NC President Sher Bahadur Deuba holds a meeting with Rastriya Janata Party Nepal leaders at the NC’s Parliamentary Party Office in Singhadurbar, Kathmandu, on Wednesday, May 17, 2017. Photo: RSS

KATHMANDU:  Nepali Congress on Wednesday said that that the second phase of polls would be held as planned on June 14, rejecting a proposal from the agitating Madhesi parties to postpone the vote.

In a meeting with top leaders of the Rastriya Janata Party Nepal, NC leaders said that the election would be held on the scheduled date at any cost and suggested the agitating parties remain prepared for it.

Though NC leaders reaffirmed their commitment to amending the constitution, they refused to give any specific timeline for it. NC President Sher Bahadur Deuba, who is expected to take over the prime ministership from Pushpa Kamal Dahal within the next few days, said that the largest party was ready to put the constitution amendment bill to a vote in parliament.

“There are two choices: immediately table the amendment bill in parliament for a vote or wait until there’s enough support in favor of the bill. We are ready to do whatever the agitating parties want,” said Deuba, adding that the agitating parties should come on board the polls without any more preconditions.

Besides Deuba, other NC leaders including Ram Chandra Paudel, Prakash Man Singh, and Bimalendra Nidhi were also present at the meeting.

NC leader Gopal Man Shrestha, who was present at the meeting, told Republica that the regional parties were positive toward their request to take part in the polls.

“They said that they were willing to take part in the polls if the number of local units are increased in the tarai and some other issues sorted out. So far as the amendment is concerned, our aim would be to endorse it before the polls. But all are aware of the fact that our efforts alone may not be enough,” said Shrestha.

Talking to Republica after the meeting, Madhesi leaders said that the constitution amendment still remains their “bottom-line for taking part in the polls”. They also stressed on need of increasing local units and addressing non-political demands prior going to polls.

“People have warned us not to take part in elections without amendment. We have clearly told the NC leadership that the fate of amendment bill would determine our further move,” said RJPN leader Rajendra Mahato.

During the meeting, another RJPN leader, Mahanta Thakur, had told the NC leaders that they should be ready to postpone the elections if amendment needed more time. RJPN vice Chair Brishesh Chandra Lal, a leader close to Thakur, that the said that it would be wise to postpone the polls as the set date was not suitable due to other reasons .

“Factors like advent of early monsoon and the Muslim holy month of Ramadan also make the scheduled date unsuitable for elections. So, it would be wise to postpone the date,” said Lal.

Despite hardening their stance in public, NC leaders said that they found Madhesi parties more flexible on joining the polls. RJPN is also said to be under pressure from India to join the polls. The pressure is said to have increased after Upendra Yadav led Federal Socialist Forum Nepal took part in the first phase of local elections.

Unlike other Madhesi parties, Yadav-led party has stakes both in the hills and the plains constituencies.

“They are looking for a face saver as there is some pressure from their constituency. We have told them that we will do everything that can be done,” said an NC leader.

–  By Roshan Sedhai for REPUBLICA

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