UML’s Responsibility On Amendment
CPN-UML’s nationalist posture has paid off as the main opposition party has become the largest party in terms of the sweeping results in the election to the local level. The UML’s adamant No to the constitution amendment effort of the ruling parties to address the demands of the Madhesh-based parties has undoubtedly been the most crucial factor for the UML’s victory. But now, the party is in no position to reject the constitution amendment agenda. A couple of days before the second phase of the local poll held on June 28 UML leaders including chairman KP Sharma Oli and senior leader Madhav Nepal had said their party would consider the constitution amendment as demanded by the Madhesh-based parties, particularly the Rastriya Janata Party (RJP), on condition that the amendment is for safeguarding nationality and the people’s interests. Perhaps what they said days before the poll was for creating a peaceful environment for polls as the RJP had vowed to disrupt it. Equally possible is that they meant what they talked about. No matter whether they meant it or not, they are morally bound to consider the issue instead of rejecting it outright as in the past.
The ruling parties have now again initiated discussion with different parties including the RJP about the amendment. They seem to be trying to translating their agreement with the Madhesh-based parties made during the government formation into action. However, while doing so, they seem to be much focused on only the RJP taking the Upendra Yadav led Federal Socialist Forum and Vijay Kumar Gachchadar led Madhesi Jaanadhikar Forum (Democratic) for granted, which is a seriously faulty approach. Moreover, the ruling parties had postponed the local election in the Province No. 2 without consulting these two prominent stakeholders while even the RJP blamed the government for not consulting it before deferring the local poll in Province 2 for September 18. Thus the process seems to have been made in a zigzag way.
The RJP did not take part in the first and second phases of the local poll as a party although its local leaders contested in the polls as an independent candidate and have emerged victorious in a few local levels. Although the government urged the RJP to participate in the poll, the party rejected the call arguing that the conducive environment for the party to go for poll would be created only after the constitution amendment.
The RJP, which is a newly formed unified party of some half a dozen Madhes-based parties, has registered itself in the election commission, which is a good move. Although the turn out in the local poll in the southern plains has already put a question mark on the stance of the RJP and other Madhesh-based parties with regard to their demands, the ruling parties have no choice but to keep their word. Moreover, there is a need of face-saving for the RJP and others so that they participate in the upcoming polls, local poll in Province 2 and the provincial as well as federal parliament polls.
As in the past, the UML has again rejected the constitution amendment. But unlike in the past, it has said that the party would consider the issue after the local poll in Province 2. Upbeat by the unprecedented win in the local polls, the UML seems to have forgotten its pledge made just before the second phase local poll. Then the UML did say it would consider the amendment and did not say that it would consider only after the poll in Province 2. As the ruling parties had been saying they would persuade the UML to support the amendment after the second phase poll, UML’s readiness to consider the matter was understood in the same light. But now the UML has even blamed the ruling parties for violating their understanding made before the second phase of local poll, to proceed ahead with constitution amendment after the poll in Province 2.
The results of the local level elections, or the victory of the UML, has largely rejected the RJP demand to change boundaries of province 4 and 5 as it was also rejected by the mass protest when the then government tried to register a constitution amendment bill in this regard. Both the RJP and the ruling parties should as well embrace this reality. Other demands of the Madhes-based parties related to rights such as language, citizenship, including the rights of the naturalised citizens, should be addressed although the constitution has not made any discrimination even on these issues. The parties only want some clarity.
Given the UML’s words and the need to hold the local polls in Province 2 and the provincial as well as federal parliament elections, it is illogical now on the part of the UML to say that it will consider the amendment issue only after the local poll in Province 2. Instead, it would be satisfactory or a responsible act if the main opposition clarifies its positions on the issues raised by the Madhesh-based parties or the issues included in the constitution amendment bill that has already entered the parliament.
The bill is faulty, no doubt simply because it seeks to deprive the head/deputy head of the local levels from voting in the president and vice-president and electing the members of the Upper House. It is questionable how the rights of the Madhesi people is guaranteed by limiting the rights of the local level representatives?
The RJP should give up such stands and also the stand on changing boundary of Province 4 and 5. Moreover, the ruling parties should also take consent of the RJP and other Madhesi parties before making the amendment so that the Madhesh-based parties own it and not reject it as in the past. It should be understood that it is not the first time that the constitution is being amended or amendment efforts made to address the Madhesi demands.