Two months after major political forces signed a political deal agreeing to federate the country into eight provinces, top leaders from the same parties have now decided to reduce the number to six.
The leaders this time have not only fixed the number but also drawn the boundaries of the proposed provinces, although disputes remain over three districts.
The leaders while emerging from a meeting held at Singha Durbar on Wednesday evening claimed to have resolved all remaining disputes and said the final decision would be made by Thursday.
While signing the deal in June, leaders had agreed only on the number of provinces and decided to delineate provinces after promulgation of the new constitution based on the recommendation of a federal commission and to allow provincial assemblies to name themselves.
This time, the leaders from Nepali Congress, CPN-UML, UCPN (Maoist) and Madhesi People’s Rights Forum-Democratic (MPRF-D) have decided to federate the country into six provinces.
They have also resolved the dispute over five districts — Jhapa, Morang and Sunsari in the east and Kailali and Kanchanpur in the west. This had remained the most contentious issue in the past. However, they are yet to agree on Kailali district. UCPN (Maoist) and Madhes-based parties have been lobbying for including Kailali district in Madhes province while NC and UML have strongly opposed the idea of separating it from other far-western hill districts.
In the east, they have delineated a province comprising Jhapa, Morang and Sunsari and other eastern hill districts. All the districts to the east of Udayapur, Okhaldhunga and Solukhumbu are in the eastern province. However, MPRF-D Chairman Bijay Gachchhadar is still insisting on including Saptari district in this province.
All the southern districts from the west of Saptari to Parsa are included in a single province. Similarly, the southern area covering Nawalparasi to Bardiya has been included in another Tarai province. However, leaders remain undecided on Kailali.
The leaders have included Chitwan district in the province comprising Kathmandu and other districts east of Dhading, Nuwakot and Rasuwa. This province stretches up to Ramechhap and Sindhuli in the east.
Likewise, another province covers hill districts from Gorkha, Lamjung to Rukum and Rolpa in the west. As this province has no connection with the Indian border, leaders are for giving an exit somewhere in Nawalparasi district.
The far-western province covers all the districts in this region. Salyan, Jajarkot and Dolpa and all other districts west of it fall in this province. The Tarai district of Kanchanpur has been included in this province.
While emerging from the meeting, top leaders from all the four major political parties said they are very close to an agreement and that they will sign a deal by Thursday.
NC Vice-chairman Ram Chandra Paudel, CPN-UML Chairman KP Sharma Oli, UCPN (Maoist) Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal, MPRF-D Chairman Bijay Gachchhadar and Chairman of CA’s Constitutional Political Dialogue and Consensus Committee (CPDCC) Baburam Bhattarai also said that they will finalize the issues by Thursday.
“We need just two hours to give the final touch to the agreements we have reached so far. So, let’s wait until tomorrow,” Bhattarai told reporters.
Oli said they have agreed that the number of provinces would not exceed six and that they just need a few hours to finalize the agreement. “We have reached a broad agreement. We just need to connect some dots and we will finish the task by tomorrow,” said Oli.
The leaders also informed that they have settled other contentious issues such as citizenship provision and the policy on inclusion.
A federal commission will be constituted to work out the technical details of various aspects of the federal system.