Mutually agreeable

  • Passing an amendment proposal that will deepen divisions is worse than not passing one

Nov 21, 2016-

After many months of stasis, the government has finally decided to take steps to amend the constitution so as to address the grievances of the Madhesi parties. Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal has apparently come up with three different drafts of a potential constitutional amendment and has been discussing them with the major political parties. 

Each of these drafts addresses the Madhesi demands to some extent. For the government, the main obstacle is the CPN-UML. The UML’s top leader KP Oli has repeatedly dismissed the need for a constitutional amendment on various occasions. Most recently, he claimed that an amendment “isn’t a demand of the Nepali people.” Without the UML on board, the government will not be able to garner the support of two-thirds of the Members of Parliament (MPs) and thus will not be able to pass the bill. It makes sense, therefore, for Dahal to keep on reaching out to the UML to gain its support.

The problem is that all these discussions and efforts are taking place without the cooperation of the Madhesi parties themselves. At some point, the government seems to have decided that it was not possible to address the demands of the Madhesi parties and the only option remaining was to pass an amendment even if the Madhesi parties were not on board. In terms of meeting the numbers in the CA, there is no problem here. If the UML is on board, the government should easily be able to achieve the two-thirds threshold necessary to pass the amendment. But the issue here is more political than technical. 

In fact, by passing this amendment the government will be committing the same mistake that was made when passing the constitution. At the time, the constitution was passed while ignoring the demands of the Madhesi parties. This led to widespread protests and violence across the Tarai, which further deepened the alienation between Kathmandu and the Madhes. 

The Madhesi parties will similarly reject a new amendment if it does not address some of their concerns. They will have no incentive to take ownership of the amendment if they are not consulted. Over time, this could well lead the Madhesi parties to harden their stance and become inflexible regarding their demands. 

Granted, it is difficult for the government to reach an agreement on an amendment proposal that has the support of both the UML and the Madhesi parties. But the CPN (Maoist Centre) and the Nepali Congress should realise that passing an amendment proposal that will deepen divisions is worse than not passing one at all. It would be best if they took some more time to discuss issues, and come up with a solution that has the approval of the Madhesi parties.

Published: 21-11-2016 08:30

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