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Nepal: NC-UML Proposal of Seven Provinces is “anti Madhesi”: Update No. 302

Note No. 727                                     Dated 12-Nov-2014

By Dr. S. Chandrasekharan

It was a surprise that the two main stream parties Nepali Congress and the UML along with the RPP of Surya Bahadur Thapa and three independent members formally made a proposal on 3rd November that completely ignored the legitimate interests of the Madhesis in the configuration of the two Madhesi provinces. All these parties and the individuals together make 404 members in the Assembly that gives them a two third majority to ram through this proposal.

It may be recalled that in the last - the second election to the Interim Constituent Assembly, the Terai voted overwhelmingly for the mainstream parties the Nepali Congress and the UML.  This also led to the total decimation of the Madhesi parties which carried considerable clout in the previous assembly with more than 80 seats.

The results of the elections not only showed the disapproval of the people in Terai over the political leaders in the Terai who were engaged mostly in pursuit of power and wealth, but also an endorsement and faith of the people of Terai on the two mainstream parties the NC and the UML. 

An analysis of the election results to the second CA in the Terai  would have shown that the constituencies with an overwhelming presence of the Madhesis voted for the NC and the UML and not the Madhesi parties.

The hope was that the Terai would get a better deal with the mainstream parties rather than with  the regional “Madhesi” ones. Those who had watched the political developments in Nepal would have welcomed the result as it would finally put an end to the identity crisis of those Madhesis who had high hopes after the 1990 revolution that were only belied by the democratic parties that came to power under the new and restructured “constitutional monarchy.”

I recall the agonising days Gajendra Narain Singh, the Terai leader spent before finally giving up all hopes of continuing with the Nepali Congress.  Mahant Thakur another loyal Nepali Congress leader from the Terai was forced to quit the Congress after he realised that the Terains are not going get justice from the Nepali Congress.  A few leaders like Mahendra Narain Nidhi spent their time till the end with the Nepali Congress though they were marginalised and given only ‘symbolic posts’.

The present proposal of configuration of the two Madhesi provinces would not only push the Madhesi groups into confrontation but also throw them on the lap of the Maoists that is likely to have serious long term repercussions on the security interests of India too.

There are reports that the proposal has already polarised the ruling and opposition parties and this is likely to affect the stability of the country too.

Full details of the proposals in a nutshell are given in the Himalyan Times of 4th November with a map of the proposed seven provinces on page 5. 

Maoists leader Dahal has rightly pointed out that the proposal shuts out consensus.  Consensus has not worked so far.  The opposition parties have not been very cooperative and the CPDCC had also been deliberately delaying the final report.

If the ruling parties are to go ahead with voting in the CA they will be justified - but that has to be done with some responsibility and reasonableness.

The proposal:

The two Madhesi provinces have been carved out without including the three southern districts of Biratnagar, Sunsari and Jhapa in the east and two districts of Kanchanpur and Kailali in the west.  Two districts in the central region Chitwan and Nawal Parasi have also been left out of the Madhesi provinces with Chitwan going to Bagmati Pradesh and Nawal Parasi going to Gandaki Pradesh. 

Biratnagar and Sunsari being both prosperous districts have been deliberately left out though these by any measure should have been included in the Janakpur Pradesh. One can however understand Jhapa being kept separate as it is peopled overwhelmingly by people from the hills. 

There is no justification either of Kailali and Kanchanpur both comparatively more prosperous being detached from the proposed Lumbini Pradesh.

A look at the map gives the impression, that the Ruling Party consisting mostly of people from the hills wanted a direct outlet to the southern Indian border and it is seen that four of the five provinces proposed in the north four (excepting Karnali) have access to the southern border.

It was heard that many senior leaders of the Nepali Congress expressed a fear that they will be “choked” and blocked if the provinces of the hills do not have direct access to India.  This is rather unfortunate.

Conclusion:

The proposal of the ruling parties does great injustice to the Madhesis who have along with those in the hills have struggled and suffered to usher in democracy in Nepal.  This proposal if gone through will divide the country  and this may lead to serious long term consequences.

The ruling parties have suggested that this is just a proposal and could be discussed.  There are whispers that senior leaders of the Nepali Congress and also the Chairman of the UML K.P Oli  were determined not to give in to the Madhesis.

 It will be very unfortunate if this proposal is gone through in this form.                                                                                                                                    

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