Nepal Today

Wednesday, July 31, 2013



Kathmandu, 31 July: UCPN-Maoist leader Narayan Kaji Shrestha has said if the agitating CPN-Maoist rebuffs the offer for talks, it will be unfortunate, RSS reports..

At an interaction organised by the Reporters' Club in the capital city on Wednesday, leader Shrestha said that the High Level Political Committee was liberal enough to hold talks with the dissenting political parties and try to address their demands.

"Last ditch efforts would be made to forge consensus by holding talks with the dissenting parties without budging from the target of November 19 Constituent Assembly elections," he said.

He further claimed that his party was wholeheartedly devoted to making the CA election successful.


The Constituency Delimitation Commission, led by former Supreme Court Justice Tahir Ali Ansari, was formed on June 19 to redraw constituencies for the second Constituent Assembly (CA), scheduled for November 19. Alongside the commission, a taskforce consisting of eight members, two each from the four major political forces in the High-Level Political Committee (HLPC), was also formed to assist the commission. Jeetendra Dev, General Secretary of the Madhesi Janadhikar Forum-Loktantrik, is part of the taskforce and acts as an interlocutor between the commission and the HLPC. The Post’s Pranab Kharel and Pranaya SJB Rana spoke to Dev about issues in constituency delimitation, current political contentions and the possibility of elections in November.
What are the challenges to constituency delimitation?
There are three main provisions for delimitation—one, 205 constituencies cannot be changed; two, seats need to be increased according to the increase in population in the Madhes and Pahad; and three, seats need to be increased in the Madhes in line with the percentage increase in population. However, the commission is of the view that these provisions cannot be satisfied by retaining the existing number of 240 total constituencies. There are constitutional contradictions in Article 63. So they have asked for a political solution. I want to quote Chairman Ansari, “According to the existing provisions in Article 63 (A), we cannot do justice to the percentage nor can we do justice to the increase.” In other words, seats cannot be increased in the Madhes and Pahad according to the increase in population and seats cannot be increased in the Madhes according to percentage increase in population. So the only way out is a political decision from the HLPC in the form of a presidential order to remove constitutional hurdles.
How can this be done?
There are two ways. First, is to make provisions so that all 240 constituencies can be changed, not just the 35 that is mandated now. All constituencies can then be changed according to the population increase and the percentage increase. But if this is to be done, at least one and a half months will be required. This will be a tight squeeze. We need to hold elections in November, make new provisions effective and address dissenting demands through political means. Taking these three issues into account, it might be better to adopt another constitutional, democratic way that takes less time. And this is to increase the total number of seats.
And what could be the basis for increasing the seats?
The last time I spoke to the commission regarding this increase in seats, the chairman gave me three figures—nine, 14 and 15. A minimum of nine and a maximum of 15 seats. A new idea that has been put forward is to take the 11 seats that are up for nomination by the government and add them to the first-past-the-post (FPTP) category. Then, we will have 251 seats and we could divide this number according to 51 percent in the Madhes and 49 percent in the Pahad and Himal. This will be tight but could be considered a way out. I have proposed another solution. The number of FPTP seats can be increased by 15, bringing the total to 255. Currently, the Tarai has a population of 50.27 percent and has 116 seats. We can add 12 seats there from the 15 and the remaining three seats to some districts in the Pahad, which is currently at 124. This will bring us to 128 seats in the Madhes and 127 in the Pahad, which is in the ratio of 51:49. The total number of seats will then be 510, which is an increase of 19 seats from the current 491 but a substantial decrease from 601. This will address the claims of the NC and UML that 601 was too large a number and also provide a solution to the current problem.
But this will still not address existing protests against the PR ratio.
Upendra Yadav and Ashok Rai have demanded that the old ratio of 58 percent PR and 42 percent FPTP be continued with. We have no problems with this, only the NC and UML need to come on board. But if this cannot be done, how about a compromise of 55 and 45? This will address the concern of the NC-UML, which, however, is not a genuine concern; it is a negative concern. If we take 55 percent from my earlier proposal of 255 seats in FPTP, we will arrive at 567 total seats, which is still a reduction of 34 seats from 601. This will address some outstanding concerns.
What are the political contentions behind these issues?
These two issues-constituency delimitation and the PR-are not technical issues; they are vital political, constitutional and inclusive issues. The PR was introduced to make the executive, legislative and judiciary more inclusive. It was a major product of the second Janaandolan  and the Madhes Andolan. How can the PR, hard-earned through revolutions, be taken away so easily? Many are questioning how the four members of the HLPC can simply reduce the ratio to 50:50 without broader consultation. It is also a constitutional issue as this provision has been enshrined in the constitution. The contention is that constitutional decisions were taken in a one-sided manner.
The constitution also says that the next elections will need to take into account the results of the new 2011 census. There is a message being disseminated in the media by some forces that Madhesi forces only want delimitation on the basis of population while disregarding geography. But look at six districts from Manang to Mugu, where the population is around 55,500, which is less than the threshold of 97,000. We agreed to give them one seat each. But in the end, it is not the soil or the geography that is going to come to Parliament, it is the people from that area. Wherever the population is dense, more representatives will come to Parliament; where the population is sparse, less people will come.
In recent times, some Madhesi forces have been saying that there will be another revolution if the PR and constituency delimitation issues remain unsolved. Do you see any possibility of this happening?
There is a definite possibility of a revolution. If the HLPC does not resolve these issues properly, there will be a revolution. And if there is a revolution, the NC and UML will  need to bow down. I have consistently raised this issue in the HLPC. Sometime ago, I told senior leaders that if we look at history, it was always because of their myopia and their failure to understand the root causes of revolutions that in the end, they were forced to give much more than they needed to at the beginning. I told them that PR was going to become a major issue and that this 50:50 provision will not stand. There will be a revolution but there will also be elections.
Given all these outstanding issues, what are the possibilities of elections in November?
Elections will definitely happen in November if the two outstanding issues of PR and constituencies are resolved. The forces raising these issues are democratic and want to come to elections. They are not violent. Therefore, Ashok Rai and Upendra Yadav need to be brought on board the election process. However, there are other factors, like the recent hobnobbing between the far-left forces led by Mohan Baidya and the far-right forces led by Kamal Thapa. It seems that the Baidya party is increasingly discarding the idea of writing a constitution through a CA. They believe that the agenda of a CA has fallen into the hands of agents. That’s why they want a roundtable and want to write a constitution through the roundtable. The increasing affinity with the ultra-right means that they want to sabotage the election process. We democratic forces need to face up to them but all of Baidya’s demands cannot be addressed. This government cannot be dissolved. To accept that would be to stop the elections from happening. They need to give us an assurance in writing that once an all-party meeting is held to resolve outstanding issues, then they will agree to take part in elections under this government. Even then, we can only entertain the idea of postponing elections by a month or so.
There is talk that the HLPC has reached a decision to go to elections by bringing Ashok Rai and Upendra Yadav on board, bypassing Baidya.
The HLPC has not reached this decision yet but it is heading in that direction. Baidya’s recent activities are only furthering our suspicions that they will not go to elections in any way. We hope that if we go to elections by bringing election-friendly parties on board, there will be more pressure on the Baidya party. They could then be forced to go to elections and even if they don’t, a large section within that party will bifurcate and come into the election process. But in order to do this, we need to head stridently towards elections. We cannot be afraid.
On a final note,POossibility of a Madhesi electoral alliance?
The major possibilities for an alliance are party unification, frontal alliance or an electoral alliance. If we look at the parties in our Morcha and at Upendra Yadav, there are no basic differences between us. There should definitely be unification. But the only problem is that one cannot accept the other as the dominant leader. Instead of differences in ideology or politics, there is difference when it comes to leadership. I don’t see an immediate solution to this unless leaders discard their feudal mentality. There is possibility of unification for seats, between us and Mahanta Thakur and Upendra Yadav. There are also possibilities of a seat alliance with the NC, UML and the UCPN (Maoist). It looks like we share the most in common with the Prachanda Maoists. We can have an alliance with anyone who supports identity-based federalism, from Ashok Rai to Prachanda.



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