Madhesi group urges Nepali Congress to lead talks, end stalemate

KATHMANDU, Nepal (The Kathmandu Post/ANN) - The Nepali Congress is holding a meeting on Wednesday morning to discuss the grievances of Madhesi-based parties.

The agitating Samyukta Loktantrik Madhesi Morcha has urged the opposition Nepali Congress to lead talks towards ending the present standoff on federalism, and endorsing the two bills to amend the constitution to be tabled possibly by next week.

NC and Morcha leaders said they are discussing a common position on the disputed issues such as delineation of federal states and the bills related to ensuring proportional inclusive representation in state entities and electoral constituency delimitation based on population.

In order to discuss the grievances of the Madhesi-based parties, the NC is holding a meeting of its office bearers on Wednesday morning. The meeting is also likely to come up with the party’s renewed position on the demarcation of provinces.

The current crisis began when the NC headed the government.

“We have urged the NC brass to take a lead in resolving the crisis so that the party can correct its mistake,” said Sanghiya Samajbadi Forum Nepal chairman Upendra Yadav. Another Madhesi leader said the Morcha has little faith in the government’s talks team due to the rigid stance of the ruling CPN-UML.

The SLMM also voted for the NC candidate in the prime minister election last month. Besides, the Central Working Committee of the largest party had decided to take a lead in talks with the agitating regional parties.

The Congress is learnt to have taken the Morcha’s call positively but said its efforts depend on the government’s position.

“The government seems directionless about addressing the demands of the disgruntled parties. We see no uniformity in the ministers’ response to the demands,” said NC spokesperson Dilendra Prasad Badu.

If the ruling parties create a positive environment for talks, the Congress can take initiatives for resolving the crisis, he added.

It is not possible to sort the current mess without involving the largest party, said Badu, adding that it was also an opportunity for the NC to take the political centre stage. “Without the NC, it is impossible to approve the bills from Parliament,” he added.

Leaders seek middle path

As their rigid positions on federal boundaries continue to widen the rift between the Madhesi Morcha and the major parties, leaders from both the sides are working to seek a “middle path” to break the stalemate.

Cross-party interlocutors said that alternatives on the federal set-up acceptable to both the sides are being discussed. Leaders
from the major parties are scheduled hold next round of talks with the SLMM on Wednesday to negotiate their positions.

“There could be give and take on both sides on a number of issues if the major parties show enough seriousness to resolve the crisis,” said Hridayesh Tripathi, vice-chairman of the Tarai Madhes Loktantrik Party.

SLMM leaders said that UCPN (Maoist) chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal, who has been assigned to talk to Morcha, has hinted at splitting some Tarai districts between provinces to find an amicable solution.

One of the alternatives approved by most Tarai parties is including the Madhesi-dominated areas in Morang and Sunsari in a Tarai province and forming a Tharuhat state by incorporating Tharu strongholds from Nawalparasi to Kailali.

Pahadi strongholds from both the provinces would be integrated with the Hill provinces, while an all-party political mechanism would be entrusted to decide the fate of Jhapa, Chitwan and Kanchanpur districts.

Most Madhes-based parties have said they are open to alternatives if the major parties agree to revisit the boundaries to address the due concerns of the Tharu and Madhesi communities. But a few others including SSFN Chairman Yadav have stood for two Madhes provinces.
“The state should be federated as per the recommendation of the State Restructuring Commission. There is nothing new in our demand,” said Yadav. During the first Constituent Assembly, the SRC recommended 11 provinces with two in the plains.