KATHMANDU, April 7: United Democratic Madhesi Front (UDMF) leaders stressed that the local elections should be held across the country the same day and if time permits on May 14 itself, but emphasized on need of resolving the disputed issues before going to the polls.
The response of the disgruntled Madhesi parties comes at a time when Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal is exploring possibility to hold polls in two phases after informal talks to end the Madhes crises failed to bear fruits. PM Dahal is seeking to hold elections in the hills and mountains in the first phase and in some districts of tarai in the second phase, according to CPN (Maoist Center) spokesperson Pampha Bhusal.
Rajendra Shrestha, co-chair of Federal Socialist Party Nepal, said that the elections should be held at once throughout the country.
“We think that the local polls should take place in one phase. The major parties should work accordingly to resolve the problems,” said Shrestha. He said that the government should work for consensus targeting the May 14 polls.
“It is entirely possible and feasible to increase the number of local bodies before May 14. It's just a matter of political will,” said Shrestha when asked whether it was possible to increase the number of local bodies and go to elections in the scheduled date.
Rajendra Mahato, chairman of Sadbhawana Party, said that the polls should be held in single phase but insisted that the government should be ready to defer the polls if more time is required to resolve the existing disputes.
“The central point is that all the disputed issues should be settled before going to the polls if the government wants us on board the election process. Madhes should be taken together hand in hand with rest of the country. It would be disastrous if the polls are held with the use of force or Madhes is left behind,” said Mahato. UDMF leaders said that they are, for the time being, ready to put boundaries issue on hold if consensus is drawn on other issues.
The major demands of the Madhesi parties include increasing the number of local units in tarai in proportion to the population of the areas and forming a powerful federal commission to resolve demarcation issue before going to the federal polls. They have also demanded to curtail power of local bodies and endorse constitution amendment bill pertaining to language, citizenship and representation in the upper house.
Like the UDMF, the main opposition UML has also rejected the proposal of holding polls in two phases saying that such a move would further deepen the Madhes crisis. UML Secretary Yogesh Bhattarai told Republica that the local polls should be held across the country on May 14. He also said that the UML is also against “the alternative proposal put forth by the government”. He, however, said that the main opposition was ready to show flexibility on some legitimate demands of the agitating parties.
“Madhesi parties' demands like call to disenfranchise chief and deputy chief of local bodies are against the principle of federalism and decentralization. It is ironic that they claim themselves to be true champion of federalism but appear hell bent on weakening the local bodies,” said Bhattarai.