Two-thirds Majority: Uphill Task For Govt  

 Narayan Upadhyay 



After the tabling of the statute amendment bill, the ruling coalition parties- the Nepali Congress and the Maoist (Centre), have braced themselves to garner the necessary two thirds majority of the House votes essential for the endorsement of the highly contentious bill. The two major ruling parties have lately been buoyed by the support of the Madhesi Front, one of the main stakeholders of the bill, in their efforts to receive the magical number in the Parliament.


Number game

The game of arithmetic has indeed gaining momentum within and outside the Legislature-Parliament, given the fact that the existing number of parliamentarians representing the ruling coalition parties and the Madhesi Front is not sufficient to pull two-thirds of the majority in favour of the bill. These parties must seek support from other parties to garner enough votes to turn the contentious bill into an act that will ultimately address the grudges of the Madhesi Front and few other regional and ethnic parties.


Currently, the 601-member Legislature Parliament, which had earlier performed its task as the Constituent Assembly, has 594 members. The government must garner the backing of 396 members, which will fulfill the constitutionally required two-thirds votes to get the House approval for the bill.


At present, the Nepali Congress and the Maoist Centre have a combined total of 288 votes and the Madhesi Front has 40, which makes total of 328 votes in favour of the bill. If the unified Rastriya Prajatantra Party that enjoys 37 votes in the House after its unification and another Madhesi party- Madhesi Janadhikar Forum (Democratic) that has 14 votes, throw their weight behind the bill, the government will have a total of 379 votes, still short of 17 votes to gain the magical number, 396.


It seems that the government will have an uphill task in shoring up the support from the RPP and Forum (Democratic). One of the ways to appease these parties will be asking them to join the government. In such a situation the government will have to vacate several ministries to accommodate the representatives of these two parties, which may anger many of the ministers who are the party functionaries too. The two coalition parties have been hoping that the RPP that was earlier led by Pashupati Shumsher had supported the ruling coalition and had its representatives in the Council of Ministers, would ultimately lend its support to the government. On the other hand the Forum (democratic) too would join the government and support the bill, because a large chunk of the Madhesi parties of the Front have already expressed their support to the bill.


The RPP, the party that has demanded a Hindu state by erasing secularism from the Constitution and also tepidly supporting the idea of constitutional monarchy, is also against the idea of splitting hill districts from the Terai from the Province Number 5. It is ye to make its stance clear on the bill, giving some heartburns to the ruling parties.


The government and its allies, the Madhesi Front few other parties, will have an Aegean Stable to clear when it comes to garner the required votes for the bill. The main opposition, CPN-UML, is the main hurdle for the government in getting the bill passed at the House. The UML has been saying that it would work with all its might to fail the bill. The UML led opposition front has declared that it has 201 votes while the opposition front needs only 198 votes to stop the bill getting the required two-third House votes. At present, the UML has 182 votes and its allies such as CPN-ML (5), Nepal Worker and Peasants Party (4), Rastirya Jan Morcha (3), Nepal Pariwar Dal (2) Rastriya Janamukti Morcha (2), Nepa: Party (1) Madhesh Samata Party (1) and Rastriya Bahujan Party (1).


It appears that the government will have an uphill task in garnering the remaining 17 votes to get the bill passed from the House, though Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda is said to be working towards garnering the required votes, for which he is "ready to expand his Cabinet" to bring in many of representatives from the fringe parties.


It is still uncertain whether the government would be able to gain the needed backing because many of the smaller parties have been supporting the main opposition in its stand against the bill. These parties are against the idea of splitting the hill from the Terai region and have been terming the contentious bill as anti-national. On the other hand, they have demanded with the government that it should first declare the poll dates instead of working to endorse the amendment bill.  The government is in no mood to declare the poll dates without seeing the statute amendment bill through.


In the meantime, there is another tussle going on between the main opposition and the Madhesh centric parties. While the main opposition UML has stated that it would urge the parliamentarians who are against the splitting the hill districts from the Terai region to vote against the bill, the Madhesi parties have declared that they would appeal the Opposition Front, Madhesi MPs and the parliamentarians representing ethnic groups to vote for the bill. The two conflicting groups want to cash in on the strong likes and dislikes of the highly contentious bill among the parliamentarians representing the hill districts of the Province Number 5 and other parts.


 The existing number of MPs in the Legislature Parliament and the deep divide over the amendment bill between the ruling coalition and the opposition parties will certainly make the endorsement process a very tortuous task.  The government will have to make several concessions to the parties that support the bill, which is sure to draw flak for the government. The expansion of the cabinet which is likely to give the-already big Cabinet a jumbo shape will draw wider criticism.


Changing loyalty

On the second thought, the main opposition too may face difficulty in retaining its allies in the front that is against the passage of the bill. In Nepali politics, posts and pelf are a strong lure for many parliamentarians. And such lure is stronger in the parliamentarians of the fringe parties. Past instances have shown that the parties with nominal members may change their allegiance overnight.


All the goings-on regarding the statute amendment bill does suggest that as the day to take final call on the bill arrives, the parties may engage in different unethical and unparliamentarian practices such as horse trading, appeasing and wooing through various means, either to endorse or to fail the bill. At present, no one can predict the fate of the highly contentious bill as the ruling parties have been deficit of required votes and have thus been forced to bank on the support of other parties.



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