Nepal`s political parties woo Madhesis for PM run-off voting

Nepal`s two largest parties, Nepali Congress and UCPN-Maoist, stepped-up efforts to woo Terai-based Madhesi alliance whose support is crucial for a majority in parliament ahead of the third round of run-off voting for a new PM.

Last Updated: Aug 01, 2010, 21:23 PM IST

Kathmandu: Nepal`s two largest parties,
Nepali Congress and UCPN-Maoist, on Sunday stepped-up efforts to
woo the Terai-based Madhesi alliance whose support is crucial
for a majority in parliament ahead of the third round of
run-off voting for a new prime minister.

A run-off poll for the post of Nepal`s Prime Minister
ended in a fiasco on July 23, with both Maoist supremo
Prachanda and his Nepali Congress rival 65-year-old Ramchandra
Poudyal failing to get a majority, deepening the political
crisis in the country.

The Nepali Congress today expressed its commitment to
address the issues raised by the Madhes-based parties in order
to garner their 84 votes in the prime ministerial runoff.

Nepali Congress acting President Sushil Koirala met
leaders of the United Democratic Madhesi Front (UDMF), an
alliance of four Madhesi parties, and handed over a written
commitment to address their demands.

Nepali Congress leader Mahat said that his party has
taken most of the issues raised by the Madhesi front
positively.

"We agree with most of their demands," Mahat was
quoted as saying by the Himalayan Times online.

The UDMF alliance of four parties -- Madhesi People`s
Rights Forum (MPRF), MPRF ?Democratic, Terai Madhes Democratic
Party and Sadbhavana Party -- have maintained that they would
support the party that provides a clear roadmap to conclude
the peace process and?addresses demands of the community from
the southern Terai region, including greater economic and
political rights for them.

The Madhesi parties have put three conditions for
their support to any candidate - an autonomous Madhesi region
with right to self-determination; implementation of past pacts
with Madhesi parties, including greater economic and political
rights; and integration and rehabilitation of the Maoist
combatants within four months.

The Nepali Congress, however, has expressed
reservation on some of its demands, including the mass
recruitment of Madhesi people in the national army and the
establishment of an autonomous Madhes state with the right to
self-determination, the report said.

It argued that the parties are not in a position to
take decision on such crucial issues as the new constitution
is still being drafted.

The UDMF alliance has also held talks with the
Maoists, whose chief Prachanda has agreed to a number of their
demands. However, the Maoists have rejected the `One Madhesh
sate` demand of UDMF, saying "it is against the party`s
policy". Nepal`s Terai plains are home to about half of the
country`s 30 million people, and the residents of the region,
are known as Madhesis, who are of Indian origin.

The pro-Terai parties argue that people in the
Madhesi-dominated southern plains have long been treated as
second-class citizens in Nepal, where hill-origin elites
dominate politics, the security forces and business. They have
demanded greater economic and political rights, including more
representation in the state structure.

The 601-member Parliament will hold another election
for the post on August 2 following the failed attempts of July
21 and 23.

The country has been in political limbo since the
resignation of Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal in June, who
is currently heading a caretaker government.

The major parties failed to arrive at a consensus
candidate for the post of the Prime Minister, leading to the
process of electing a new leader through majority vote in the
Constituent Assembly, which functions as Parliament.

CPN-Maoist is the single-largest party with 238 MPs,
while Nepali Congress and CPN-UML have 114 and 109 seats
respectively in the Constituent Assembly, whose two-year term
was extended by one year on May 28.

Maoists, who joined mainstream politics in 2006 after
a decade-long insurgency, won the maximum seats in 2008
elections and briefly led the government before Prachanda`s
resignation as Premier following differences with President
Ram Baran Yadav over the reinstatement of then army chief
Rukmangad Katwal who was sacked by the former rebels.

PTI