Gathabandan backs Dahal after 3-pt deal

- ROSHAN SEDHAI, Kathmandu

Aug 4, 2016-

The Sanghiya Gathabandan, an alliance of Madhesi and Janajati parties, on Wednesday participated in the prime ministerial election after reaching a three-point agreement with the Nepali Congress and the CPN (Maoist Centre) to find a political solution to the Tarai crisis. 

The Gathabandan, which has 42 seats in Parliament including 39 of the seven Madhes-based parties, voted for Maoist Centre Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal who replaced CPN-UML Chairman KP Sharma Oli as 39th prime minister of the nation on Wednesday. 

Although the proposed agreement appear to have provided “a face-saver” for the Gathabandan allies to participate in the election process and possibly join the government in the course of time, it remains unclear when and how the disputed issues of the constitution including that of federal boundaries would be addressed. Critics said that the tripartite deal is, in essence, similar to the agreement that the Bijaya Gachhadhar-led Madhesi Janadhikar Forum-Loktantrik had signed with the UML and the Maoist Centre in October last year.  

“We are hopeful that the new government would not betray us this time,” Upendra Yadav, coordinator of the Gathabandan, told Parliament reiterating the alliance’s support to Dahal’s candidacy.    

Both Dahal and NC President Sher Bahadur Deuba, who addressed the House before Yadav, stressed that there would be further amendments to the constitution to address the grievances of the agitating parties for a broader acceptance of the statute. 

The first point of the agreement reads that a fresh amendment proposal would be registered at Parliament incorporating outstanding demands, including the revision of the federal boundaries although no timeframe has been given. While the Samyukta Loktantrik Madhesi Morcha, an alliance of seven Madhes-based parties, has forwarded an 11-point demand, the Sanghiya Gathabandhan, which comprised the SLMM and other Janajati forces, has put forth a 26-point demand, with redrawing of federal boundaries as the key demand.  

Gathabandan interlocutors, who were engaged in preparation of the draft, have also hinted at reaching a separate understanding on power-sharing deal though the agreement makes no reference to it.

“We have reached an informal understanding to register the amendment proposal at Parliament by the end of Ashoj [September-October]. We are thinking of joining the government after that,” said Rejendra Shrestha.  

The Gathabandan allies, mainly the parties in the Samyukta Loktantrik Madhesi Morcha, appear deeply divided on joining the NC-Maoist coalition government. 

A group of Madhesi leaders from across the party line, mainly those who are not a member of Parliament, have been mounting pressure on the SLMM leadership against joining the government. The group argues that the Morcha should join the government only after all of their demands are met through further amendments in the new constitution. They claim that the registration of the amendment proposal would make little difference as it would require support of two-thirds of the members of Parliament for endorsement.  

“It would be unethical to join the government until the amendment. People would throw stones at us if we compromised on our agenda for plump ministries,” said a Morcha leader seeking anonymity. 

But another group of Morcha leaders, mostly those eligible to become minister, insist on a need to join the government after the amendment proposal gets tabled at Parliament. 

“If we managed to register an amendment proposal incorporating rest of our demands, 90 percent of our work will be completed. We can do the remaining work later,” said Tarai Madhes Loktantrik Party General Secretary Sarbendra Nath Shukla.

Published: 04-08-2016 11:23

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