Nepal’s three major political parties - the Nepali Congress, CPN-UML and CPN-Maoist Center - agreed on Wednesday to announce dates for polls to local bodies within a week despite the strong reservations of Madhes-based parties.
At a time when the Madhesi parties have been urging the government to first amend the Constitution to address their grievances related to citizenship, boundaries of proposed states and making the statute more inclusive, the new proposal to hold elections without the backing of groups from the southern plains is likely to lead to confrontation.
Though the major parties have agreed on holding the polls to local bodies, the modalities are yet to be worked out, sources said.
In a bid to address the demands of Madhes-based parties, the government had registered a constitutional amendment bill incorporating their demands but opposition and obstruction by the main opposition CPN-UML since November 29 put the proposal in limbo.
“Any elections without amending the Constitution will not be acceptable to Madhesis. We will retaliate against them,” said , said Upendra Yadav, a prominent Madhesi leader.
“The Nepali Congress, CPN-UML and Maoists are pushing the country to the edge of confrontation,” he said.
A luncheon meeting called by Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal “Prachanda” on Wednesday resulted in the agreement to hold the elections to the local bodies but the parties remained silent on the proposal to amend the Constitution. None of the Madhesi parties were invited to the meet by Prachanda.
CPN- Maoist Center leader Narayan Kaji Shrestha said the major parties held intensive discussions and agreed to fix the date for the polls within a week, after consulting the Madhesi Front.
Deputy prime minister and home minister Bimalendra Nidhi said the main opposition party rejected the request of the ruling parties to allow Parliament to resume business. "Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal and Nepali Congress president Sher Bahadur Deuba urged the CPN-UML to remove the parliament obstruction for moving ahead as per the due process, but CPN-UML chairman KP Sharma Oli said that was not possible," Nidhi said.
During the meeting, CPN-UML leaders agreed on the elections but said the obstruction of Parliament could not be ended unless the amendment proposal was withdrawn. CPN-UML vice chairman Bhim Rawal said the amendment proposal could not be accepted as it was against the interests of the country. "The government should make it clear as to how it wants to go ahead. On our part, we are ready to move forward by forging consensus," he said.
The new Constitution promulgated last year envisioned new templates for local bodies but political parties could not agree on modalities because of time constraints and disputes in several districts over the demarcation of proposed local units.
If political parties agree on the new templates, which is also a demand of Madhes-based parties, the existing demarcation of local units will have to be restructured according to geography and population ratio.