Govt, UDMF blame game over amendment still ongoing

Published On: April 20, 2017 01:00 AM NPT By: Roshan Sedhai

Both sides accuse each other of betrayal 
KATHMANDU, April 20: The United Democratic Madhesi Front (UDMF), which announced to boycott local polls last week, would not reconsider its decision unless the government takes concrete steps in addressing the concerns of the agitating parties, Madhesi leaders said on Wednesday.

The leaders said this in response to the major parties' fresh calls to take part in the polls leaving the differences aside. A meeting of top five parties in parliament on Wednesday called on disgruntled parties to participate in the polls. The meeting also agreed, in principle, to hold the polls in two phases if the agitating parties come on board the election process. 

Though Madhesi leaders did not dismiss the idea of polls in two phases, they insisted on the need to settl the disputed issues before going to the polls.
“Our protest is not for polls in two phases. These are trivial issues and would not change anything until our demands are met. The government should resolve the remaining disputes over the constitution and boundaries first. Other things can be discussed later,” said Sadbhawana Party Chairman Rajendra Mahato. 

The constitution amendment bill registered in parliament has addressed most of the concerns put forth by the tarai-centric parties in the 11-point demand. But their demand to form yet another federal province in the tarai plains has not been addressed yet. They have also called on a need for forming more powerful federal commission to resolve all future disputes over demarcation of boundaries.

Madhesi parties have also demanded increasing the number of local units in Madhes in proportion to the population of the region. 

During Wednesday's meeting, Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal briefed cross-party leaders that Madhesi parties were still in negotiation with the government. He also hinted at the possibility of a last minute consensus claiming that he was working to find a point of compromise. Government interlocutors say that the main dispute is over the issue of federal and local boundaries and a breakthrough would depend on the flexibility both sides show on the issues.

 While the government has refused to make any prior promise on the details of boundaries, Madhesi parties want constitutional guarantee of another province in the tarai. 

Chakrapani Khanal, prime minister's chief political advisor, said that the flip-flopping stance of the agitating parties on the boundaries had made consensus difficult. 

“We included the provision related to federal commission at their behest. But they took a U-turn once the bill was registered in parliament. The government has taken this as a huge betrayal. It has also increased the level of distrust,” said Khanal. During today's meeting, Prime Minister Dahal had also blamed the Madhesi leaders' flip-flopping position for the present crisis. 

Federal Socialist Forum Nepal Chairman Upendra Yadav, however, directed the blame at Prime Minister Dahal. Talking to Republica, Yadav said that the regional parties were forced to take extreme measures after the prime minister did not fulfill their promises. 

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