Divided NC seeks unity among Big 3

NC’s initiatives are a result of the agitating parties’ request and pressure from Madhesi leaders within

Nov 22, 2015-The Nepali Congress, though sharply divided over reviewing the current federal boundaries, is taking initiatives to explore a common position among three major parties to end the Tarai crisis.

The move is a result partly of the Madhes-based parties’ request and pressure from Madhesi leaders within and partly of its own desire to stay relevant after its embarrassing exit from the three-party alliance that delivered the constitution.

The Congress leadership had reneged on its commitment to hand over the government reins to the CPN-UML after promulgation of the constitution on September 20.

NC leaders from Tarai are pressing the leadership to resolve the Madhes crisis through a change in the constitution amendment proposal. They are advising the party brass to split some districts in the plains for a way out.

Madhesi leaders Bimalendra Nidhi and Surendra Chaudhary want the NC to adopt flexibility. Historically, the Tarai has been the party’s vote bank. But its inability to take a decision on the Madhesi demands is beginning to undercut its support base.

“Though we gained victory in the second CA, our base in Madhes has become weak. The party leadership should think about it,” said a senior NC leader from Tarai, requesting anonymity given the sensitivities surrounding the Madhes issue in the party.

The NC recently held a meeting with its Madhesi leaders to solicit their views on addressing the demands of the agitating parties. During the meeting, the leaders representing Tarai districts proposed three provinces in the plains, instead of the two that the regional leaders are protesting for.

The meeting made no concrete decision except on pressing the government to expedite the amendment proposal registered in Parliament by the NC-led Cabinet. “We have pressed party leaders to adopt flexibility on the demarcation of federal units,” said NC leader Ram Krishna Yadav. Key leaders of the largest party are against splitting certain districts.

Senior leader Sher Bahadur Deuba and General Secretary Krishna Prasad Sitaula, who were absent during the consultation, toe a hard line. Deuba and leaders close to him are against splitting Kailali, one of the five disputed districts on demarcation.

Deuba and leaders close to him are concerned about splitting Kailali and Kanchanpur as they back an undivided Far West. NC leader Ramesh Lekhak said earlier this week that he is against splitting the districts. Similarly, Sitaula and other leaders are against breaking up Jhapa, Morang and Sunsari, a position strongly backed by Prime Minister KP Oli. Jhapa is the constituency of both Sitaula and Oli.

Acting Party President Ram Chandra Poudel has also taken a tough position on federalism. He insists that only a federal commission should take a final decision on demarcation. Poudel and his supporters argue that reaching a deal with any one group will trigger protests from other communities.

The NC appearing to be taking initiatives on the Madhes issue is driven by the party’s upcoming general convention, leaders say. Party leaders from the plains are advising Acting President Poudel, a contender for party presidency, to take up the issue so that he could garner more votes. Tarai leaders in the party have warned that they would not support their seniors, who are insensitive to the demands of Madhes, in the general convention.

According to a senior leader, NC is unlikely to take any fresh decision on revising the federal boundaries before party President Sushil Koirala returns from the United States next week.

Published: 22-11-2015 09:03

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