Madhes-based parties divided over Constitution Day

Published On: September 18, 2019 08:00 AM NPT By: Republica  | @RepublicaNepal

KATHMANDU, Sept 18: Madhes-based parties are divided between those supporting the celebration of Constitution Day and those opposed, even as the government makes its preparations to mark the occasion on September 20. 

For weeks now, the government has been preparing to celebrate the fourth edition of the ‘historic day’ that saw more than 90 percent of lawmakers endorse the federal republican constitution of Nepal back in 2015.

For Madhes-based parties that vehemently oppose the present constitution, it remains a deeply divisive issue. Most of their leaders still see the Constitution Day as ‘a black day in Nepal’s history’. They argue that the Madhes should continue to mark it as a ‘black day’ to mount pressure on the government to revise the statute as per their aspirations. 

But some leaders of the Samajwadi Party and Rastriya Janata Party Nepal are now saying it’s pointless to continue denouncing the constitution as these parties are in government and swore an oath to uphold the statute.

On Monday, Samajwadi Party Nepal, an ally in the ruling coalition, announced that it would neither commemorate nor oppose the Constitution Day. Madhesi parties in the coalition government in Province 2 are debating whether to celebrate or oppose the event. 

“The party will not participate in any function on the occasion,” reads a statement issued by Prashant Singh, chief of the party’s publicity department. The party instead plans to organize interaction programs on ‘the necessity of amending the constitution’. 

Party chief Deputy Prime Minister Upendra Yadav is leaving for the US Wednesday. Many believe his decision to go abroad again just days after returning from India might have been inspired by a desire to skip the Constitution Day. Yadav has gone on over a dozen foreign junkets since he joined the government in 2019. 

A day after the party’s decision, Province 2 Chief Minister and another leader of the party Lal Babu Raut decided on Tuesday to light a candle to mark the Constitution Day. As chief minister, Raut said, it was his moral duty to commemorate the occasion.

“I became chief minister because of the constitution. It has granted us the freedom to express our views,” he said. 

But many of his cabinet colleagues, mainly those from Rastriya Janata Party Nepal, have opposed Raut’s decision and said they will observe a ‘black day’.

“There is no need to celebrate the constitution as we are still fighting for equal rights. We were sent to jail on this very day. Half the country’s population was protesting,” said Province 2 Minister for Physical Infrastructure Jitendra Sonal. He said they would observe ‘a black day’. 

These two parties, the third and fourth largest in parliament, have been pressing the government to revise the constitution. Their demands include the redrawing of province boundaries and adoption of a fully proportional representation system for elections.

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