No restriction on naturalised citizens through marriage being elected to top posts
KATHMANDU, Sept 26: The government has assured the agitating Madhes-based parties that it will start the constitution amendment process in a week's time.
According to Tarai Madhes Socialist Party General Secretary Keshav Jha, Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal has assured Madhes leaders individually that the amendment process will begin in a week's time. Following the assurance, the United Democratic Madhesi Front (UDMF) has scheduled a meeting for Monday.
According to Jha, the PM has assured agitating parties that the amendment will be mainly on five issues -- languages, citizenship, composition of National Assembly, powers for local levels and provincial delineations.
"Nepali Congress and CPN (Maoist Center) have developed an understanding that the languages designated by the Language Commission as national languages would also be official languages for purposes of government work, along with Nepali . Likewise, there will be no restriction on naturalized citizens through marriage from being elected to top positions in the country," said Jha.
"Likewise, discussions are going on to keep the local levels under the provinces and to review the list of powers and jurisdictions of the provinces and local levels. Likewise, an understanding has been reached that instead of electing eight persons from each province to the National Assembly, three or four seats would be confirmed to each province and the remaining seats would be divided as per populations among all the provinces," claimed Jha.
According to Jha, the dispute over provincial boundaries could be resolved by changing the delineation of Province 5 and extending the delineation of Province 2. "During discussions prior to the PM's India visit, he had proposed to settle some issues related to boundaries through the amendment and to form a commission for settling complex issues related to provincial delineations and Morang, Sunsari, Jhapa, Kailali and Kanchanpur," said Jha.
"The PM is stressing the formation of the commission whereas we have been asking that all the issues be settled right now," he added.
The Madhes-based parties are hopeful that the main opposition CPN-UML will also support the amendment process. "What we are discussing now on provincial delineations was once a common proposal of the NC and UML. So, we hope the UML will also support the amendment process," said Jha.
"If the UML is not ready to support the amendment process at any cost, we will have no other option than try to garner a two-thirds majority in Parliament," he added.
The numbers game
The main opposition CPN-UML has been taking harsh stances in public regarding the constitution amendment. The UML has been formally telling the government to justify the amendment.
A few days earlier, UML Chairman KP Sharma Oli, addressing a mass meeting in Kathmandu, had clearly said that his party cannot countenance a constitutional amendment to accomodate a handful of leaders and their interests. He had also challenged the government to show its mettle by amending constitution without UML consent.
To endorse the constitution amendment bill by a two-third majority in Parliament, at least 397 lawmakers have to vote in favor of it. The ruling coalition at present has at least 370 lawmakers on its side.
If UML maintains its position until the last moment, the amendment could be a tough proposition for the ruling coalition. In that situation, the Rastriya Prajatantra Party - Nepal (RPP-N) could be a crucial player within Parliament.
RPP-N has own conditions for supporting amendment
RPP-N, which has been lobbying against secularism and demanding the declaration of Nepal as a Hindu state, wants the ruling coalition to address this demand if the coalition wants RPP-N support for the constitution amendment.
"No coalition has a two-third majority in Parliament. That means the amendment is also a process of compromise. If they want our support for the amendment, we'll obviously raise the issue of declaring Nepal a Hindu state. We want the issue to be settled through the same amendment. If they are not ready to listen to us, we cannot support the amendment process," said Dilanath Giri, chief whip of RPP-N.
"We at least want a referendum whether to have a secular state or a Hindu state," he added.
However, the Federal Socialist Forum Nepal (FSFN) and the ethnic parties and organizations within the Federal Alliance are not ready to accept the RPP-N proposal. They don't want to compromise on the issue of secular state.
Dissatisfaction within NC
Meanwhile, dissatisfaction has surfaced within the Nepali Congress, the largest party in Parliament, on the issue of amendment. Leaders from the faction led by Ram Chandra Paudel have demanded with party President Sher Bahadur Deuba to hold a central committee meeting soon to discuss the amendment.
"As the largest party, NC has to take the initiative for constitution implementation and for holding all three elections. On the other hand, we have to settle the Madhes issue through the amendment. For this, we have to hold decisive talks with the opposition but the NC itself is yet to discuss the issue at the central committee," said Dilendra Prasad Badu.
"We have asked the party leadership to discuss such issues at the central committee and to hold a meeting soon," he added.