Government ready to hold talks with UDMF

Kathmandu, December 9

The government is prepared to hold talks anytime with leaders of United Democratic Madhesi Front to find a negotiated settlement of their demands, but the front’s leaders are not hopeful about a settlement anytime soon.

Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli’s Political Adviser Bishnu Rimal told THT that the government could not hold talks in the last few days as UDMF leaders were visiting New Delhi.

Chairman of Federal Socialist Forum-Nepal Upendra Yadav and Chairman of Tarai Madhes Democratic Party Mahantha Thakur returned to Kathmandu today from New Delhi. Two other leaders of UDMF Sadbhawana Party Chair Rajendra Mahato and Tarai Madhes Sadbhawana Party-Nepal Chair Mahendra Ray Yadav will return to Nepal after a few days.

Rimal said the government would fix the date for the next talks after consulting with front leaders and even if the other two UDMF leaders had not returned from India, they would probably depute their representatives for talks.

Spokesperson for TMDP Sarvendranath Shukla said talks would happen once the leaders returned from New Delhi, but he was not hopeful about a breakthrough.

“I do not think UDMF will end their blockade of Birgunj-Raxaul border anytime soon.

Our next course of action will depend on how our talks with the government proceeds. We will discuss further strategies of our agitation among front leaders,” Shukla said, adding there was a serious crisis of confidence between the UDMF and the government. He said he was not hopeful that the crisis of confidence would end in the next dialogue.

Shukla said the question of provincial boundary was the main issue between the two sides, which was stalling progress in the ongoing dialogue process. The government, he added, has not yet offered any framework or outline on the boundary question.

“The ruling parties have not made it clear that they are ready to redraw provincial boundaries in accordance with the demand of Madhesi people,” he added.

Shukla said Nepali Congress and CPN-UML, along with other coalition partners, had on November 3, last year, proposed the seven-province model that put five Tarai districts in the hill provinces, but this time they put 12 Tarai districts in the hill provinces,” Shukla added.

He said the major parties needed to show flexibility on the question of boundary and if that happened, the front would also be flexible.

Shukla said the ruling parties gave their four-point framework to India. Had they incorporated the UDMF’s concern vis-à-vis those points, the UDMF leaders would not have gone to New Delhi to clarify their position on those points.

Shukla said the ruling parties’ four-point framework had further heightened the UDMF’s skepticism about the ruling parties’ intentions. General Secretary of Sadbhawana Party Manish Kumar Suman said the UDMF would withdraw its agitation only when its 11-point demand was met. He said the front would not accept any piecemeal approach vis-à-vis its demands.

“We have told the ruling parties in previous talks that if they wanted to move ahead with Constitution Amendment Bill and form a mechanism to settle the boundary question, they are free to do that.

But we will not withdraw our agitation until our demands are met,” he added.