NC‚ UML push for 11 pradeshes, Remain against single identity-based federalism

KATHMANDU: Federalism continues to befuddle major political forces — the Unified CPN-Maoist, Nepali Congress, CPN-UML and the United Democratic Madhesi Front — as they remain sharply divided over number and names of pradeshes to be carved out.

The UCPN-M and UDFM and NC and UML continued to stand at opposite ends today as well, however, the latter two, in a bid to woo the former ones, floated the idea of having 11 pradeshes. But they insisted on not having pradeshes on the basis of single ethnic identity, as advocated by the Maoists and Madhesi forces.

NC and UML also suggested that if they cannot agree on the names of the pradeshes, then they can leave the issue for Pradesh Sabhas (lower assemblies) to decide, but UCPN-M and UDMF rejected.

NC negotiator Bimalendra Nidhi said UML had agreed on his party’s proposal to carve out 11 pradeshes.

In today’s talks, NC proposed to carve out four pradeshes across Madhes with Chitwan and Makwanpur as buffer between Madhes pradeshes. Similarly, NC also proposed to carve Kailali and Kanchanpur districts out of Madhes and mix them with hill pradesh of far-west region.

NC, which had proposed to mix Jhapa, Morang and Sunsari districts with Koshi-Kirat Pradesh a few days ago, today floated the idea of having a separate pradesh comprising these three districts.

According to Nidhi, NC proposed: Saptari, Siraha, Dhanusha, Mahottari, Sarlahi as one pradesh; Rautahat, Bara and Parsa as one pradesh; and Pradesh, Nawalparasi, Rupandehi, Kapilvastu, Dang, Banke and Bardiya as one pradesh. NC has said it can go for 11 pradeshes, and in that case there has to be seven pradeshes in hills and mountains.

According to Nidhi, NC can agree on less than 11 pradeshes, but ‘there must be four pradeshes in the Tarai’. “We are of the view that multiple pradeshes in Madhes will be good for Madhesis, as it will help develop their leadership quality, administrative skills and will give them more clout at the centre,” said Nidhi.

According to Maoist standing committee member Dev Gurung, Maoist Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal has been pitching for 10 pradeshes — two in Madhes and eight in the hills. He said the party has proposed Seti-Mahakali, Karnali, Magarat, Tamuwan, Kirat, Limbuwan, Tamsaling and Newa pradeshes. According to Gurung, NC said it will accept Dahal’s 10-pradesh proposal, but only if the Maoists agree to carve out Jhapa, Morang and Sunsari as a separate pradesh. Sources said UDMF strongly objected to this idea and also the proposal of doing away with single ethnic identity- based pradeshes.

Maoist negotiator Barshaman Pun said NC and UML’s proposal was positive, but UDMF had some reservations.

UDMF leader Rajendra Mahato said UML leaders first said the final authority to name pradeshes can be given to Pradesh Sabhas but later changed their mind after influential leaders KP Sharma Oli, Bidhya Bhandari and Ishwor Pokhrel objected to it. Mahato said UDMF cannot accept NC and UML’s proposal because they want to divide Madhes in four-five provinces.

“It is absolutely for the Madhesis and Tharus of Madhes to decide how many pradeshes they want to have in Madhes. NC, UML and UCPN-M have no right to dictate,” said Mahato, adding that Madhesi and Janajati lawmakers will never accept any proposal that deny identity-based federalism.by RAM KUMAR KAMAT/ TIKA R PRADHAN THT

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