KATHMANDU, MARCH 28: The United Democratic Madhesi Front (UDMF) is ready to back down for now from its demand on province demarcations if the major three parties reciprocated its calls for a powerful federal commission, several UDMF leaders involved in talks with the major parties said Tuesday, signaling some progress in the informal negotiation initiated by the parties to end the political deadlock just weeks ahead of the local level elections scheduled for May 14.
This is a major shift in the stance of the regional parties which have so far made constitution amendment their bottom line to take part in the local polls.
“We want amendment but we at the same time believe in meaningful and longstanding solutions of the problems. The amendment may not last long even if we push forward the amendment bill through parliament without taking the CPN-UML into confidence. So, we have put forth an alternate proposal to find a solution through a federal commission,” said Ashok Rai, senior leader of the Federal Socialist Forum Nepal. He, however, said that the remaining demands pertaining to citizenship, language and representation in the Upper House should be met without any further delay.
Cross-party leaders involved in the negotiation said that both the government and the agitating parties have, in principle, agreed to make amendment a point of compromise for a much-needed breakthrough before the elections. However, parties are still divided on the jurisdictions and power of the commission.
UDMF has demanded “a permanent and powerful commission” to resolve the current and all future disputes over federal boundaries. They also seek to incorporate the provision of forming such a commission in the constitution itself while specifying its terms of references and jurisdictions.
In addition, they have also insisted that the commission should have the right to determine the number and boundaries of the states, leaders said.
“Issues pertaining to the boundaries of the states should be resolved before we go to the federal elections. The commission should be given a deadline,” said Rai.
Nepali Congress and CPN (Maoist Center) are pushing for an interim commission with limited power, the leaders said. The two parties are especially opposed to the proposal of endowing the commission with the constitutional right to fix the number of federal provinces and their boundaries.
UML has so far rejected the ideas. During an all-party meeting last week, hours before Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal left for China, UML Chairman KP Sharma Oli had sought some more time to discuss the proposal in the party.
Amid some progress in backchannel negotiations, senior leaders from the government expressed confidence that the Madhesi parties will participate in the elections.
“The UDMF will participate in the elections which will take place on the scheduled,” said Deputy Prime Minister Bimalendra Nidhi while speaking at a function on Monday.
Madhesi leaders said that the ball is now in the court of the major parties. They said that their future course would depend on how the major parties respond to their proposal.
“One positive thing is that all parties including the UML have come together to resolve the problem. If they come up with a win-win solution, we will take part in the polls. If their positions remain unchanged, we will carry on with our protest programs,” Sadbhawana party Chairman Rajendra Mahato told Republica.
Earlier this week, an aide of PM Dahal told Republica that the government was positive to settle demarcation issues through the commission.
“There aren't many choices. All parties should work together to find a win-win deal on the federal commission and end this deadlock. PM Dahal is ready to show flexibility. Others should do the same,” said Chakrapani Khanal, chief political advisor to PM Dahal.