KATHMANDU, Jan 30: While the government’s attempts to address the demands of the agitating Madhes-based parties through a statute amendment make no headway, Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal is under pressure both from the ruling coalition partners and from within his own party.
Top leaders of the main coalition partner, Nepali Congress (NC), want Prime Minister Dahal to honor the informal agreement to hand over the government leadership after holding local polls latest by mid-May, and at the same time there is increasing pressure from within his own party, CPN (Maoist Center), to announce the election date, as the possibility of fully addressing the demands of Madhes-based parties before going for elections appears unlikely for now.
Dahal became prime minister with a promise to bring the Madhes-based parties on board after amending the constitution. While the Madhes-based parties, whose support he had to secure to become prime minister, have already threatened to take to the streets from next week, the main opposition UML has denied Dahal its cooperation in every possible way, including in statute amendment.
With the amendment bill still pending in parliament due to failure to garner the requisite two-third majority, sources close to him said the prime minister is in a serious dilemma whether to announce the election date even as negotiations continue for the amendment, or prolong his stay in power while doing nothing tangible to move the political process forward. Both options are risky for his political credibility and his stay in power.
At a recent meeting with the Madhes-based parties, Dahal had said that he would have to step down if he failed to hold polls.
On Sunday, he met with Chief Election Commissioner Ayodhee Prasad Yadav and asked him to make necessary preparations for local polls. However, Yadav told the prime minister that they still lack the election-related laws and the report of the local level restructuring commission in order to expedite the preparations.
Parliament is likely to endorse two more election-related bills on Monday, and there has already been an understanding among ruling parties and the Madhes-based parties to revise the local level restructuring commission report.
Leaders close to Dahal said he is now mulling announcement of elections after persuading the Madhes-based parties even as major political parties continue negotiations to arrive at consensus on the key demands. The prime minister is set to propose announcing the local level election date during a meeting scheduled with top leaders of the Madhes-based parties, Monday.
However, the Madhes-based parties are less likely to buy Dahal’s proposal. “We have been consistently saying that our demands must be addressed before announcing the date for elections. If the prime minister moves ahead with his plan, we will be forced to take to the streets,” said General Secretary of Rastriya Madhes Samajbadi Party (RMSP) Keshav Jha. In fact, the United Democratic Madhesi Front (UDMF), of which RMSP is a constituent party, has already announced a rally to torch the local level state restructuring commission report that has delineated local units in Madhes districts under the federal setup.
Senior leader of Maoist Center Narayan Kaji Shrestha said, “We are less likely to reach the point where the demands of the agitating parties are fully addressed. I am hopeful the prime minister will be able to convince the Madhes-based parties to join elections as major parties continue their negotiations on the amendment bill.”