KATHMANDU, May 18: The latest initiative of the major political parties to expedite the constitution writing process has hit a roadblock as a section of lawmakers from ruling as well as opposition Madhes-based political parties and even from the prime minister´s own UCPN(Maoist) obstructed parliamentary proceedings meant to shorten the constitution drafting process.
A bill to amend the Interim Constitution to shorten the procedure for endorsing the final draft of the new constitution was scheduled to be tabled in parliament on Thursday.
But Madhes-based lawmakers from ruling as well as opposition parties foiled the plan to amend Article 70 of the Interim Constitution by obstructing parliamentary procedures. Most of the Madhes-based lawmakers from across political parties who protested in parliament are allied with the recently-formed Broader Madhesi Front led by Upendra Yadav, chairman of Madhesi People´s Rights Forum-Nepal.
No sooner did Speaker Subas Nembang announce commencement of proceedings than lawmakers from Madhes-based political parties, including the opposition Madhesi People´s Rights Forum led by Yadav and some from the prime minister´s party, trooped into the well of the House. Interestingly, UCPN (Maoist) lawmaker and former minister Prabhu Sah, who is believed to be close to Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai, led Madhes-based lawmakers from the Maoist party in the obstruction tactics.
The lawmakers decided to obstruct parliamentary proceedings in protest against the proposed 11-province model that top leaders from major political parties floated for state restructuring, earlier this week.
Madhesi lawmakers, who have been lobbying for delineating the entire Madhes into a single province or at most into two provinces, stood against the 11-province model, saying that the proposed map has fragmented the Madhes region into five provinces with the intention of dividing Madhesi communities and undermining their strength.
Addressing the parliament meeting, Sah fiercely criticized the top leaders from major political parties for floating the 11-province model which, according to him, goes against past agreements, the recommendation of the Constituent Assembly´s Committee on State Restructuring and the suggestions offered by the high-level Commission on State Restructuring.
Sah said the way the party leaders reached the deal showed that top leaders of the three major parties are headed in a direction contrary to the mood of the entire populace of the country.
"The 11-province model is entirely against past agreements. We demand that the parliamentary procedures be halted until the deal is scrapped," Sah said at the House meeting.
While they gathered before the speaker, the lawmakers chanted slogans against the division of the Madhes region and demanded a new constitution by May 27.
Speaker Subas Nembang adjourned the meeting as the lawmakers continued their sloganeering despite repeated calls to stop it and allow the procedures to begin.
"Isn´t it contradictory to obstruct a House meeting meant to expedite the statute drafting process and also to demand a new constitution by May 27? So I urge you to help expedite the procedures," said the speaker repeatedly.
The next meeting of parliament has been called for Friday.
The House meeting was called with a view to amend Article 70 of the Interim Constitution as this article requires 22 days for forging a consensus among all the political parties represented in the CA if even a single lawmaker registers a difference over any of the provisions. This process can be repeated for an indefinite number of times as and when a single lawmaker so demands.
With Madhesi lawmakers strongly protesting the 11-province model, they have poured cold water on the optimism that arose after the political parties reached their latest deal, resolving the major disputes in constitution writing.