Province 6 has set an example for other provinces as to how issues of province name and capital can be amicably resolved. The meeting of provincial assembly held on Saturday unanimously endorsed the proposal to name the province Karnali and also fixed Birendranagar in Surkhet as its capital—becoming the first province to do so in Nepal’s federal history. Most importantly, the issue was settled without protests and strikes. Yam Lal Kadel , CPN-UML Parliamentary Party leader of the province, proposed the name while Din Bandu Shrestha of Nepali Congress, Ganesh Prasad Singh of CPN (Maoist Center) and Sohila Sahi of Rastriya Prajatantra Party seconded the proposal. Not a single lawmaker stood in opposition. Instead the lawmakers said Karnali will be an appropriate name to send out a strong message of geographical unity. Likewise, they also agreed on Birendranagar as the provincial capital. Only one lawmaker voted against it.
Province 6 has sent clear message to other provinces. First, issues related to name and capital can be resolved peacefully given the political will. Second, if the lawmakers root for the name and capital that is largely agreeable to people living within the provinces, there will be no protest and opposition from the people’s level as well. And third, resolving name and capital are not as complicated as parties sometimes make it appear. Clearly there is a lesson for all to learn from Karnani. However, these simple issues in the recent times have been made needlessly controversial by the political parties themselves. The parties promised to make virtually every city the provincial capital and chose the names of the provinces arbitrarily to secure votes during the election campaigns—leading to protests and some even turned violent. This kind of politics has failed.
Political parties in rest of the provinces should carefully handle the issues of name and capital. As other provinces start working on these, there will certainly be arguments and counterarguments in favor of one name and place over the other. It would be a great mistake if the parties again resort to pitting one group of people against other in the process. If at all, dissatisfactions emerge, they should ensure that no violence and protests will surface on this matter. Often, such protests are instigated by political parties to serve their narrow interest. They should avoid such shenanigans. If the four major parties want they can avoid unnecessary protests. Province 6 has set the right example. The first step towards making federalism functional will start with naming of the provinces and fixing their capitals. Ruling parties in the provinces will have to work closely with the opposition on this issue. Karnali has shown how it can be done. There should be no unnecessary controversies over the matters that can be resolved peacefully, and with consensus.