KATHMANDU: As the Political Dialogue and Consensus Committee (PDCC) of the Constituent Assembly begins its “track two” approach to talks with various parties to forge consensus on contentious issues of the constitution writing process, Madhes-centric parties have reiterated their position of single autonomous Madhes province.
Leaders argue that this will be their bottom line on statute drafting. They call for upholding the eight-point agreement signed with the Samyukta Loktantrik Madhesi Morcha in February 2008 that calls for an autonomous Madhes province.
The stance comes in the backdrop of a majority of the regional parties promising two provinces in the Tarai in their CA election manifestos last year, aimed at accommodating the Tharus who have been protesting against the one Madhes state.
The number of provinces in the plains remains among the most contentious agendas of the constitution being drafted, right from the first Assembly.
While Madhes-based parties stuck to their autonomous province agenda, the Nepali Congress and the CPN-UML stood for multiple provinces.
As for the UCPN (Maoist), its position has been tricky due to its “alliance” with the regional parties on the issue of federalism and identity, and its proposal of four provinces stated in the election manifesto.
The ruling NC and UML want north-south division of the country while federalising it, a proposition untenable to the Madhesi parties that have shrunk considerably in their presence in the CA since the first Assembly.
“The constitution will have no meaning unless it addresses the issue of state restructuring and autonomous Madhes-pradesh becomes a part of it as agreed,” said Madhesi Janadhikar Forum-Nepal Chairman Upendra Yadav, one of the signatories of the eight-point agreement.
But Yadav sounded caution arguing that the recent rumblings in NC and UML do not augur well for the constitution. “We hear calls for north-south division of the country along with the talks of connecting Hills and Madhes,” he said.
Sadbhawana Party Chairman Rajendra Mahato also urged the PDCC to uphold previous agreements. Asked about the possibility of having two provinces in the Madhes, he said that would be the last resort, in reference to sharing the state with the indigenous Tharus.
“Our effort is to accommodate Tharus within the single autonomous province. For that, we are willing to name the province as Autonomous Tharuhat Madhes Pradesh,” said Mahato. In case the Tharus are not convinced, there could be two provinces.
NC Vice-chairman and PDCC member Ram Chandra Poudel said that provinces should be carved out taking “larger national interest” into consideration. He did not explain the committee’s position on the matter.
Analysts urge the PDCC to come up with an interpretation acceptable to all the stakeholders.
“Past agreements need to be interpreted in a way acceptable to all the parties. That is where the Dialogue Committee can have a role,” said commentator Chandrakishore.
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