Give amendment a chance

  • No matter how difficult, political parties need to find common ground or risk irrelevance

Dec 19, 2016-

On Saturday, the Nepali Congress and the Maoist Centre leaderships assured the Madhesi/minority constituencies that they remain committed to tabling the constitution amendment bill and that the process would begin today. Prime Minister and Chairman of CPN (Maoist Centre) Dahal and NC President Deuba acknowledged that there was a level of displeasure within their respective parties, but that they remained committed to the amendment. We welcome their stated positions, but remain sceptical about whether the amendment bill will pass. 

The polarisation over the amendment is troubling too. The opposition to the amendment has come not only from the CPN-UML but also from within the NC and the Maoist Centre. Unsurprisingly, a number of districts in the region now have set up the “joint struggle committee”, a cross-party mechanism which is also supported by sections of the civil society opposing the idea of re-delineation of the province.

Yesterday, at least one district in the region, Arghakhanchi, even saw civil servants join the protests. This follows major and minor protests that have erupted across the region. The largest protest took place in Butwal and the longest one has been in Tamghas, the headquarters of Gulmi, which witnessed 19 straight days of banda 

yesterday. In Kathmandu, Speaker Onasari Gharti is scheduled to convene an all-party meeting today to find common political ground.

While the recent moves by Dahal, Deuba and Gharti are commendable, political faultlines run deep. The UML believes that entertaining the amendment proposal and going for the south-south re-delineation, instead of putting the Madhesi-Hill/mountain populations together within the provinces, will put national integrity in peril. It has also stopped parliamentary discussion on the amendment bill. On Saturday, party Chairman KP Oli reiterated his position that his party would block the discussion on the amendment, should the NC and the Maoist Centre decide to go ahead with their decision.

By all accounts, the two sides are clearly heading for a showdown. Yet they need to find common ground for two primary, inter-connected reasons. First, the constitution can go into implementation sooner if it enjoys broader legitimacy. Second, once that is sorted out, the country can move towards elections. Without elections as mandated in the constitution within a given timeframe, the political parties will lose their relevance in the public eye. 

Published: 19-12-2016 07:55

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