KATHMANDU: In a major development, Madhes-based parties in Nepal have finally agreed to join the local polls slated for September 18 - after a meeting with Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj here.
Besides taking part in the polls, the Madhes-based parties also agreed to present the constitutional amendment proposal for voting in Parliament, irrespective of whether it is endorsed or not.
Earlier, the Madhes-based parties had been demanding amendment in the constitution and declared that they will not take part in elections until it approves the amendment.
The turnaround in the Madhes-based parties came after Sushma Swaraj held a joint meeting with top Madhesi leaders on Thursday evening on the sideline of the BIMSTEC Ministerial meeting and pushed them to take part in the elections for institutionalising the agenda of Madhes.
The Madhes-based leaders, during a meeting with Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba on Friday, announced that they will take part in the upcoming local polls in Province no 2 and agreed to present the constitution amendment proposal for voting process.
"Our key demand was sorting out the constitution amendment proposal. Our meeting with the Prime Minister and ruling party leaders agreed to put the constitution amendment proposal in voting process," Sharat Singh Bhandari, one of the Presidium of the newly-formed Rastriya Janata Party Nepal said. A two-third vote is required to approve the proposal, which has already been tabled in the House as a Bill.
The constitution amendment is a long-standing demand of the agitating Madhes-based parties who have been struggling for the last two years to make the constitution more inclusive, more Madhes-friendly and to ensure representation of Madhesis in various State entities according to their proportion in the population.
The Nepal government has already held two rounds of local polls in the rest of six Provinces and deferred the polls in Province no 2 which is Madhes-dominated.
"We will accept the rule of the game, if the constitution amendment fails," said Bhandari when asked what if the proposal fails.
Though the Madhes-based leaders declined any Indian pressure to join the polls, they say the Supreme Court's verdict to allow the Nepal government to increase the numbers of local units paved the way for them to join the polls. The Supreme Court on Thursday paved the way for the government to increase the numbers of local units in Province no 2.
Earlier, the Rastriya Janata Party of Nepal (RJPN) had held long meetings with 1,000 representatives of various districts in Kathmandu to take a decision on whether to take part in elections and to assess the ground realities and positions.
In the meeting, most RJPN leaders and cadres told the party leadership to participate in the polls, saying the party will otherwise face a serious blow in Tarai and the top parties like Nepali Congress, CPN-UML and CPN (Maoist Center) will take advantage of it.
"On the one hand there was immense pressure from the ground, while on the other hand there was pressure like dying down of the agenda. In the midst of this dilemma, we choose to take part in elections and decided to put the amendment proposal in the voting process," said Bhandari.
The main opposition, Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist) of former Prime Minister K.P. Oli is dead against the constitution amendment proposal.