RJP-N to participate in third phase polls
The Rastriya Janata Party-Nepal (RJP-N) that boycotted the first and the second phases of local elections had agreed to participate in the third phase of local elections scheduled for September 18 in Province 2. However, the government should table the constitution amendment bill in the parliament to ensure their participation in the polls. After holding a marathon meeting of the party central committee, the RJP-N on Friday agreed to participate in the local polls scheduled for September 18 if the government put the constitution amendment bill for voting. According to the agreement, the government also promptly decided to put the constitution amendment bill to vote after the RJP-N agreed to accept results of the voting. The bill, however, was not tabled in parliament by the time this story was developed. The RJP-N, a unified force of six erstwhile Madhes-based parties, did not take part in the first local polls held on May 14 and June 28 demanding that the constitution be amended before holding the local polls. Two developments of last week were believed to make the RJP-N positive towards the polls. First the Supreme Court's decision to allow the addition of local units in the Province -2 paved the way for the government to meet one of their key demands—adding local levels on the basis of population. Secondly, Nepal visit of Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj to attend the Ministerial Meeting of the BIMSTEC last week was also meaningful to convince the RJP-N to take part in polls. Many believed that Sushma exerted pressure on the RJP-N leaders to participate in the polls. If the RJP-N leaders did not change their stance, their participation in the third phase local polls as well as in the provincial and federal elections would be almost sure. This would be the biggest achievement for the present Deuba-led government because the previous government was unable to convince the RJP-N to accept the results of voting. As a result, the constitution amendment bill was never tabled for voting. However, it looks unlikely that the amendment bill will be endorsed by a two/thirds majority as the UML and Kamal Thapa-led RPP would vote against it. Earlier, when the RJP-N rejected to accept the results of voting, the government was hesitating to put the bill for voting. “RJP-N leaders urged the government to move the amendment bill forward, saying they are ready to join the polls,” Maoist Centre leader Narayan Kaji Shrestha was quoted by a daily. The RJP-N's decision to participate in the polls comes a day after the Supreme Court (SC) paved the way for adding local units in eight districts of Province 2. Increasing the number of local units was one of the demands of the RJP-N. The government's earlier decision taken on May 22 to increase 22 local units in 12 Tarai districts was stayed by the Supreme Court on May 26. But last week, the SC vacated its earlier stay order and quashed a writ that challenged the government decision.