KATHMANDU, May 10: In an effort to get the constitution amendment bill passed before stepping down, Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal has started negotiations with the main opposition CPN-UML and the agitating Madhes-based political parties.
As Dahal is to hand over the government to Nepali Congress (NC) President Sher Bahadur Deuba immediately after the May 14 local polls, he has intensified inter-party negotiations, seeking support for the constitution amendment bill, which is currently under discussion in parliament.
“The government will put in all its strength for amending the constitution immediately after the first phase local polls. Negotiations with the opposition and agitating parties have been under way for the last few days,” ruling CPN (Maoist Center) spokesperson Pampha Bhusal told Republica.
According to Bhusal, the prime minister held meetings with the chiefs of coalition partner NC and opposition UML leaders on Sunday and meetings were held between NC, UML and the agitating parties on Tuesday.
“The prime minister has been making efforts to have the constitution amendment bill endorsed on May 18. Opposition UML leaders have also appeared positive during recent meetings,” said Dahal's press advisor, Govinda Acharya.
Parliament's meeting has been scheduled for May 18 after the first phase local polls. Though the government tried to endorse the amendment bill before the first phase polls, the plan was put off after some lawmakers of the Rastriya Prajatantra Party (RPP) came out against the amendment dfespite the party's official line.
Following the RPP's internal rift, the government failed to garner a two-thirds support in favor of the amendment. However, the party has decided to vote in favor of the amendment bill although it has already quit the government because of differences over the impeachment motion against the chief justice.
After the ruling parties agreed to endorse the constitution amendment bill with revisions, the agitating Madhes-based parties decided to take part in the local polls. A major constituent party in the agitating alliance, the Federal Socialist Forum Nepal (FSFN), is also taking part in the first phase polls and other Madhesi parties said they would take part in the second phase polls on June 14.
“But we would rethink our decision if the government doesn't amend the constitution before the second phase local polls,” said Nepal Janata Party Nepal leader Rajendra Mahato. He further said that they still doubt the government's commitment as the promises made to them haven't been fulfilled for so long.
The government had postponed the elections in four provinces till June 14 in a bid to bring the agitating parties on board.
Ruling Maoist Center and NC have an understanding to hand over the government leadership to NC President Deuba immediately after the local polls. Agitating parties fear that any change in government could affect the amendment process.
“The change in government leadership won't affect the amendment process as it is a commitment made by the ruling alliance, and it will be fulfilled,” said Maoist spokesperson Bhusal.
With the UML-led opposition alliance standing against the amendment, the government has been unable to put the amendment bill to a vote in parliament. When he was elected prime minister last year, Dahal had expressed commitment to settling the Madhes agitations through the amendment of the constitution.