Hope of deal withers as trust deficit grows

  • tarai crisis
- ROSHAN SEDHAI, Kathmandu
Chances of reaching a deal are slim. Top leaders have taken rigid stance and are reluctant to hold candid discussions on our 11-point demandMahantha Thakur, Chairman, Tarai Madhes Loktantrik PartySLMM’s interest seems to be retaining Interim Constitution’s provisions while defining the scope of population clusters. This is not possibleBishnu Rimal, Prime Minister KP Oli’s chief political adviser.

Jan 5, 2016-Growing trust deficit between three major parties and the Samyukta Loktantrik Madhesi Morcha (SLMM) is likely to make it impossible for both sides to arrive at a common point on issues related to delineation of constituencies and redrawing of federal boundaries.

A rigid stand taken by the major parties—ruling CPN-UML and UCPN (Maoist) and main opposition Nepali Congress—that they would push the Constitution Amendment Bill through in Parliament even without SLMM’s support has riled the Morcha leaders no end.

“Chances of an agreement are slim,” said Mahantha Thakur, Chairman of Tarai Madhes Loktantrik Party. “Top leaders during the latest meetings have shown no signs of flexibility. They are still reluctant to hold candid discussions on our 11-point demand.”

Following three major parties’ Sunday’s proposal to iron out differences on disputed issues through an informal taskforce, SLMM is preparing to appoint three leaders from their side to engage in informal negotiations. 

Through the proposed taskforce, major parties hope to take the Madhes-based parties into confidence by addressing their concerns regarding constituency delineation and proportional representation. 

But Morcha leaders are not optimistic about the taskforce resolving the disputes that top leaders have failed to settle. 

Casting doubt on the intention of forming yet another taskforce, Sanghiya Samajbadi Forum-Nepal (SSF-N) Chairman Upendra Yadav termed the taskforce plan “a drama” and “a ploy to confuse” Madhes-based parties. 

Yadav is among those leaders of Morcha who have opted to stay out of negotiations with major parties in recent days. They say talks held in the recent days are futile exercise and aimed at thrusting a “half baked” agreement upon the Morcha. 

The Rajendra Mahato-led Sadbhawana Party, which officially boycotted talks with major parties on Sunday, has decided not to engage in further negotiations. SSF-N and Nepal Sadbhawana Party, the fourth constituent of the SLMM, are also reluctant to accept the government’s four-point roadmap, which they say was prepared at New Delhi’s initiative.

“Major parties so far have made vague commitments on redrawing of federal boundaries,” said SSF-N Co-Chairman Rajendra Shrestha. “Their proposal does not clearly say whether they are ready to carve out another province in the Tarai plains in line with our demand.”

In the four-point plan, the major parties have proposed redrawing provincial boundaries through a mechanism in three months.

If the major parties push the amendment bill through in Parliament without Morcha’s support, the trust deficit will but further widen.

Morcha leaders are in wait and watch mode. They have 72 hours to a register revision proposal on the amendment bill. During informal negotiations with major parties, Madhes-based parties have repeatedly called for incorporating three provisions of the Interim Constitution—pertaining to the electoral laws, citizenship laws and inclusive and proportional representation—as preconditions to take the ownership of the amendment bill. 

But major parties have only partially agreed for changes in the electoral laws—to make population the sole basis for constituency delineation in the Tarai. They have made it clear that all the provisions will not be revised. 

“Their primary interest seems to be retaining the old provisions while defining the scope of population clusters entitled to special protection from the state. This is not possible,” said Bishnu Rimal, Prime Minister KP Oli’s chief political adviser. 

Most of the agitating parties have also sought clarity and prior understanding on details on the proposal to revise the federal boundaries. They have sought assurances in writing that another province would be carved along the southern plains by realigning the five disputed districts—Jhapa, Morang, Sunsari, Kailali and Kanchanpur. 

Published: 05-01-2016 08:55

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