Big responsibility for UML, Madhes-based parties

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Local bodies form the backbone of democracy as it is at the local level the rule of people is exercised. The Singha Durbar and parliament are always far away from the people both in terms of access and interest. This backbone of Nepali democracy suffered atrophy in lack of elected people's representatives for the past one and half decades after the term of those elected in May 1997 expired. The government under the direct rule of king Gyanendra Shah had held a local election to fill the vacuum at the local level but that election did not earn legitimacy after being boycotted by the major political parties.

The people had to suffer in lack of good governance in the intervening period as the all-party mechanism, without accountability toward the people, made hay in absence of elected representatives who are answerable to the voters. Now that the government has announced the local election for May 14, all the political parties and the people must play a role to make it a success to ensure that the atrophied backbone of our democracy gradually regains its strength and vigor.

The government was trapped between the mutually exclusive demands of CPN-UML and Madhes-based parties polarized at two extremes of the political spectrum. The former wanted to go to election by putting constitution amendment on hold while the latter warned against announcing election date without moving constitution amendment process forward. The government has decided to move processes for both the local election and constitution amendment forward simultaneously to take both the sides along.

The main political responsibility now is to take the constitution amendment process to conclusion and hold the local election. Only that will rid the country of the ever-extending transition period. The parties must bury their petty disagreements and bitterness to utilize this great opportunity we have to propel the country toward stability and development.

UML has been calling the amendment process anti-national and unconstitutional, and accusing it to be a ruse to avoid election. It is still officially stating that the amendment proposal cannot be discussed and voted on in the parliament.  The suspicion of UML should end now that the election date has been announced. As the main opposition party, it is also UML's responsibility to conclude the amendment process and hold the election by taking everyone on board.

It would be best if the amendment proposal were refined more and passed by taking everyone in confidence. We do not believe that passing of even the currently registered amendment proposal would be against the interest of Nepal as UML claims. This amendment will not bring about any major changes in the constitution apart from providing a face saving for the Madhes-based parties.   

UML has every right to take decision about whether to support or oppose the amendment proposal. But it will be undemocratic of UML to take a stand against discussion and voting on the proposal now that the election date has been announced. Its stance was wrong even yesterday and its obstinacy can be counterproductive now. UML will have no moral authority to tell the Madhes-based parties to participate in the election if it were to obstruct the amendment process in the parliament.

It is also time for the Madhes-based parties to think with a cool head. Passing of the amendment proposal tabled at the parliament definitely will not be a big achievement for them. But it does provide a face saving for them. They have two choices now—either to boycott the election complaining about being denied even a face saving or to institutionalize the changes incorporated in the constitution promulgated in 2015.

Madhesi people, especially those from province 2, institutionalized the agenda of federalism through two movements and federalism is the biggest achievement of the latest constitution. The political base of the Madhes-based parties is also province 2. The parties, in that sense, should have nothing to do with demarcation of province 5. But demarcation of province 5 has become their agenda for face saving.  

They should not forget that their biggest achievement will be implementation of federalism. The number of provinces and their boundary can be changed multiple times in the future. They should understand that obstruction of election and implementation of federalism will ultimately risk all the agendas of change including federalism particularly when anti-federalism voice is getting stronger in the country. That will not be good for both Madhes and the country. The future of Madhes-based parties will be in crisis if the election were to be held successfully despite their efforts for obstruction. We, therefore, believe that the Madhes-based parties will decide considering the long-term future of the country and themselves.  

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