Deadlock Casts Shadow On Polls

 Narayan Upadhyay


The fate of local polls that have been scheduled to be held on May 14 hangs by a thread as time is running out for both the government and the Madhesi parties in shoring up required support for the crucial constitutional amendment bill. The persisting deadlock has yet to smooth the path for holding local polls as per the government announced date. The Election Commission, which has to initiate its preparation on a war footing to hold the nationwide elections within the next 75 days, must get all support from the ruling and opposition to make the local election a reality.


But the current political scenario tells otherwise: the parties have been locking horns over the constitution amendment bill. While the ruling and Madhesi parties are going whole hog to pass the bill in the House, the main opposition, CPN-UML, and, to some extent, the Rastriya Prajatantra Party ( RPP) are dead against  moving ahead with the bill, thus creating a deadlock in the Parliament.


Difficult turn


Lately, the matter of endorsing the bill has taken a difficult turn after 15 new proposals were registered by the lawmakers for amending certain clauses of the amendment bill on Sunday, making the issue more tortuous for the ruling coalition parties that have been seeking to amend the constitution to address the grievances of the Madhesi parties. The 15 proposals are conflicting in nature as the parliamentarians who registered their proposals seek to overturn several proposals included in the amendment bill.


Because of the difficulties in getting two-thirds majority of the House vote, the Prime Minister has lately proposed his fresh proposals to the dissatisfied Madhesi parties. According to him, the parties that support the amendment bill would work towards endorsing few issues among the amendment bill now and participate in the May 14 election. After the election, other remaining issues of the amendment bill would be addressed, the PM suggested.


It appears quite impossible for the ruling parties to win the two-thirds votes for the amendment bill, which was tabled at the Parliament as per the demands of the Madhesi parties which want the newly carved provinces like Province No 5 to be redrawn. On the other hand, the main opposition, the CPN-UML, has posed a grave obstruction for the ruling Maoist Centre and the Nepali Congress in endorsing the amendment bill with the constitutionally required two-thirds majority.


The main opposition and its fringe allies in the Parliament enjoy 201 votes. Likewise, the newly united RPP has 37 votes. Both the parties have asked the ruling parties not to move ahead with the amendment bill. These two parties' opposition to the bill can easily defeat the motion to amend the constitution because in a current 598-member parliament. The motion requires 396 votes to get the approval for the bill to become a law.


At present, the Nepali Congress (207) and the Maoist Centre (81) have a total of 288 votes and the Madhesi Front has 40 votes, which makes total of 328votes  in favour of the bill. If the Madhesi Janadhikar Forum (Democratic) that has 14 votes throws its weight behind the bill, then the government will have a total of 342 votes.


The inability of the ruling parties of shoring up the required votes has actually turned the Madhesi Front restless. The Front has not supported the idea of holding election prior to amending the bill. They have decried the government move to announce the elections date. They even went for staging protest soon after the government announced the local polls date. They have also been threatening that they would boycott the elections if the government failed to endorse the bill. They are also not satisfied with the recent report of the Local Level Restructuring Commission which decided to put the total number of local units at 719.


The dissatisfaction of the Madhesi parties is a major cause of concern when it comes to holding the local elections. They may well disrupt the elections in several parts of the southern plains, which may raise question marks on the very idea of holding the election and its outcome.


The deadlock over the amendment bill may lead to the failure of staging the elections in free and fair manner, which should not be actually happening. The local election has now been termed as a way to test the popularity of the parties and their current stand on the political issues that range from the federalism, state restructure, secularism, republicanism, citizenship, language and other vital issues that have their direct bearing on the very idea of the sovereignty of the nation and the people.  The parties that have deeper apprehension on going through this test may not like to face local elections. These parties may well pose obstruction to the polls. Many have raised suspicion on local polls stating that the existing level of dissatisfaction among the Madhes centric parties may play spoilsport, thus barring the government and the EC in holding polls in the stipulated time. No one would therefore be surprised if the government defers the local polls for another date. 


Win-win formula


The government and the Madhesi parties appear to be clueless on garnering the required support for the amendment bill, which would ultimately address the grievances of the agitating Madhesis. The main opposition and the recently united RPP whose newly elected chairman is a well-known backer of anti-federalism, are not going to support the amendment bill. The Madhesi parties know this fact very well, though they have been egging on the government to get the bill passed any how. Instead of piling pressures on the government, the Madhesi parties should instead hold decisive talks with the main opposition and RPP to boost their chances of getting the bill endorsed through a "win-win" formula. Unless this is done, the politics will be in limbo, which may lead to delay or deferral of the local polls.




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