Two weeks after a bill on amending Nepal’s new Constitution was tabled, the country’s parliament on Monday began discussions on the proposed changes that have already been rejected by Madhesi parties.
The amendment bill, the first since the statute was promulgated in September, hopes to address two demands of protesting Madhesi parties related to proportional representation and delimitation of constituencies.
Madhesi parties, under the banner of the United Democratic Madhesi Front (UDMF), have rejected the amendment proposal, saying it does not address their core demand of fresh demarcation of federal boundaries.
The bill registered by the previous government was tabled in parliament on December 15 amid protests by Madhesi lawmakers.
There was a delay in commencing discussions as the opposition Nepali Congress sought more time to hold talks with the protesting parties and find consensus.
On Monday, Speaker Onsari Gharti Magar initiated discussions on the bill despite a protest by UDMF lawmakers. Madhesi parties are seeking a package deal that addresses all their demands.
Earlier in the day, the three major parties – the ruling Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist Leninist) and Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) and opposition Nepali Congress – agreed to forge consensus on demands raised by Madhesi parties.
The parties, which have been at odds on how to solve the Madhes crisis, are planning to form a common stance and hold further talks with UDMF leaders.
Madhesi parties have rejected the constitution and have been protesting for more than four months now. Protesters have blocked key border points with India, resulting in an acute shortage of fuel and medicines.