Two weeks after the announcement to federate the country into six provinces, leaders from major political parties have redrawn the boundaries, adding one more province to the federal map.
In the new map, five provinces in the previous six-province map have been kept unchanged while the sixth one has been divided to create the seventh one in the far-west.
All nine districts west of Karnali River have been included in the seventh province and 10 districts east of Karnali River in the sixth.
The districts in the seventh province are Kailali, Kanchanpur, Doti, Dadeldhura, Achham, Baitadi, Bajura, Bajhang and Darchula while those in the sixth province are Surkhet, Salyan, Dailekh, Jajarkot, Rukum (split), Kalikot, Jumla, Dolpa, Mugu and Humla. This province, however, does not have access to the Indian border.
The only minor change to other parts is the inclusion of Thori village of province-2 in province-3. The village of Parsa district which borders Chitwan and India.
“No change has been made to the five provinces (province-1 to province-5) except for inclusion of Thori village in the third one,” said UCPN (Maoist) leader Baburam Bhattarai.
With the decision, the demand for a single province comprising all mid-western districts has been addressed but the demand of Tharu communities remains unaddressed.
Though the leaders have made changes to the map, they have yet again deferred disputes over other issues such as citizenship, judiciary, electoral threshold and religious status of the state.
The political parties are sharply divided over whether to describe Nepal as a secular country in the preamble of the new constitution.
The UCPN (Maoist) and some other parties are strongly against removing the word ‘secular’ from the constitution, while other parties, including Nepali Congress (NC) and CPN-UML, are for replacing the word with ‘religious freedom’. The Rastriya Prajtantra Party-Nepal is still insisting on retaining Nepal as a Hindu state.
The leaders have now decided to make changes to these provisions in the final stage through consensus.
“We will try our best to settle these remaining issues through consensus. If parties fail to reach an agreement on the issues, we will put them to vote,” said Bhattarai.
Leaders from the three major political parties forwarded their suggestions to the CA’s Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC), while the latter revised the draft constitution based on the suggestions.
CDC Chairman Krishna Sitaula submitted the final draft to the CA Chairman Subas Nembang later in the evening.
Nembang, while receiving the revised draft, said the CA has reached the final stage of constitution making process. “Now it has become evident that we can deliver the new constitution soon,” said Nembang.
The agreement that eluded the parties on Thursday due to Prime Minister Sushil Koirala’s stance on some of the mid-west districts became possible on Friday as other leaders became ready to redraw the map as per Koirala’s wish.
Irked by UCPN (Maoist) proposal for changes to the previous federal map, the prime minister didn’t even attend the interparty meeting on Thursday evening. Then, other leaders became ready to listen to the prime minister’s concern.
The latest map is similar to the seven-province model jointly floated by the NC and UML in the CA in November last year. The UCPN (Maoist) and Madhes-based parties had rejected it.
Reacting strongly to the latest map, Chairman of Madhesi People’s Rights Forum-Democratic (MPRFD-), Bijay Gachchadar, claimed that the map was prepared mainly to please electorate of some of the top leaders of the three major political parties.
The parties have made several changes to the proposed maps in the recent times. Last year, the NC-UML proposed seven-province model and in reply the UCPN (Maoist)-led alliance presented a ten-province map.
While signing the 16-point deal, the major parties had announced to federate the country into eight provinces. After collecting public feedback, the parties earlier this month had announced to go for a six-province model.