We want cash, not credit, Terai tells PM Koirala | world | Hindustan Times
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We want cash, not credit, Terai tells PM Koirala

When Prime Minister Sushil Koirala went to meet Madhes’ senior-most leader Mahant Thakur last week, he suggested ‘informal, backchannel talks’.

world Updated: Sep 26, 2015 09:33 IST
PrashantJha
Nepalese protesters shout anti-government slogans at a protest against the constitution in Kathmandu.
Nepalese protesters shout anti-government slogans at a protest against the constitution in Kathmandu.(EPA Photo)

When Prime Minister Sushil Koirala went to meet Madhes’ senior-most leader Mahant Thakur last week, he suggested ‘informal, backchannel talks’. He also asked Thakur to understand his ‘compulsions’, alluding to the strong stance taken by others like UML leader KP Oli.

Thakur told him that they, too, could come up with excuses. “You first talk amongst yourselves and then come to us with a roadmap.” This roadmap, he told the PM, should give a clear framework of how the issues of federal boundaries, representation and inclusion would be addressed. Thakur also told him the state was playing with fire by engaging in oppression. “This is poison,” he said.

In an exclusive conversation, Thakur later told HT, “We want cash now, credit won’t do. There have been many agreements but these have not been implemented. Now, we want them to start the amendment process to incorporate our agenda before things can move.”

This is significant - for an understanding between Kathmandu and Terai’s forces is critical for peace in Nepal as well as to restore normalcy on the India-Nepal border and bilateral relations.

In a small hotel in the Terai town of Rajbiraj, HT met all key Madhesi leaders who had convened for a meeting. They had just come up with the decision to block the border and highways, and form a human chain from the east to the west of Terai to step up pressure. When we asked Thakur if they would be willing to compromise on issues, he asked, “I am only saying implement past agreements. But even if I compromise, will they do?” pointing to younger people sitting in the room.

But besides the constitution, there was another element in Kathmandu they were keeping an eye on - the debates around power-sharing.

The new constitution stipulates there will be a new government soon. Kathmandu’s political circles speculate the power-sharing deal involves PM Koirala becoming the country’s president and Oli becoming the new PM. But contradictions may emerge as sections of NC are unwilling to back UML to lead the government. Koirala’s own intentions are not clear either as he has indicated to interlocutors there is ‘no commitment’ to hand over power to Oli.

The power-sharing games will have an impact on the constitution’s amendment. One view within Madhesi political circles is this will divide the ruling elite and is an opportunity. The other view is that it is best if all Kathmandu parties stay together for now, since an amendment requires a two-thirds amendment. A leader said, “They should address our issues and then fight among themselves. We should not become victims in their game.”