Issue Of Constitution Amendment

Uttam Maharjan


The new government under the helmsmanship of KP Sharma Oli is taking final shape in no time. The government is supposed to be composed of ministers from the left alliance only, the CPN-UML and the CPN-Maoist Centre. These two communist parties swept the provincial and parliamentary elections, promising people that they would unite into a single party and give the country much-needed political stability coupled with economic prosperity. The people also bought their pledge and catapulted them to power with almost two-thirds majority both in the provincial assemblies and the federal parliament. They have been able to form governments in six out of the seven provinces, with Province 2 going to Madhesi parties.

The left alliance is contemplating ruling the country for the forthcoming five years, which is a welcome step given bitter experiences with frequently changing governments, sometimes in nine months, thus giving rise to political instability and playing havoc with development activities. One of the positive developments obtaining now in the country is that the transition period, which had been reigning supreme for over a decade ad nauseam, has come to a grinding halt.
Despite securing the popular mandate, the left alliance has not been able to reassure itself that it will be able to keep a firm grip on power for the next five years, albeit by turns on the part of its two constituents. That is why it has invited Madhesi parties to join the government. In its bid to retain power on the basis of a two-thirds majority, it has persuaded the Federal Socialist Forum-Nepal to join the government with a plum portfolio.
Negotiations are going on between the left alliance and the Federal Socialist Forum-Nepal. Its Chairman Upendra Yadav is tipped to take over the portfolio of Foreign Minister. However, the party has expressed its willingness to join the government on condition that the constitutional amendment bill, which was once defeated by the then Legislature-Parliament in August 2017, will be endorsed, perhaps in a revised form, by the present government.
The issue of the revival of the constitution amendment bill has raised a serious question mark over the intention of the left alliance. It will not be out of place to mention that it is the CPN-UML, then in the opposition, who vehemently opposed the bill. By virtue of the CPN-UML and other fringe parties voting against the bill, the Madhesi parties could not fulfil their desire to have the bill endorsed for their vested interests. Now the same party has expressed its willingness to have the bill endorsed just for the sake of maintaining a clear majority in the government.
The Madhesi parties are not still satisfied with the constitution. The major points of dissatisfaction pertain to provincial demarcation, proportional representation on the basis of population and geography, citizenship provisions, etc. However, some of their demands have already been fulfilled like increase in seats in the southern plains. But they do not think that it is enough.
People have not forgotten the ordeal of the Madhes agitation and the Indian embargo against the country for six months, piling up unprecedented agony on them. Despite grim conditions engendered by the above adversities, the people did not kowtow to the Madhesi parties and the Indian establishment. At long last, the Madhesi parties had to withdraw their border-centric agitation, with India immediately lifting the embargo imposed on the country for no fault of its.
Nepal-India relations have since deteriorated into a historic low. India has now evinced its interest to mend fences with the country. After all, the country is one of the reliable trading partners of India.
The decision of the left alliance to induct the Federal Socialist Forum-Nepal on condition to amending the constitution is defective. The constitution amendment bill had once been defeated in the then Legislature-Parliament. There is no point in reviving the bill. Moreover, the Madhesi parties have thrown up their hands as far as the bill is concerned, which is evident from the fact that even if their demands were not fulfilled, they participated in the provincial and parliamentary elections. (They, however, did not take part in the local polls, which they must be regretting.) Further, before the bill was put to the vote, they announced in public that they would accept the outcome of the voting.
The demands of the Madhesi parties, in the words of the CPN-UML itself, are anti-national. They want one or two provinces in the entire Terai belt. As the provinces have already been demarcated and even provincial governments have been installed there, there will be no question of redrawing the boundaries of the provinces. At a time when news is afloat that even a Madhesi parliamentarian has his name registered on the electoral roll of India, amending laws relating to citizenship in such a manner as to make more and more Indians Nepali citizens will not be tolerated by Nepalis.
There are also attempts to make Hindi one of the administrative languages. Leaders of the Madhesi parties prefer Hindi over Nepali just to fawn on the Indian establishment. They tend to make speeches in Hindi as if it were their national language. What can be expected of them when it comes to developing Nepali as the national language when they do not consider other languages of the country like Bhojpuri and Maithili languages of the country?

In fact, the invitation of the left alliance to the Federal Socialist Forum -Nepal to join the government is a good chance of face saving for the party, considering that the Madhesi parties were able to form a government only in Province 2, whereas they suffered a humiliating defeat in other provinces. The main reason for the new government not getting full shape even after the recent expansion of the Cabinet is the need felt by the left alliance for inducting the Federal Socialist Forum-Nepal into the government.
The Madhesi parties are not a force to reckon with now. There is no need for the left alliance to give an important portfolio like the Foreign Ministry to the Federal Socialist Forum-Nepal, along with acquiescing to amendments to the constitution, which is detrimental to national interests. The left alliance should think twice before making this move.

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