Print Edition - 2012-04-29  |  The Economist

UML floats 12-state federal model

- PHANINDRA DAHAL, KAMAL DEV BHATTARAI, Kathmandu

Apr 28, 2012-

The CPN-UML on Saturday came up with a new proposal on state restructuring aimed at countering the UCPN (Maoist) stand for 10 states and exerting pressure on the Nepali Congress to accept the increase in the number of states.

Senior UML leader Madhav Kumar Nepal presented the new proposal to federate the country into 12 states in the new constitution during a meeting of top leaders of three major parties and Samyukta Loktantrik Madhesi Morcha.

The proposal upholds both identity and viability, and is based on recommendation for a 14-state federal structure proposed by the CA Committee on the Restructuring of the State and Devolution of the State Power.

“Why should we accept the proposal suggested by the Maoists that stresses singular identity?” said a UML leader. “We can increase the number of states in order to address the issue of identity, including ethnicity. But no particular ethnic group should dominate a state.” He said a compromise on federalism looks elusive as long as the NC remains firm on seven provinces.

UML leaders have said the number of states can be reduced to 12 by removing the proposed Jadan and Sherpa states recommended by the CA committee two years ago. The two provinces can be removed on the basis of recommendation that they have less than one percent of total population of the country, according to UML leader Pradip Gyawali.

“Our priority is still for making federal structure non-controversial by limiting the number of provinces to seven by upholding multiple identities. But the voices for single identity barred us from reaching a compromise,” he said. “We can increase the number of provinces so that the issue of singular identity is addressed.”

The Maoists and the Samyukta Loktantrik Madhesi Morcha are positive on UML’s proposal to increase the number of provinces. Maoist leader Dev Gurung said the three forces came closer to consensus on federalism during Saturday’s meeting but there was no understanding after NC leaders refused to budge from their position.

“Only Nepali Congress has a different perception. We, the UML and the Madhesi Morcha, are in favour of restructuring the country by addressing concerns of both identity and viability,” said the hardliner leader. Chairman of the Tarai Madhes Loktantrik Party Nepal Mahendra Prasad Yadav said they were open to discussion on the suggestion made by UML leaders during Saturday’s meeting. However, he reiterated that Morcha stands for one-Madhes Pradesh. But he went on to claim that they were open on the matter. According to informed sources, the Morcha had been pressing for finalising the issue of state restructuring before proceeding on other issues.

Negotiators have said, while parties are divided on numbers, the new development is likely to bring together the parties on the basis of federalism. Maoist leader Khim Lal Devkota said parties have agreed to find common ground by considering both identity and viability. Earlier, the ruling parties were adamant that identity, mainly ethnicity, and other indicators like culture and history should be bases of federalism while the NC and UML were in favour of limiting the number of provinces between six and eight to ensure their economic sustainability in the new set-up. During the seven-hour discussion held on Saturday, NC leaders stressed that the country should be federated into seven provinces by keeping the current set up of 75 districts intact. NC leaders have said they have taken into account economic viability, geographic proximity, population and other bases of identity such as language while delineating the states.

The main opposition is irked by UML’s change of mind and feels betrayed. “While they stay in talks with us, UML leaders tell us that they stand by our suggestion for six states. Now they have started talking in favour of 12-state federation, which is a double standard and breach of understanding between two parties,” said NC leader Arjun Narshing KC. Both UML and Maoist negotiators have said they are optimistic that the NC will revise its position from the party’s meeting scheduled for Sunday morning. “We have to prepare the first draft within Baisakh in order to draft the constitution within the deadline,” said the UML source. “Time is running out hence there should be an agreement on constitutional issues within a day or two,” said the negotiator.

Published: 29-04-2012 08:38

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