It seems that the agenda of federalism has become a burden which the main Opposition CPN-UML is no longer interested to keep carrying. UML Chairman and former Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli has, once again, said that federalism was not the original agenda of his party and that his party accepted the agenda of federalism hoping that it would solve the country’s problems.
Speaking to journalists including editors of broadsheet dailies on Sunday evening, Oli said, “Federalism was not the demand of any of the people’s movements. It became a mainstream political agenda without being properly discussed and debated among the parties. We had accepted it back then hoping that it would solve the country’s problems.”
Referring to one of the speeches of the incumbent Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal in parliament where he said that federalism was not the agenda of UML, Oli said, “It was not appropriate to stand up and say something while he (Dahal) was speaking but later on I had told him to keep repeating this statement [that federalism was not the agenda of UML].”
Oli’s anti-federalism remarks have come at a time when a constitution amendment bill has been registered in parliament in a bid to resolve problems which are mainly related to the implementation of federalism in the country. Especially, the government’s proposal in the amendment bill to remove the hilly districts from Province Number 5 has come under fire, triggering protests in several districts of the province.
In the interaction with the journalists, Oli also claimed that the then USSR had fragmented because of federalism. “Now, attempts are being made to destroy the country in the name of federalism. The country is not like a cake which can be cut into pieces and distributed.” This is not the first time, however, that the UML supremo has spoken out against the concept of federalism. On several occasions in the past, he has vented out his ire against federalism, making it clear that his party was being dragged by the Maoists and Madhes-based parties to accept the agenda of federalism.
When the second People’s Movement was going on, Oli had also said that “to bring republicanism in Nepal is like reaching the US on a pull-cart.” Though Oli has been speaking against federalism in Nepal from time to time, his party officially accepted the Interim Constitution as well as the current constitution which had/have envisaged federalism as a means to politically restructure the country. Meanwhile, protests have soared in different districts of Province 5 after the government filed the constitution amendment bill so as to take out all the hill districts from the province. Even the cadres of the ruling Nepali Congress and CPN (Maoist Center) have come out on the streets, burning tyres to protest against the bill.
Similarly, the Madhes-based parties to fulfill whose demands the current government wants to amend the constitution are not happy with the amendment bill which is silent on their demand to include three eastern districts – Jhapa, Morang and Sunsari – in Province Number 2 (Madhes province) and include two far-western district – Kailali and Kanchanpur – in Province Number 6 (Tharuhat province).
As things stand at present, it is unlikely that the constitution amendment bill registered by the Dahal-led government will be endorsed by parliament. An acceptable-to-all deal on federalism has been illusive so far despite myriad attempts by the Nepali politicians to hammer out such a deal. As a result, implementing federalism in Nepal has proved to be a very hard nut to crack.