Unified Madhesis To Join Poll Fray

 

 

 

Narayan Upadhyay

 

The agitating Madhesh-centric parties have decided to call off their protest programmes after reaching an agreement with the government on the proposed revised constitution amendment bill. The agreement has paved the path for the Madhes-based parties to take part in the local elections, now scheduled to be held in two phases.

 

The government decided to hold the elections in two phases to allow the Madhesi parties to have them enough time for poll preparation. It appears that the Madhesi parties are in a mood to take part in the local polls and other two elections- the provincial and federal assembly elections.

 

Positive step

 

After one and half years of dithering and staging protest of different hue and cry over the new constitution and over the issue of demarcation of the provinces, the Madhesi parties' acceptance to contest the polls has been taken a positive step because it would help end difficulties in implementing the constitution and federalism in the country.

 

This time, the leaders of the fringe Madhes-based parties are united to face the elections so that they could garner votes enough to prove their mettle as a major political party. The fear of getting out of the reckoning if they fail to receive the required threshold votes might have goaded the leaders of the fringe six Madhes-centric parties to form one single party- Rastriya Janata Party.

 

What is remarkable about the newly formed party is that it has done away with the phrases like Madhesi or Terai, in the party's nomenclature. The leaders of the newly merged ones must have wanted to become the leaders of an all-encompassing national party rather than of some regional parties, known for their highly partisan and divisive parties.

 

After the Rastriya Janata Party's much-awaited decision to take part in the local polls, it is now expected that the local polls would be contested by all major stakeholders. This is indeed a remarkable achievement for a nation that is yet to experience its constitution taking full effect even after one and half year of its promulgation. With the completion of the local elections, the nation will brace to hold elections for the provincial assemblies and federal assembly, which is a constitutional requirement. And the successful holding of the other two elections will guide the nation towards witnessing the full implementation of the new constitution.

 

 The local poll, which is being held almost after a gap of two decades, is an important aspect of the present day Nepali politics. The Election Commission's full support to the government's decision to hold the local polls in two phases only adds to expectations that the local polls would be held successfully across the nation. The EC has come up with the revised schedule for the two-phase polls to ensure that the newly constituted RJP would get enough time to make poll preparations, though it has said that it will encounter some difficulties in managing ballot papers and polling stations.

 

According to the EC, the elections in region number 3, 4, and 6 will be held on May 14 while the rest of four provinces- the province number 1,2,5 and 7 will see local polls on June 14.

 

Despite the  praiseworthy decision to accommodate the agitating parties in the local polls by announcing to hold it in two phases, many in the nation suspect that the polls would be successful in producing the desire results. It is because the main opposition has raised its voice against the decision of holding elections in two phases and it has also opposed the endorsement of the revised statute amendment bill. The CPN-UML has asked for holding the election in single phase and on the scheduled date of May 14. It has warned that no election should be held once the government has presented its annual budget on May 29, because, the budget for the new fiscal year will influence the outcome of the election if the election is held in June 14,  which will also be a breach of election code of conduct.

 

The UML has opposed the 11-point constitution amendment proposal tabled by the government after reaching an agreement with the Madhesi parties. The success of the polls, it seems, is partially hinged on the endorsement of the amendment bill. The main opposition, CPN-UML and several of its fringe allies are dead against endorsing the revised amendment bill.  The opposition of the UML makes it quite difficult for the ruling coalition to garner required two-thirds of votes for endorsing the bill.

 

The government and the coalition partners must garner 396 votes to fulfill the constitutionally required two-thirds votes to get the House approval for the revised amendment bill. At present, the Nepali Congress and the Maoist Centre have a combined total of 288 votes and the Madhesi Front has 40 votes, which makes total of votes- 328 in favour of the bill. If the ruling coalition partner Rastriya Prajatantra Party that enjoys 37 votes in the House and another Madhesi party- Madhesi Janadhikar Forum (Democratic) that has 14 votes, throw their weight behind the bill, then the government will have a total of 379 votes, still short of 17 votes to gain 396.

 

The UML with its 200 plus votes and its smaller allies are now sure to fail the amendment bill. In case the bill is failed, will the Madhesi parties still be taking part in all  elections, including the local polls?  The failure of bill means the proposed amendment on province redrawing, language, citizenship and formation of the Upper Assembly can not be endorsed in line with the demands of the Madhesi parties. Earlier, the UML has agreed to allow the tabling of the bill to ensure that the agitating parties would agree to take part in the elections. But the main opposition has now rapped the revised amendment bill stating it more regressive.

 

Welcome relief

 

Though the present scenario appears somewhat bleak, the very decision taken by the newly unified Madhesi parties to take part in the elections is a welcome relief. The UML too is longing to see the local elections to take place at any cost so that it could " sweep" the people mandate for its nationalist posture. Therefore, the UML may not put too many hurdles against the endorsement of the amendment bill to ensure that the agitating parties would take part in the elections.

 

 

 

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