by a youth organisation. He said  he talked about constitutional amendment in those programmes in response to queries, but he also said that constitutional amendment issues were  Nepal’s internal matters.

Nidhi said the seven-point deal between Nepali Congress and the CPN-Maoist Centre and the three-point agreement between the NC, CPN-MC and the Federal Alliance would guide the works of the NC-CPN-MC coalition government till the general elections.

“Amending the constitution to address all the demands of the agitating forces  might not be possible at once, but the government is preparing ground work for what it can do,” Nidhi said.

“There is realisation that a conducive environment for holding election is not possible until the constitution is amended,” Nidhi said, adding that the agitating forces are saying they will not participate in the election unless the constitution is amended. Nidhi said he is in favour of tabling the constitutional amendment bill as a government bill for which the government will hold talks with the Untied Democratic Madhesi Front and the CPN-UML.

Nidhi said opinions were divided on the number of local bodies even within his party. “Even in my party, some want more than 600 local bodies, while others want more than 800 bodies. A third group is saying  that all the existing VDCs and municipalities should  be transformed into local bodies,” he added. He said he was in favour of finding a middle-path on this issue.

Responding to a query, Nidhi said his differences with UML Vice-chair Bhim Rawal over the contents of the letter he handed over to the Indian PM was like an academic debate and it was not  acrimonious as reported in the media.