Nepal government tables constitution amendment bill

Kathmandu, Jan 8 (IANS) Ignoring opposition protests, the Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’-led government in Nepal on Sunday tabled a constitution amendment bill in Parliament aimed at assuaging Madhes-based parties and communities who have been agitating since the statute was promulgated in September 2015.

Law Minister Ajaya Shankar Nayak introduced the bill on behalf of Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister Bimalendra Nidhi amidst vociferous protests from members of nine opposition parties, including the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxists-Leninists), which oppose the amending measure.

Opposition lawmakers chanted slogans but could not stop Nayak as Speaker Onsari Gharti ruled that in Nidhi’s absence, Nayak would table the bill related to elections.

The opposition parties had agreed to a brief sitting to allow the government to table the election bill but did not consent to its continued proceeding.

Immediately after the announcement, Nayak first presented the bill related to the election but did not leave the rostrum. Even as opposition lawmakers were chanting slogans against Nayak, Gharti allowed the Minister to introduce the constitution amendment bill too.

Opposition lawmakers were up in arms against the move but could not approach the Speaker’s podium due to tight security.

Both Speaker Gharti and Minister Nayak belong to the Prachanda’s CPN (Maoist Centre) party.

“Speaker Onsari Gharti set an unprecedented parliamentary practice by allowing the ruling parties to table the bill. We will continue our protests,” said CPN-UML leader Bam Dev Gautam.

The bill is an attempt by the Prachanda-led government to address the demands of agitating Madhes-based political parties who have been calling for changes in constitutional provisions like citizenship, language, making the constitution more inclusive and provincial demarcation.

Since the bill was registered in Parliament on November 29, the main opposition parties have been calling it as “anti-national” and obstructing proceedings.

Nepal’s Supreme Court last week held that the constitution amendment process is the prerogative of Parliament and any changes in the constitution through the parliamentary process is valid.

But the government is struggling to secure the required two-thirds support for the bill to secure parliamentary approval as the ruling coalition, comprising the CPN (Maoist Centre), the Nepali Congress and the Madhes-based parties, falls short of the required numbers.

In a tweet afterwards, Gharti said she had tried her best for over a month to seek a way out through consensus and had resumed proceedings within established norms and practices.