President Pranab Mukherjee has urged leaders of Nepal’s political parties to focus on implementing the new Constitution to accommodate broader sections of society in the process of strengthening democracy.
Mukherjee, the first Indian head of state to visit Nepal in 18 years, met leaders of the ruling Nepali Congress, the main opposition CPN-UML and agitating Madhesi parties separately on Thursday evening and reiterated India’s message that it was keen to see peace, stability and progress in Nepal.
Madhesis, the inhabitants of the southern plains who share close ties with India, had launched a months-long agitation to press for greater political representation. They also alleged the Constitution adopted by Nepal in September last year discriminated against them.
Seven Madhesi parties, under the banner of the Samyukta Loktantrik Madhesi Morcha, met Mukherjee and urged him to build pressure on the Nepal government and three major parties to amend the Constitution.
Mukherjee urged the Madhesi parties to wait till the the Nepal government takes steps to amend the new statute before going in for any new protest.
“I have been assured by the Prime Minister (Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’) that the process of Constitution amendment has already begun. So I urge you to wait till that happens,” Mukherjee said at the meeting with the Madhesi leaders.
The leaders, however, expressed doubts about the “intention” of the Prachanda government. “If our demands are not met, we will resume our protest,” warned Upendra Yadav, a prominent Madhesi leader.
The Madhesi leaders sought renewed support from India and urged Mukerjee to play a more proactive role in resolving their problems. They also expressed displeasure at New Delhi’s “flip-flop” on issues raised by Madhesi parties.
Sadbhawana Party chairman Rajendra Mahato said Mukherjee also enquired about political negotiations between the government and the Madhesi groups.
Mukherjee, according to Nepali Congress leader Ram Chandra Poudel, was concerned about Nepal’s perennial political instability. He and other Nepali Congress leaders also discussed the status of India-funded projects.
He also requested ruling party leaders to use the $1 billion line of credit from India for development and another line of credit for $1 billion for rebuilding homes damaged in the 2015 earthquakes.