KATHMANDU, April 29: As negotiations on state restructuring intensified among major political parties in recent days, key leaders in CPN UML have strongly pressed within outside the party for a two-pronged approach.
They are for either delineating around seven provinces based on the common identities of various ethnic communities that live in proximity or for accepting around 12 provinces based on identities of individual ethnic communities.
Shankar Pokharel, Bishnu Paudel, Surendra Pandey, Gokarna Bista and Mukunda Neupane, among others, have lobbied within and outside the party for this approach.
CPN-UML Chairman Jhalanath Khanal and two other leaders from the party, Madhav Kumar Nepal and Bhim Rawal, during talks among the major political parties on Saturday floated the stance that they are open to adopting one of these two models. They argued that a seven-province model based on mixed-identities can be more can be more appropriate in terms of economic viability and the other model of around 12-provinces based on the singular identities of major ethnic communities would be suitable for addressing the concerns of either such groups demanding provinces formed on the basis of ethnic identity.
“We have floated the proposal for discussing the option of either a seven-province or a 12-province model,” Rawal told reporters after the inter-party talks held at New Baneshwor on Saturday.
Leaders working on the approach said that one of two models should be adopted in his entirety, not in a mixed form.
“Either we have to be fliexible and form a large number of small provinces based on the independent and singular identities of major ehtnic communities or we have to form some seven provinces based on common identities,” Pokharel told Republica, adding, “the same principle should be applied in the hills and in the Tarai-Madhes region equally.”
According to Pokharel, the CA’s State Restructing Committee blundered by adopting two different standards. He said the thematic committee proposed provinces based on singular identity in the hills and provinces in the Tarai region based on the common identity of two large communities such as Bhojpura and Mithila.
Some leaders including Pokharel, Pandey and Neupane see no harm in a large number of provinces. Leaders from ethnic communities such as Ashok Rai, Prithivi Subba Gurung and Bijay Subba are obviously for this. They believe that the larger the number of provinces, the stronger the central government becomes, and this can hold the provinces together effectively.
“I am also for the school of thought that the center should be powerful enough to hold all the provinces together,” Pokharel told Republica. “But the same standard should be applied everywhere, be it in the hills or in the Tarai.”
According to him, if the same principle is to be adopted, there should be five provinces in Tarai-Madhes region and up to 10 in the hills.
“If Tarai is to be delineated into two large provinces, there can be only five provinces in the hills that merge similar ethnic communities, such as Limbuwan-Khumbhuwan, Magrat-Tamuwan and Newa-Tamsaling,” explained Pokharel.
Pandey echoed Pokharel and added that the formation of large provinces such as one-Madhes-one-province will not only be a headache for the center but also a threat to it.
“Larger provinces become headaches for the center and for others if they fail to become economically viable. And once they are economically viable, they will challenge the center and the other province,” Pandey said. “So delineation of larger provinces is not a solution to all the challenges we are facing.”
Pandey claimed that the UML is for delineating 12 provinces and the UCPN (Maoist) and Madhes-based parties have accepted this option.
“Only the NC has not accepted,” he said.
According to him, the provinces in the UML’s 12-provinc model are Limbuwan-Mechi, Kirant-Koshi, Sunkoshi, Tamsaling-Sailung, Newa-Bagmati, Tamuwan-Gandaki, Magrat-Dhaulagiri, Karnali, Seti-Mahakali, Tharuhat-Lumbini, Narayani and Madhes-Birat. These provinces were drawn up through some modifications to the 14-province model passed by a majority of the CA Committee on State Restructuring.
Pandey is of the view the UML came up with the proposal thinking that the major political parties must be ready to address the concerns of various groups by pinpointing where exactly the problems lie.
“Otherwise, political forces like the Madhes-based parties and Maoists may form an unholy alliance and forge a two-thirds majority in the CA to pass some uncalled for provisions that may cost the country dear,” he said. “We have to stop them from entering tactically to stop them from entering into any deals that are against the national interest.”
However, several other UML leaders including KP Sharma Oli, Bamdev Gautam, Raghuji Pant and Ghanashyam Bhusal, have fervently opposed the idea of delineating a large number of provinces. They ae also dead against the formation of provinces based on ethnic identities.