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Clock ticking

Thursday, April 27th, 2017
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Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal holds a meeting with Madhesi leaders in Baluwatar on Thursday. Photo: RSS

Khovari Patel, a 50-year-old rickshaw puller in Birganj, was waiting for passengers on a late evening this week underneath the border city’s iconic clock tower. It was a moonless night, and he looked somewhat sad.

Asked when whether he will cast his vote in local elections, his face suddenly glowed. “Yes,” he said enthusiastically. “I had to bribe a government officer for my son’s citizenship. He would not have demanded money from me if we had an elected mayor.”

The Madhes-based parties which united last week and on Wednesday applied at the Election Commission seem to have heard people like Patel. Many in the Tarai want an end to the politics of agitation and local elections soon. However, there are no visible signs of impending polls.

Campaigning is in full swing in the hills for the 14 May elections, but here since there is more time till the second phase on 14, the fever hasn’t caught on. The reason is also the on-again-off-again nature of negotiations in Kathmandu.

Despite an unwritten deal with the ruling Maoist-NC coalition, the Madhesi Front has not formally called off its agitation and in fact threatened to resume it if the constitution amendments do not go through.

As we went to press Thursday, Prime Minister Dahal met coalition partners and then Madhesi leaders to push for polls. In a phone conversation, Indian Prime Minister Modi is said to have assured Dahal about New Delhi’s help to conduct elections. That may have been reassuring, but Dahal’s job is caught out trying to get the UML and the Madhesis to agree.

Here in the Tarai, Madhesi parties are still obstructing campaign rallies of the NC and UML.  Arbind Singh, UML’s candidate for Deputy Mayor in Birganj, says: “Madhesi parties intend to drive us out of the Tarai. But their strategy will not work.”

Last week, an NC rally was disrupted here. Lokesh Singh of the NC says: “Madhesi parties are preparing for elections internally, but they are also trying to sideline us.”

Pramod Sah of the RJP, the new unified Madhesi force, says amendments must come first: “Sooner the amendment, sooner the elections.”

Meanwhile, Kathmandu-based embassies of European countries on Thursday issued a press statement, recognising Nepal’s efforts to hold local elections.

the efforts of all stakeholders including the Election Commission, the Government, civil society and the political parties in preparing for the historic local elections in Nepal.

The statement read: “With less than a month left before the scheduled election date, we encourage efforts to continue to forge a political agreement to enable the participation of as wide a section of the population as possible and broaden support to the process. This will bolster the credibility of the elections and facilitate the implementation of the Constitution.”

The press statement has been signed by embassies of Australia, Denmark, Germany, Finland, France, Norway, the United Kingdom, the United States and the delegation of the European Union.

Sanjeev Sharma in Birganj

 

 

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One Response to “Clock ticking”

  1. Introvert on Says:

    “Indian Prime Minister Modi is said to have assured Dahal about New Delhi’s help to conduct elections”

    WHAT A SHAME that a sovereign and a peaceful Nepal needs an Indian political AIRSTRIKE. Have we turned Syria politically?

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