Biratnagar was designated the temporary capital of Province 1 on 6 May 2018. A year later, the provincial assembly voted to make its temporary status permanent.
With the issue of provincial capital settled, the provincial government, led by former Chief Minister Sherdhan Rai, had to then decide the province’s name. Most other provinces already had or were in the process of finalizing their names at the time.
Naming the province thus became one of Rai’s top priorities. He even promised to finalize the name in the fifth session of the provincial assembly. This did not come to pass. The political parties represented in the assembly could not agree on a common name.
Province 1 was just a temporary moniker assigned when the country was federated into seven provinces. Six other provinces have already decided their official names.
The issue of naming the province has become urgent for Province 1 parliament and its government as their five-year tenure soon ends.
Rai says his party, CPN-UML, is preparing to finalize the name.
“A party task-force has been formed to decide the name. Its members have already held discussions with the Nepali Congress,” he says. “We are positive that the parties will agree on a common name this time.”
The UML has proposed Koshi, Kirat, Limbuwan and Sagarmatha as potential name candidates for Province 1.
UML task-force member and former minister Hikmat Karki says the Nepali Congress has agreed to settle the name in the ongoing session of the provincial assembly. The province is currently holding its budget session.
Congress has assigned its leader Rajiv Koirala to hold discussions with other parties on the province’s name.
Province 1 Minister for Economic Affairs and Planning Indra Bahadur Angbo also believes the issue can be settled if the UML and Congress see eye to eye.
What will be the basis to determine the province’s name is still a matter of debate though.
While Samyukta Loktantrik Rashtriya Manch, one of the partners in the ruling coalition, has demanded that the province be named ‘Limbuwan’ after the Limbu community, others are of the view that the name should represent the entire province rather than one ethnic group.
“We should stay away from identity politics when naming the province, because this is the very reason why we have been unable to finalize the name so far,” says Karki.
Jayaram Yadav, leader of Janata Samajbadi Party, also says the name of the province should represent the collective identity, one that doesn’t favor one community, culture or religion.
Dilli Prasain, an associate professor at Biratnagar Post-Graduate Campus, suggests the province be named based on national identity rather than ethnicity.
“Most other provinces have done the same thing. Naming the province after a particular ethnicity could invite trouble,” he says.