UDMF seeks revision of constitution amendment bill

Says it would participate in polls only after the revised amendment bill is endorsed by the Parliament

Kathmandu, January 13

United Democratic Madhesi Front leaders today told the ruling parties’ leaders that they would accept polls only after a revised constitution amendment bill was passed.

UDMF leaders told this to Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal and Nepali Congress President Sher Bahadur Deuba today.

According to Sadbhawana Party Chair Rajendra Mahato, who was present in the meeting, both sides agreed to form a task force to work on the revision of the bill. “The PM was in favour of forming a task force today, but Deuba asked for some time to discuss the matter in his party,” Mahato added.

The Madhesi parties want revision of the bill to address the issues of five districts — Jhapa, Morang, Sunsari, Kailali and Kanchanpur, rights of citizens by birth and those who have acquired naturalised citizenship on the basis of marital relations with Nepali nationals, among other things.

The ruling parties told them to make preparation for the local polls, but the UDMF leaders told them that since the UDMF had rejected the report of the Local Bodies Restructuring Commission, it would be difficult for them to take part in the election as per that report. “The LBRC report is not scientific and not based on population,” Mahato said.

UDMF leaders also expressed their dissatisfaction with the Judicial Council’s decision to recommend 80 High Court judges, saying the decision was in violation of constitutional provisions that guaranteed proportional inclusion in state organs.

Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister Bimalendra Nidhi, who was also present in the meeting, said the PM and Deuba told the UDMF leaders that the government had kept its word by registering and tabling the constitution amendment bill and would make efforts to muster two-thirds majority in the House to ensure passage of the bill.

NC President Deuba and PM Dahal also told the UDMF leaders that both sides should make collective efforts to ensure two-thirds majority in favour of the bill as the government wanted to declare local poll dates as the Election Commission would need four months’ time to prepare for the election and the Parliament also needed to pass election-related bills.

“Since the efforts to muster two-thirds majority for the passage of the constitution amendment bill can take some time, you should not construe it as a delaying tactics by the ruling parties,” Nidhi quoted Dahal and Deuba as telling the UDMF leaders.

The PM also told the UDMF leaders that he had not accepted the LBRC’s report and it could get validity only after the Cabinet endorsed it.

When UDMF leaders raised the issue that the LBRC report had not ensured population-based local bodies, the PM also floated an idea that the constitution could be amended to deprive the chief of village and municipal councils of rights to elect president and send representatives to the Upper House of the Parliament, according to Nidhi.

Mahato said the UDMF leaders agreed with the PM on the idea of depriving chiefs of village and municipal council from voting rights, yet if the LBRC report was implemented, it could again be disadvantageous for Madhes as it could deprive the region of opportunities and resources.

Revise controversial clauses, says RPP Chair Thapa

Khotang, January 13

Rastriya Prajatantra Party Chairperson Kamal Thapa has sought revision of the constitution amendment bill before it is endorsed by the Parliament.

Inaugurating the Mewakhola Hydropower Project at Mewakhola Dobhan in Diktel Municipality of Khotang today, Thapa said there were a few controversial clauses in the amendment bill that needed revision. “If we really want to proceed with the elections, some clauses in the bill that seem to conflict with national interests should be revised first. A bid to endorse the bill without revision could be counter-productive,” he said.

“On the one hand, Madhes-based parties are still protesting even after the government tabled the bill. On the other hand, opposition parties are obstructing the Parliament while the locals of Province 5 are also agitating. So revision of the bill seems imperative,” added Thapa.

Further, the RPP chairman hinted that his party might not support endorsement of the bill. “Frankly, we don’t feel the moral pressure to help in the bill’s endorsement because it was tabled in the Parliament without consulting us,” he said, describing the country’s new constitution as progressive.

The leader also underscored the need to fix election dates at the earliest in order to end the protracted crisis and uncertainty facing the country. “If the elections are not held in time, it would not only prolong the crisis but also endanger the political achievements gained so far,” he argued. He also took the opportunity to demand an increase in ministerial berths for his party.