After months of negotiations, the Nepal government and Madhes-based political parties agreed on Wednesday to register a bill in Parliament to amend the new Constitution to address the grievances of people living in the southern plains.
A meeting of the ruling parties – the Nepali Congress and CPN-Maoist Center – and leaders of the United Madhesi Democratic Front (UMDF) agreed to table the bill in three days despite strong reservations and opposition from the main opposition CPN-UML party.
Issues related to demarcating the boundary of seven provinces, proportional representation in the National Assembly, citizenship, recognition of languages and making the Constitution more friendly to minority communities will be incorporated in the proposed amendment.
According to a statement issued by the Prime Minister’s Office, premier Pushpa Kamal Dahal “Prachanda” was assigned the task of tabling the amendment proposal in Parliament.
Infrastructure and transport minister Ramesh Lekhak said: “The tri-party meeting went through discussions in a very cordial manner and ended positively. It has created trust in the public sphere that the country will head towards elections soon with greater acceptability of the Constitution.”
After the new Constitution was promulgated in September last year, Madhes-based parties launched a protest in the southern belt that resulted in the death of 59 people. Key border trade points along the Indian frontier were hit by a blockade aimed at putting pressure on the government.
Besides the CPN-UML, an alliance of Madhes-based parties and Janajati and Adivasi groups led by Upendra Yadav too has expressed reservations about the amendment proposal.
“Any proposal that cannot deal with and address the grievances of minority communities, who have suffered for centuries, will be just a waste of time,” Yadav said.
The CPN-UML described the proposal as “anti-national” and warned it would protest in Parliament and take to the streets.
Supporters of the move say a constitutional amendment is the only way to address the grievances of agitating parties and minority groups who want a fair share according to population ratio.
The statement from the Prime Minister’s Office said consultations with other opposition parties amending the Constitution will be held only after the proposal is tabled in Parliament.