NCP’s intra-party feud widens over fixing Biratnagar as province 1 capital

Published On: May 1, 2019 02:31 PM NPT By: Raju Adhikari

BIRATNAGAR, May 1: The intra-party rift in the ruling Nepal Communist Party’s provincial committee has further widened as the provincial assembly members and cabinet members failed to fix the name and permanent capital of the Province 1 government.

Province Chief Minister Sher Dhan Rai, who is also one of the influential leaders of the NCP, and his cabinet members are lobbying to fix Biratnagar as the provincial capital whereas majority of the NCP’s provincial assembly members are against of it. Majority of the NCP provincial assembly members want Itahari to be declared the capital. 

Taking a strong exception to government’s proposal to fix Biratnagar as the provincial capital,   the provincial assembly members of the NCP have started a signature campaign ahead of the provincial assembly meeting that begins on Thursday. However, the provincial assembly members have refused to admit publicly about their signature campaign.

NCP’s provincial assembly member Laxman Tiwari told Republica Online that majority of the assembly members are in favor of not naming Biratnagar as the provincial capital. “Majority of us have already drawn the attention of the party leadership regarding the matter. We hope that the party leadership will listen to us,” he said.

The provincial assembly members collected their signatures to exert pressure on the party leadership on the issue during their secret meeting in Itahari that lasted for three days, sources said. The ruling NCP maintains 67 seats in the 93-member provincial assembly of Province-1. Out of the 67 NCP provincial assembly members, 37 are in favor of not fixing Biratnagar as the provincial capital.

Chief Minister Sher Dhan Rai is mulling on imposing whip on the provincial assembly members if the provincial assembly members continue to insist and don’t comply with the party’s stand of fixing Biratnagar as the provincial assembly, according to sources. A meeting of the NCP’s provincial parliamentary party was called for 11 am today to discuss on the same issue. However, the meeting has not started yet. The NCP’s provincial committee meeting is currently underway.

NCP’s provincial committee in-charge Bhim Acharya is also against the idea of fixing Biratnagar as the capital of the province. The provincial government, despite objections from the provincial assembly members, is forwarding the name and permanent capital to the provincial assembly for endorsement. The provincial assembly is expected to endorse the name and permanent capital of the province within four days.

In a bid to make government services accessible to the people living in all corners, Province 1 government is planning to fix its capital in a 40-kilometer area scattered in various districts. This area will cover certain parts of Biratnagar, Itahari, Gothgaun, Biratchowk, Dharan among others and will be called the 'Greater Birat Development Area'.

The meeting of the provincial parliament held a month decided to an agreement to evaluate and analyze the bill proposing the concept of 'Greater Birat Development Area'.

For a long time, the provincial government lobbied to declare Biratnagar as its permanent capital.

Earlier, CM Rai had proposed to decentralize the provincial government, which had drawn flak from many. Meanwhile, the main opposition Nepali Congress (NC) has been mocking the idea by saying that the government will only confuse the citizens by implementing this concept. Expressing their dissatisfaction over the decision, NC leaders last month warned that the party will not let it happen.The NC's provincial assembly members argue that Biratnagar has enough infrastructures required for a capital.

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