A late night cabinet meeting on Wednesday endorsed a second constitution amendment bill, and hurriedly registered it in the parliament secretariat.
However, without the backing of the main opposition UML and only the half-hearted support of the NC and Madhesi parties, the bill is unlikely to end the current political stalemate over the constitution.
Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal said the bill was endorsed after Madhesi parties promised to vote for it in Parliament and participate in elections next year. Madhesi leaders, however, denied having given any such assurance, and said they will decide whether to take part in elections only after thorough deliberations within their parties.
Nepal Sadbhavana Party leader Rajendra Mahato told the BBC Nepali that he has not promised to participate in elections. Ashok Rai of the Upendra Yadav-led Federal Alliance said: “We will see whether this bill addresses our grievances before deciding on elections.”
Dahal presented the bill in the cabinet after meeting with NC President Sher Bahadur Deuba and RPP President Kamal Thapa. Both are learnt to have supported the bill.
But NC leader Bal Krishna Khand, who is close to Deuba and is Defence Minister in the Dahal government, has written a note of dissent against the bill. He has objected to separation of some hill districts from the proposed Province 5.
Apart from readjusting federal boundaries, the bill also amends constitutional provisions on representation in Parliament, citizenship and official languages. However, there is no mention of the five disputed plains districts that the Madhesi parties want to be part of the two Tarai provinces.
The main opposition UML party has rejected the bill, and has warned of an agitation. The UML says this new bill only serves the interests of the ‘outsiders’, hinting at the role of India in pushing the amendment. New Delhi had expressed its dissatisfaction over the new Constitution and imposed a five-month blockade in Nepal last year.
New Delhi had been constantly asking Kathmandu to make the constitution ‘broadly acceptable’ by passing another amendment. Dahal, whose party had previously backed the UML government, had pulled out and formed a new ruling coalition in July with the NC, vowing to make it inclusive.
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