Prime minister reaches out to Madhes leaders

- ROSHAN SEDHAI, Kathmandu
- Morcha leaders say election unacceptable without constitution amendment - Prime minister invites Madhesi Morcha leaders for meeting

Feb 17, 2017-Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal on Thursday reached out to the agitating Madhes-based parties, saying that he needs their support in announcing the date of local polls within the next few days, even as he reiterated the government’s commitment to taking the constitution amendment process ahead simultaneously.

Dahal on Thursday met Sadbhawana Party Chairman Rajendra Mahato and held telephone conversation with other senior leaders of the Samyukta Loktantrik Madhesi Morcha to seek their support to the planned local elections.

Dahal told Mahato in Baluwatar about the government’s preparations to announce the election date “as soon as possible” and enquired about the Morcha’s views on the same. Dahal, nevertheless, reaffirmed his commitment to taking forward the amendment bill simultaneously. He also pledged to address the Morcha’s concerns on the local boundaries. He said the number of local units would be increased in line with the regional parties’ demand from the Cabinet.

“It might take some more time to garner enough support to endorse the amendment bill. Since time is running out and pressure is growing from all sides to announce the election date, the government is not in a position to linger the process further. If the Morcha let the government announce the local polls now, it would be much easier to bring the CPN-UML on board the political process later,” PM Dahal told Mahato, according to his close aides. He also expressed his hope that the main opposition UML would allow the government to forward the constitution amendment bill for debate in Parliament once the election date is announced.

Talking to the Post after the meeting, Mahato said the government was trying to use the local polls as an excuse to run away from its commitment to constitution amendment. “He is seeking excuses one after another to avoid constitution amendment. We don’t care how but the constitution should be amended before the local polls as promised. It should happen at any cost. Our party cannot support the polls without amendment,” said Mahato.

Though he stressed the need for charter amendment before the polls, Mahato did not specify whether his party would hit the streets after the dates are set. Many other Madhesi parties are threatening to launch protests the same day the government announces the polls.

Dahal is also learnt to have said the same thing to Tarai Madhes Loktantrik Party Chairman Mahantha Thakur and Sanghiya Samajbadi Forum Nepal Chair Upendra Yadav. Though the PM wanted to meet them separately, it could not happen as both Yadav and Thakur were busy with their internal meetings. Dahal’s aides said the PM has requested for a joint meeting with all the Morcha leaders on Saturday afternoon.

TMLP Vice-chair Hridayesh Tripathi said three major parties were trying to invite a fresh confrontation by pressing for the local polls. 

“The major parties are free to go to the polls keeping the Morcha out if they wish. But if they want to take us on board, the constitution should be amended and the report of the Local Level Restructuring Commission revised in line with our demands. Not doing so dampens the prospect of elections and will invite further crisis,” Tripathi told the Post, adding that the Morcha would make its common position clear after meeting with the PM.

Published: 17-02-2017 08:49

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