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Madhesi parties announce participation in Nepal polls after meeting Sushma Swaraj

Nepal’s Madhesi parties announced they will participate in polls to local bodies in September hours after meeting visiting external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj.

world Updated: Aug 11, 2017 19:26 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, Kathmandu
India-Nepal relations,Sushma Swaraj,Madhesi parties
External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj seen during a meeting with Nepal President Bidya Devi Bhandari at Shital Niwas in Kathmandu on August 10, 2017.(Courtesy Indian embassy in Kathmandu)

The Madhes-based parties of Nepal announced on Friday that they would participate in polls to local bodies slated for September 18, hours after they met external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj, who pushed them to join the electoral process.

The Madhesi parties also agreed to present their proposal for amending Nepal’s new Constitution for a vote in Parliament. Over the past few months, the parties had set the amendment of the Constitution as a condition for their participation in the elections.

Swaraj held a meeting with top Madhes-based leaders on Thursday evening on the sideline of the BIMSTEC ministerial meeting here and pushed them leaders to take part in the polls that their agendas for the Madhes region bordering India could be institutionalised.

During a meeting with Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba on Friday, Madhesi leaders said they would take part in the upcoming polls to local bodies of province no 2 and also agreed to present their proposal for amending the Constitution for a vote in Parliament.

“Our key demand was sorting out the constitutional amendment proposal. During our meeting with the prime minister and the ruling party leaders, they agreed to put it in for the voting process,” said Sharat Singh Bhandari, a top leader of the newly formed Rastriya Janata Party of Nepal (RJPN).

The support of two-thirds of the members of Parliament is required to approve the amendment proposal, which has already been tabled in the House as a Bill.

The amendment of the Constitution is a long-standing demand of the agitating Madhesi parties, which have been pushing measures for the past two years that they say will make the statute more inclusive, more Madhes-friendly and provide adequate representation for Madhesis in different state entities.

The Nepal government has already held two rounds of polls to local bodies in six provinces. It has deferred the polls in province no 2, which has a sizeable population of Madhesis.

“We will accept the rule of the game if the constitutional amendment fails,” Bhandari said when he was asked what the Madhes-based parties would do if their proposal was not passed in Parliament.

Though the Madhesi leaders denied there was any pressure from India to join the polls, they said the Supreme Court’s verdict to allow the government to increase the numbers of local bodies paved the way for them to join the elections. The Supreme Court on Thursday cleared a move for the government to increase the number of local bdoies in Province no 2.

Ahead of this, the RJPN held a long meeting of 1,000 representatives from several districts in Kathmandu to decide whether to participate in the polls and to assess the ground reality. Most of the RJPN leaders and cadres told the leadership to participate in the polls as they feared the party could suffer a setback in the Terai region if it kept out of the electoral process. They also said parties such as the Nepali Congress, CPN-UML and CPN-Maoist Center could take advantage of the situation.

"On the one hand, there was immense pressure from the ground. On the other, there was pressure (because some felt our) agenda could die down. In the midst of these dilemmas, we choose to take part in the elections and decided to put amendment proposal in the voting process," said Bhandari.

The main opposition CPN-UML is totally opposed to any move to amend the Constitution.

First Published: Aug 11, 2017 15:52 IST