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On poll ground, PM pressed from all sides

- ROSHAN SEDHAI, Kathmandu

Dec 27, 2016-

A fresh push for local elections from the Nepali Congress has put Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal in a fix, signalling trouble for the coalition formed with a promise to end the Madhes crisis and hold three tiers of elections by January, 2018.

The NC on Monday put forth a four-point roadmap for ending the current stalemate. The NC leadership claims that announcing the date for local elections would automatically open the way for political consensus on the amendment bill and other issues related to implementation of the constitution.

Before holding the elections, PM Dahal’s biggest challenge will be to take two opposite blocs--the main opposition UML and the Samyukta Loktantrik Madhesi Morcha--on board as both of them have hardened their positions on constitution amendment.

The UML and some smaller parties in the opposition bench are hell bent on blocking the amendment bill registered by the government. They want the governing coalition of the CPN (Maoist Centre) and Nepali Congress to roll back the proposal registered on September 29 before announcing the local election date. UML Secretary Yogesh Bhattarai told the Post that the government should at least agree to put the amendment bill on hold.

Amid mounting pressure from all sides, PM Dahal finds himself in a position not to appease both the parties. If he chooses to take the UML into confidence, he risks losing the support of the Madhes-based parties and vice versa.

PM’s close aides said the government is in a wait and see mode. They said the government would wait for green signals from both the sides for elections. 

The government has no time to waste as any further delay would invite distrust 

of the coalition partners amid escalating protests against the constitution amendment proposal.

PM Dahal’s close aides said the government cannot afford to alienate the Madhes-based parties in its pursuit of consensus with the UML. Chakrapani Khanal, Dahal’s chief political adviser, said tabling the amendment bill remains the government’s top priority.

“The government wants to at least table the bill before going for the polls because it’s important to take the Madhesi Morcha into confidence for holding the election. The fate of election is interlinked with the amendment bill,” Khanal told the Post, adding that the government would rather hang on for some months if the situation did not change. 

The regional parties have said they will take part in the elections only if the bill is endorsed by Parliament with necessary changes. They have partly supported the bill and demanded revision to clauses pertaining to redrawing the federal boundaries for full ownership.

Some Madhesi leaders said the Morcha would accept the polls irrespective of how the constitution amendment bill fares in the House once it is put up for vote.

“The bill should be tabled in Parliament for discussion and put to a vote without further delay,” said Sadbhawana Party Chairman Rajendra Mahato.

Morcha leaders fear that the government may announce the elections by deactivating the amendment bill. They have warned that such a step would invite confrontation and push the country towards renewed conflict.

Tarai Madhes Loktantrik Party Vice-chairman Hridayesh Tripathi said three major parties should work together to endorse the bill if they are really serious about holding the elections on time. In that case, Morcha would also take part in the polls, he added.

“But it would be a big mistake to announce an election under the given circumstances. How will the government hold the local elections in those districts where it couldn’t even demarcate the local boundaries?” questioned Tripathi.

Published: 27-12-2016 08:20

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