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Cross or not to cross?  

Wednesday, September 9th, 2015
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NC

NC lawmakers in a meeting last week. Photo: Bikram Rai

As violent protests continue in Nepal’s plains region, the Nepali Congress (NC) lawmakers representing the Madhes are now divided over whether to vote against the new constitution.

Some Madhesi and Tharu lawmakers belonging to the NC are spearheading a campaign to convince others to cross the floor and vote against the constitution backed by their own party. Surendra Chaudhary, an NC lawmaker, said nearly two dozen Madhesi and Tharu lawmakers from his party have already agreed to vote against the draft constitution, and they are now trying to win support of more lawmakers.

The NC, the largest party in the Constituent Assembly (CA), has 54 lawmakers representing the Madhesi and Tharu communities.

The NC leadership, however, appears determined to prevent its lawmakers from voting against the constitution. Top NC leaders are personally calling Madhesi and Tharu leaders to stop the campaign right away and abstain from any activities that will lead to delay in promulgating the constitution.

NC lawmaker Surendra Yadav, who represents Saptari district where a Madhesi protester died in police firing on Tuesday, told Nepali Times: “The party leadership is putting pressure on us, and I do not think a majority of us will go against the party’s decision.”

Yadav said he would personally not cross the floor. “I have faith in party system,” he said. “We have all urged the party leadership to end the Madhes crisis through dialogues, but we cannot go ignore the party’s decision.”

The Madhesi CA members met Prime Minister Sushil Koirala on Tuesday to tell him that they would face an electoral backlash in their plains constituencies if they voted for the draft. They said Koirala wasn’t convincing enough in explaining why the demands of the Madhesis could not be accommodated.

The CA is preparing to conduct a vote on the new constitution backed by the NC, the UML and the UCPN (M) next week. Members are considered to be independent individuals, and political parties cannot whip their lawmakers. But top leaders of the major parties have been warning lawmakers to not go against the party’s decision.

Last week, UML lawmaker Pemba Lama and Jitu Gautam, who represent Janjati and Dalit communities respectively, had registered their own proposals to amend the new constitution ignoring the party’s decision. But the UML leadership forced them to withdraw their amendment proposals.

UCPN(M) Chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal also warned dissidents to leave the party if they wanted to cross over.

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