BIRATNAGAR, Jan 12: Even though ruling party members of the provincial assembly of Province 1 have been saying in public that an 'agreement will be reached among political parties over naming the province', the process of formally deciding a name has been in limbo for the past several months while the provincial government awaits a nod from the center.
Ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) lawmakers in the province said they are awaiting the directives of the party's secretariat meeting to settle the name. The secretariat meeting last week had directed lawmakers of Province 3 to name the province Bagmati with Hetauda as its headquarters.
A NCP lawmaker of the provincial assembly said that since the debate over HQ for Province 1 was resolved following a directive from the center, they are awaiting a similar directive to resolve the dispute over province name as well. “We are waiting for the central committee's directive,” said a provincial committee member from the NCP who asked not to be named.
A NCP source said that the decision on province name has been delayed for lack of agreement between Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli and party Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal over the issue. “PM Oli wants the province to be named Koshi or Sagarmatha, while Dahal wants Kirat,” claimed the source.
In April last year, the debate on the HQ for Province 1 was settled. But this debate may surface again as the HQ they settled for is a 40-kilometer area scattered over various places. It was named 'Greater Birat Development Area'.
At the time, Biratnagar was named as the capital of the 'Greater Birat Development Area', while they also agreed to develop provincial infrastructure in Itahari and Sundar Haraicha, among other places.
However, Chief Minister Sher Dhan Rai and all members of the provincial cabinet have said that all the provincial infrastructure will be developed in Biratnagar alone.
As per the constitution, the provincial assembly decides the name and HQ of the province. Although 23 months have passed since the formation of the provincial government, the cabinet led by Rai has not expedited discussions over naming the province.
The chief minister said that they are into serious homework to decide the province name. But the provincial government has not held any discussions with the main opposition party Nepali Congress about this. “We are working seriously on naming the province,” said Chief Minister Rai, while addressing a function in Biratnagar about a week ago.
The irony is that the cabinet hasn't formally discussed the issue, a source at the cabinet told Republica.
Although provincial ministers say in public that discussions are underway, cabinet members themselves admit that there has not been any progress in the matter. “It is true there have been no discussions,” said spokesperson of the provincial government and Minister for Internal Affairs and Law Hikmat Karki.