Lingering Of Amendment Bill
The talk about the amendment bill has gained momentum with the ruling parties bracing to have the bill endorsed in Parliament. They have, however, said that the amendment bill will be put to the vote. If two thirds of the parliamentarians vote for it, it will be passed. In this context, it would be germane to note that the Madhes-based parties have been insisting on having the bill endorsed in their favour, come hell or high water, something that is highly unbefitting in democracy.
The Madhes-based parties have been clamouring for amendment to some provisions of the constitution since it was promulgated in September 2015. A couple of governments have changed since. As the Oli-led government flatly refused to fulfill their demands, the Madhesi outfits orchestrated the downfall of the government in collaboration with the CPN-Maoist Centre and the Nepali Congress. But the CPN-Maoist Centre did nothing towards fulfilling their demands; it just kept on assuring that their demands would be fulfilled. In the meantime, the Prachanda-led government had to make room for the Deuba-led government as per the soi-disant gentlemen’s agreement.
The Prachanda-led government conducted the first phase of the local elections on May 14, 2017, while the second phase was conducted by the present government on June 28, 2017. The third phase poll is being held on September 18, 2017.
The Madhesi parties did not take part in the first and second phases of the local election expressing their disgruntlement over their demands ignored by the government. However, some leaders and cadres of the parties did take part in the election. Even the Madhesi people overwhelmingly took part in the election. This shows that the people, including the Madhesi people, were enthusiastic about casting votes in the election and that they did not obey the leaders of the Madhesi parties when it came to boycotting the election. Moreover, their ploy to obstruct the election disregarding the ground swell of popular zeal for exercising adult franchise conked out in a miserable way.
The Madhesi parties have now registered their merged party, Rastriya Janata Party-Nepal, with the Election Commission. But they are still crying hollow that they will not take part in the third phase of the local elections if their demands go unheeded.
It is still a hard nut to crack for the amendment bill to get endorsed with a two-thirds majority as the main opposition party, the CPN-UML, is still vehemently opposed to the bill. The main sticking point in the bill is the separation of the Terai from the hills, which is not only acceptable to the opposition party but also to the people at large.
It is the unvarnished truth that there has been ethnic harmony between the Terai and hills for centuries. To make it even clearer, there has been no ethnic strife in Nepal since time immemorial. The Madhesi parties are also well cognizant of this. But they want to split the Terai from the hills along ethnic lines for their vested interests. The ‘One Madhes One Province’ shibboleth once made the welkin ring. But the Madhesi parties could not succeed in achieving this mean objective. Now they are striving to materialise the objective.
There are ulterior motives hidden in the amendment bill. That is why, the Madhesi parties are making every effort to have their demands fulfilled through the endorsement of the bill. Sometimes, they betake themselves to the Indian establishment, and most of the time they rush to the Indian Embassy for advice and suggestions as if they were India’s protégé.
The Madhesi parties, who claim that the Madhesi people are being exploited, think that once the Terai is separated from the hills and made a single province, all the woes of the Madhesi people will fade away as if through a magic wand. The zealous participation of the Madhesi people has clearly shown that they are in favour of the election and hence a stable government. This is also indicative of the fact that they whole-heartedly accept the federal structure the country has adopted.
The election in Province 2 is being held on September 18. The people living in the province are eagerly waiting for the election. The turnout in the election will be overwhelming as in other provinces. It will make no difference whether the Madhesi parties take part in the election or not.
However, the government is now in favour of fulfilling the demands of the Madhesi parties other than those encapsulated in the amendment bill. It has initiated the process of withdrawing lawsuits against the Madhesi agitators in connection with the Madhes agitation and releasing them. Some people that died during the agitation have also been declared martyrs. The other demands include free medical treatment for the injured and compensation to the victims of the agitation. The Madhesi parties have hinted that they may take part in the upcoming local election provided all their demands other than the amendment bill are fulfilled. If this happens, it should be taken as positive aspect.
Now the government should set its eyes on holding provincial and federal elections. As the tenure of the current Legislature-Parliament ends in January 2018, these elections should have been held by this time. With the completion of the three-tier elections, the way will be paved for formally ushering in a federal system in the country. In this context, it would be prudent of the Madhesi parties to help in this sacrosanct task of federalisation by playing a supportive role rather than by being spoilsport under the pretext of their demands remaining unfulfilled.
Surya Nath Upadhyaya is a member of the Eminent Persons’ Group (EPG) from Nepal’s side. The EPG has a two-year term, and it has already spent...