Nepal’s federalism has faced a teething trouble. People and the local leaders of the political parties in four provinces have intensified their protests following the declaration of temporary capital of provinces. The crux of their anger is – their cities were not named as provincial capitals. The protesters in Dhankuta, Parsa, Dang and Doti have been hitting the streets with vandalism and violent activities. In order to check untoward events, the local administration has clamped curfew in Dhankuta for the last two days. The meeting between the representatives of local administration and protesting groups ended inconclusively as the agitating forces refused to budge from their stance. Doti is turning more violent after Dhangadhi was picked as the temporary capital for Province 7. Scores of government offices were damaged and dozens of protesters injured in clashes with the security personnel. The injured included the recently elected mayor of Silgadhi Municipality, journalists and civil servants. In Dipayal, life has been severely affected by the continued protests. The irate agitators have also shouted slogans against Prime Minister SherBahadurDeuba for selecting Dhangadhi as the temporary capital. They are pitching for Dipayal as the provincial capital. Dang has been tense for the last three daysagainst the government decision to choose Rupandehi as the capital of Province 5. Local people and party leaders in Parsa have protested the decision to name Janakpur as the capital of Province 2.
It seems that Province 3, 4 and 6 are silent but the announcement of Hetauda has ruffled many feathers in Province 3. Mahesh Basnet, who won a seat of federal parliament from Bhaktapur has warned of burning the effigies of Prime Minister Deuba, Deputy Prime Minister Kamal Thapa and chairman of Workers’ and Peasants Party Narayan Man Bijukchhe for announcing Hetauda as the temporary capital of Province 3. He sees the ploy of DPMThapa, who hails from Hetauda, behind the decision. Bijukchhe had also objected to the idea of making Bhaktapur the capital of Province 3. Now the issue of provincial capital has become hot and tricky. The cadres and people have been divided on the geographic line, with their respective parties failing to issue clear directives to them. Though the currently announced capitals are temporary, the protests over them have showed no sign of abating.
Several factors have come into play behind the ongoing rage. During the recent provincial and federal elections, the candidates had promised the people that the cities that fall into their constituencies would become the provincial capitals. This electoral pledge also enabled many candidates to clinch the victory. As the poll promise was shattered, the locals took to the streets against the government decision. In fact, federalism is a system guided by the philosophy of self-rule and shared rule. Its main goal is the just distribution of powers, resources and opportunities between threetiers of governments. It seeks to defuse sovereign rights from the centre to bolster the grassroots democracy. If federalism is properly defined and exercised, disputes over the capital of provinces should not have come to the fore. Nepal’s constitution has adopted cooperative federalism so the concerned stakeholders should stress on consensus, cooperation and mutual understanding to make federalism effective and successful.