PM, Deuba discuss draft of bill

  • The two leaders have agreed to take the main opposition CPN-UML into confidence

Kathmandu, November 12

Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal and Nepali Congress President Sher Bahadur Deuba today held consultations on the draft of the constitution amendment bill that the government has been preparing to introduce in the Parliament.

Although the PM had promised to register the bill by Tuesday, it may take one more week as the ruling NC and CPN-Maoist Centre are trying to woo the main opposition UML and the agitating Madhes-based parties before registering the bill, according to sources.

During the hour-long meeting held at the PM’s residence in Baluwatar, the duo discussed how to address the demand of Madhes-based parties for at least two provinces in the Madhes region.

As support of the main opposition CPN-UML will be imperative for passing the constitution amendment bill, the two leaders reached understanding on tabling the bill in the Parliament only after taking the CPN-UML into confidence, said sources.

“The prime minister can introduce the bill in Parliament from the government’s side on his own. He, however, is working to bring at least the three major parties — NC, UML and CPN-MC — aboard while registering the amendment bill,” said Dahal’s press adviser Govinda Acharya.

As the NC and UML are not in a position to change the current status of Jhapa, Morang and Sunsari in the east and Kailali and Kanchanpur in the west while redrawing federal boundaries, the PM wants to resolve the issue of federal boundaries from the periphery of the proposal made by the two parties in the Constituent Assembly before promulgating the constitution, Acharya said.

The NC and UML’s proposal presented at the CA was to make two provinces in the Tarai — the existing province 2 and another province from Nawalparasi to Bardiya. The agitating Madhes-based parties want at least two provinces in the plains and are insisting on incorporating all the plains region in the Tarai provinces.

The area from Nawalparasi to Bardiya is now in province 5 and if it is made a separate province as proposed by the PM, the hilly districts of province 5 — Palpa, Arghakhanchi, Gulmi, Pyuthan, Rukum (eastern part) and Rolpa — will be detached from the plains.

As Dahal won’t step down without holding election of at least the local bodies and as amendment of the constitution is imperative for clearing the way for election, there is no option for the three major parties but to come together to amend the constitution, said Acharya.

The government is preparing to include three other issues: addressing the demand of recognition of dominant languages of the concerned province as official language; making citizenship provisions more flexible; and determining the number of representatives in the National Assembly on the basis of population.

As Madhes-based parties have been threatening to obstruct local polls if the constitution is not amended to address their concerns, the government is preparing to bring the constitution amendment bill to clear the way for local polls.

The PM is also in touch with leaders of Madhes-based parties and has shared with them the contents of the draft bill on which he is working.

Sources said Deuba wants to register the bill after a week as he is wooing the UML.

“As for Dahal’s self-imposed deadline, we are waiting for the government to register the bill by Tuesday. If that doesn’t happen, the Federal Alliance and the United Democratic Madhesi Front will be forced to launch fresh street protests,” said Sadbhawana Party Chair Rajendra Mahato.