Upendra Yadav was the chief instigator of the 2007 Madhes Movement, which was instrumental in enshrining ‘federalism’ in the interim constitution. The interim charter in turn was the basis for the constitution of the federal republican Nepal issued in 2015. This architect of the 2007 Madhes Movement is now joining the central government in Kathmandu after a seven-year hiatus. With the formal inclusion of his party Sanghiya Samajbadi Forum Nepal (16 seats), the ruling coalition has 190 seats in the 275-member federal parliament. Importantly, it now has a two-thirds majority needed to amend the constitution.
The Yadav-led SSFN decided to join the Oli government after inking a two-point deal, which stipulates that the constitution will be amended based on ‘mutual agreement’. Such an amendment will incorporate the demands raised by political movements of recent times, says the deal. Interestingly, as per the deal, the proposed amendments would be reflected in the government’s annual Policies and Programs, even though there was no possibility of that: the two-point deal came only a day ahead of the May 29 budget presentation.
This is not the only reason to doubt the feasibility of the chief demand of the 2015 protests in Madhes: revision of provincial boundaries in the constitution so that the entire Tarai belt comes under two Madhes-only provinces. It is nigh impossible to imagine the Nepal Communist Party agreeing to such demarcations, even though it now has the requisite strength to amend the constitution any way it likes. The vast majority of NCP leaders are viscerally opposed to separating Tarai from Pahad, and so is a high proportion of the party’s electorate. So what kind of amendments can we realistically expect?
SSFN will most certainly ask for more tax-collection and spending rights for provinces. The SSFN-led government in Province 2 has long chaffed at the centralization of revenue-collection and revenue-mobilization powers in Kathmandu. SSFN will also pitch for an easier citizenship provision for those born to Nepali mothers and foreign fathers, another pressing issue for its core constituents in the Tarai belt.
In the bigger picture, with the inclusion of SSFN, the Oli government now seems unassailable, with total control over the federal government as well as all the seven provincial governments.