KATHMANDU, NOV 15: Nearly a year after the election of the provincial assemblies and nine months after the first meetings of the assemblies, four of the seven provinces have yet to choose their own names or their provincial capitals.
Only Provinces 4 , 6 and 7 have finalized their names (Gandaki, Karnali and Sudur Paschim respectively) and their capitals (Pokhara, Birendranagar and Godawari ) so far.
Nepal Communist Party (NCP) has two-third majorities in Provinces 1, 3 and 5, and its provincial assembly members can fix the capitals and names through voting in the provincial assemblies. Two Madhes-based political parties—Federal Socialist Forum Nepal and Rastriya Janata Party Nepal—together have a majority in Province 2 and support from NCP will be enough to finalize the name and capital of the province . But partisan, regional, ethnic and geographical interests have complicated matters.
Some of the provinces have not even started deliberations on the issue as the party leaders fear disputes within and protest by disgruntled regions or groups.
Provinces 2 and 5 have formed separate committees to recommend the capitals and province names and province 3 has sought intervention from the NCP leadership . Province 1 has not officially initiated any homework in this regard.
The government of Province 1 has postponed the deadline for finalizing its name and capital at least four times . While proroguing the summer session of the provincial assembly Chief Minister Sher Dhan Rai vowed that the winter session would finalize the name and capital unanimously. But the winter session has now become uncertain.
Ruling NCP former chief whip Raj Kumar Ojha said the party has not held any internal discussions about the capital and name for the province. Also, main opposition Nepali Congress (NC) Chief Whip Kedar Karki said the ruling party has not held any talks with the opposition . Disputes within both ruling and opposition parties are one of the major reasons behind the delay. Some NCP leaders have been pressing for Biratnagar as provincial capital, but a majority of the party's members in the provincial assembly are against . Biratnagar, Dhankuta and Gothgaun are in the running for provincial capital .
Some regional and fringe parties have been pressing for naming the province to reflect its ethnic identity, but NCP leaders have proposed Koshi, Sagarmatha or Kirat as the name. Government spokesperson Hikmat Karki claimed that the name and capital will be tabled in the upcoming assembly session.
The Province 2 government has formed a three-member panel to recommend the name and capital of the province but it doesn't have a two-third majority in the its assembly .
Though most of the political parties are for Janakpur as provincial capital, making a choice has become a tough challenge for the government. As it is short of 17 votes for a two-third majority in the 107-member provincial assembly, the ruling FSFN and RJPN must seek support from either NCP or NC to endorse its proposed name and capital. But both NCP and NC have been lobbying for a different name .
FSFN and RJPN have been campaigning for Madhes as the province name while NCP leaders have proposed Mithila-Bhojpura and NC is for Mithila Province. The two ruling parties are rigid about Madhes but the NCP is strongly against this.
Government spokesperson Bijay Yadav claimed that naming the province Madhes would address the aspirations of people of different communities and geography. “Not a single person in this province is against Madhes as the name of the province, and if any political party is against it can be brought into consensus,” he said. The name, capital and official language of the province will be finalized after a month on the basis of the report of the Hari Bamsa Jha panel, he further said.
Province 3 has seen heated debate over the choice of provincial capital following the report of a special panel formed for the purpose. But the issue of name has not come up for discussion so far.
The report of the Jha panel has not been discussed in the provincial assembly even three months after Speaker Sanu Kumar Shrestha received it. It was tabled in the assembly only last month following intense pressure from ruling party lawmakers. But the provincial assembly meeting has been stalled by dispute over the capital.
Chief Minister Dormani Paudel is for Hetauda as the capital while a majority of the ruling NCP members in the provincial assembly, provincial committee and the secretariat are against . Main opposition NC leaders have warned of grave consequences if a provincial capital other than Hetauda is chosen.
The panel for recommending the capital has suggested a choice among towns in Kavre, Chitwan, Nuwakot, Bhaktapur or Makwanpur . According to panel head Deepak Niroula, the report made its suggestion keeping in mind the long term effect, service delivery and development. Indecision within the NCP, which has a two-third majority in the province, has resulted in delay . Chief Minister Paudel said the choice will be fixed through consensus in the top political leadership.
Bagmati, Nepal Mandal, Newa -Tamsaling have also been discussed as names for the province, but the political parties are all focused on provincial capital.
A committee formed to recommend the name of Province 5 and its capital has spent its three-month tenure doing nothing. The provincial cabinet has remained mum on the issue. A 15-member committee was formed on August 10 after the continuous pressure from ruling party members to declare the capital and name the province. But the committee has failed to even choose its coordinator . The delay in picking the coordinator is due to differences between party leaders and lawmakers whether to pick Dang or Butwal as capital of the province.
As promised during their election campaigns, the leaders of the NCP and NC are still lobbying for either Butwal or Dang as the permanent capital. Kapilvastu as capital has also been floated of late. However, there is less controversy over the province name. Most are willing to settle for the name Lumbini, given that it is the birthplace of Lord Buddha.
(With the input of BINOD SUBEDI, BIRATNAGAR, SURESH YADAV, JANAKPUR, ASHOK SUJAN SHRESTHA, HETAUDA and REKHA BHUSAL, BUTWAL)