Amendment put on hold

Published On: November 29, 2016 02:30 AM NPT By: Ashok Dahal  | @ashokpillar

Prez suggests to top 3 leaders to jointly settle dispute, hold elections
KATHMANDU, Nov 29: As a series of attempts by the government to forge consensus in favor of the bill to amend the Constitution couldn't make any headway, the ruling parties' plans to register the bill in Parliament has now been deferred at least for a few days.

Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal  had earlier announced that the amendment bill would be registered  by mid-November, and later on various ministers had spoken about the government's plan to endorse the bill through the cabinet meeting on Sunday and forward it to Parliament later the same day.

Following the prime minister's announcement, the agitating Madhes-based parties had given him a 15-day deadline to register the bill. That deadline expired on Monday.

However, the government couldn't move ahead as per its plan as changes  proposed in the amendment sparked disputes within both the major ruling partners - CPN (Maoist Center) and Nepali Congress. Also, the agitating parties have refused to commit themselves to endorsing the bill.

A senior minister said that the government is in a 'wait and see' mode while putting the amendment process on hold. The government changed its approach after its efforts to bring the Madhes-based parties on board the amendment process yielded no result.

Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal decided to put the amendment proposal on hold for now after his meeting with Upendra Yadav of Federal Socialist Forum Nepal (FSFN), the largest among the constituent parties of the United Democratic Madhesi Front (UFMD), couldn't reach any agreement.

“The government has decided to put the amendment process on hold for now because we found the agitating parties to be not positive of late,” said Minister for Physical Infrastructure and Transport Ramesh Lekhak of NC.

The ruling parties changed their plan also because the agitating side didn't agree with the government condition that they commit themselves to taking part in the three sets of elections to be held by January 2018. 

“Prime Minister left no stone unturned to garner a two-thirds majority in Parliament in favor of the amendment proposal but the agitating parties remained noncommittal,” Minister for Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs Ajay Shankar Nayak told Republica.

According to his close aides, Prime Minister Dahal has started consultations with other leaders about exploring  new options in the changed context.

“Prime Minister is also holding discussions on whether the major three political parties can come together on the issue of amendment,” said Dahal's press coordinator, Govinda Acharya. “If the parties entrust him with the responsibility of bringing an acceptable proposal, he is ready for that as well.”

For Dahal, pushing the amendment proposal became more challenging because lawmakers of the ruling NC and Maoist Center have been mounting pressure against the proposal for changing the delineations of  provinces 5, 4 and 6. 

A possible revolt within the ruling parties and strong objections by the main opposition CPN-UML exerted pressure on the government to put the amendment proposal on hold, said sources.

The amendment bill proposes to revise the provincial boundaries in Provinces 5, 4 and 6, and amend provisions related to marital naturalized citizenship, representation in the National Assembly and the languages of official business. 

Meanwhile, expressing concern over the constitution amendment process, President Bidya Devi Bhandari held a meeting with the top leaders of the major three political parties on Monday. 

PM Dahal, NC President Sher Bahadur Deuba and CPN-UML Chairman K P Oli spent around three hours at the office of the president in the evening to brief the head of state on the latest political stalemate.

“She suggested to the leaders to work together to settle the issue and join hands for holding elections,” said the president's personal secretary, Bheshraj Adhikari.

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