With local polls, the first in 20 years, less than two months away, excitement is building up across Nepal and the public sphere is abuzz with discussion about the next mayor or village council chief.
Even in the Tarai, where Madhesi parties have threatened to disrupt the polls if the Constitution is not amended first, the election fever is rising with the summer temperature. Rajjiuddin Alam, former Vice President of Rautahat DDC, is confident local elections will be held on 14 May and people will cast their votes.
“If not now, it may not happen soon,” said Alam. “People in the Tarai are as desperate for local elections as in the hills.”
Not everyone, especially among Madhesi leaders, agree. As the former President of the Mahottari DDC, Tej Narayan Yadav agrees people are “desperate” for polls, but not exactly “excited”.
Yadav would say that because he quit the UML to be a Central Committee member of the Federal Socialist Forum – the first Madhes-centric party to pull out support of the Maoist-NC government. On Thursday, other Madhesi parties followed suit.
Yadav says people in the Tarai want elections, but not at the cost of being under-represented in state organs. “The best is that we first amend the Constitution and elect local councils,” he said.
However, the constitution amendment bill looks unlikely to be endorsed even after the Hindu-royalist RPP joined the government. When MJF-D also joins the government, the ruling coalition will have more MPs to pass the amendment bill. But it still won’t be enough.
The RPP and the MJF-D say they will support the amendment only if federal boundaries are left untouched. Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal floated this proposal to Madhesi leaders on Wednesday, and most were positive, but Upendra Yadav persuaded them to announce a ‘non-cooperative civil disobedience’ movement.
Sources say some Madhesi leaders were ready to accept Dahal’s proposal if the ruling-coalition promised to amend other constitutional provisions on mother tongue, citizenship and proportional representation. But Yadav held firm.
Even if Yadav comes around, it will still not be easy for the ruling coalition to pass the amendment. Pradip Gyawali of the UML told Nepali Times that the main opposition will object to the amendment bill even if federal boundaries are left untouched now.
This week, Prime Minister Dahal announced 744 new municipal and village councils, and allocated Rs 7 billion to set up four metropolitan, 13 sub-metropolitan, 246 municipal and 481 village councils.
But Gyawali thinks the government is still vacillating on elections: “We are still doubtful, but the people are so excited that the government cannot call off polls.”
Om Astha RaiGo back to previous page