Nepal government caught between federalists, royalists

Nepal`s government found itself in a fresh dilemma with federalists demanding restructuring of the republic into autonomous states and royalists calling for fresh elections.

Last Updated: Apr 26, 2011, 23:20 PM IST

Kathmandu: Nepal`s weak government, under fire from all sides for growing insecurity, corruption and inflation, Tuesday found itself in a fresh dilemma with federalists demanding restructuring of the republic into autonomous states and royalists calling for fresh elections.

However, both sides had the same warning for Prime Minister Jhala Nath Khanal: they would not brook attempts to extend the May 28 deadline for promulgating a new constitution.

The latest salvo was fired by an alliance of three parties from southern Nepal`s Terai plains, also known as the Madhesi parties.

The United Democratic Madhesi Front comprising three opposition parties -- the Sadbhavana Party, Terai Madhes Loktantrik Party and Madhesi Janadhikar Forum-Nepal -- Tuesday said they had lost faith in the ruling parties and would not allow the constitutional deadline to be extended a second time.

They also said they would start an agitation from May 2 if their demands were not met.

The Front leaders said at a press conference in Kathmandu Tuesday that even if the government managed to get a new constitution ready and have it endorsed by two-thirds majority in parliament, they would still oppose it as long as it did not address satisfactorily the issues of federalism, Madhesi people, the distribution of power and the conclusion of the peace process.

The Madhesi parties are seeking the decentralisation of power with states being given full autonomy and the right to self-determination. They are also seeking the inclusion of people from the plains in all government arms - the judiciary, bureaucracy and army - on the basis of population.

The peace process, which started in 2006 after the Maoist guerrillas signed a peace agreement and ended a decade of insurgency, has been flagging after the elections in 2008 that saw the former rebels come to power.

The main obstacle to the peace process is the continued existence of nearly 20,000 Maoist fighters, who were to have been inducted into the national army.

But the merger fell into controversy after the Maoists were found to have wilfully exaggerated the strength of their People`s Liberation Army and the Nepal Army opposed any bulk recruitment.

The Madhesi parties are also seeking bulk recruitment of people from the plains into the army.

The fresh salvo comes just as the government received a warning from the royalist Rastriya Prajatantra Party-Nepal, which said it would oppose any attempt to prolong the May 28 deadline and called for fresh elections to choose a new parliament.

IANS