KATHMANDU, August 18: The constitution amendment faces an uphill task in parliament, with two key parties distancing themselves from fresh efforts to pass the bill.
The amendment bill, registered in parliament in April, is scheduled to be put to a vote next week. The bill seeks to revise the constitutional provisions relating to the upper house, citizenship and languages, as demanded by the Rastriya Janata Party Nepal (RJPN).
Leaders of the ruling Nepali Congress and CPN (Maoist Center) appear confident that the bill will be endorsed through parliament. Talking to reporters in Janakpur on Thursday, CPN (Maoist Center) Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal expressed hope that the bill would find the support it needs to get through parliament. He said the main opposition UML and smaller parties including the Rastriya Prajatantra Party and its splinter will back the bill.
"UML leaders have pledged to support the bill. I remain hopeful that UML also will eventually support it. RPP has also given a positive response. I am positive that the bill will be passed," said Dahal.
Last week, Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba claimed that the bill would be passed.
However, even as the leaders of the governing parties appear confident about the amendment, the bill still appears to be around two dozen votes short for passage. It will require the backing of 396 lawmakers to get endorsed through parliament and the governing alliance seems in control of around 359 votes. While NC and Maoist Center respectively have 207 and 82 votes in parliament, RJPN has 25.
The main opposition UML with its 181 votes has maintained that the party will not support the amendment.
"Our position to the amendment remains unchanged. We will not vote for the bill," said UML spokesperson Yogesh Bhattarai. UML has, however, clarified that it would not obstruct the bill in parliament.
If UML votes against the bill, the government will have to bring in fringe parties including RPP and RPP (Democratic). Both these parties have refused to take sides on the bill.
Despite initial reluctance, the ruling parties look determined to do everything to pass the bill. Passing the bill will not only pave the way for RJPN to come on board the elections but also serve their electoral interests in the terai plains.
NC is seeking to make up for the losses it incurred in the first and second phase local polls, by blostering its performance in the eight districts of Province 2 that are scheduled to go to polls in September.
Putting the amendment bill to a vote is also likely to be a face-saver for the RJPN as it joins elections. RJPN leader Rajendra Mahato said the part wants to see the government make a sincere effort to pass the bill.
"We will decide what to do after seeing the outcome of the vote," he said.