KATHMANDU, Dec 26: The ruling and opposition parties both seem to be shying away from taking the constitution amendment bill to a logical end by tabling it in Parliament for a decision.
The opposition camp isn’t ready to allow the speaker to table the bill even though over one-third of the lawmakers in Parliament at present are against the bill, which is enough to abort the motion.
The ruling parties on the other hand haven’t taken any serious initiatives to garner a two-thirds majority though they are short of only a few seats. Meanwhile, some more fringe parties have now joined the opposition camp, saying the ruling side didn’t even approach them for their support.
Initially, there were only four political parties - UML, CPN (ML), Nepal Workers Peasants Party and Rastriya Janamorcha -- against the bill, but the UML-led opposition camp now has altogether nine parties with 201 lawmakers. Rastriya Janamukti Party Loktantrik, Nepal Family Party, Nepaa Party, Madhes Samata Party and Bahujan Shakti Party have also joined the camp.
Another four small parties are undecided whether to favor the amendment bill or not. An alliance of Akhanda Nepal Party, Dalit Janajati Party, Khambuwan Rastriya Morcha, Janajagaran Party and independent lawmaker Chandreshwar Jha has said that the coalition has decided not to vote for the amendment bill registered by the government. These parties are in the ruling benches in Parliament as they voted to elect Pushpa Kamal Dahal as prime minister. But they decided not to vote in favor of the bill, accusing the government of keeping them in the dark over the amendment issue.
“We are not obstructing the House like the UML, but we are not supporting the amendment either as the government kept us in the dark while registering the bill and has so far not sought our support for its endorsement,” said Kumar Khadka of Akhanda Party. If these fringe parties stick to their decision not to vote for the bill, it can be more challenging for the government to secure a two-thirds majority.
Political advisor to the prime minister, Chakrapani Khanal, admits that the government is reluctant to retain the fringe parties in favor of the amendment bill. “Government doesn’t want to endorse the bill through a mathematical majority. As the amendment is a national issue, we hope the UML will also come on board soon,” Khanal told Republica. He further claimed that some small parties quit the ruling coalition to join the opposition camp not because they oppose the amendment bill but because of the delay in allocating ministries to their parties.
Asked about opposition obstructions in the House despite having enough strength to thwart the bill, UML Deputy Parliamentary Party Leader Subas Nembang said they will not allow the bill to be tabled as it was registered in breach of the Constitution.
“Article 274 of the Constitution bars revision of provincial boundaries without prior consent from the provincial assembly concerned, but the government’s amendment bill has proposed changing the provincial boundaries and this is unconstitutional,” said Nembang.
However, the article further states that “in case the Provincial Assembly is not in place, the bill shall have to be endorsed or rejected within three months from the time the assembly comes into force and the information forwarded to the federal legislature’.
UML leaders have also accused the government of not properly consulting the second largest political party.
In the last two weeks since Speaker Onsari Gharti convened a three-party meeting, the government has not called a single meeting seeking the opposition’s help over the bill, said another UML leader.