It seems that the country would plunge into another form of crisis over the issue of fixing the number and its boundaries of the local units though restructuring of the state is long being prevailing contentious issue of the country. Political parties particularly the big one have divided over the initial report of the Local Bodies Restructuring Commission (LBRC) that has proposed 565 local units under the federal structures. Though the CPN Maoist Center have not spoken out openly about the proposed 565 local body model, the Nepali Congress and the agitating Madhes based parties have official objected the proposed 565 model of local units. Drastic reduction from over 33,000 local bodies has irked the Nepali Congress and the agitating Madhes based parties.
Though the CPN UML seems to have stand in favor of the LBRC proposal, some lawmakers of the party have also raised voices to increase the local units in the hilly and mountain regions. The blunder committed from the LBRC side while declaring the local units seems to have fueled on the controversies. As restructuring of the state is one of the major challenging issue not only in the front of implementing the constitution but also to reach the ongoing peace process into logical conclusion, the LBRC should not have made such a hasten to announce its preliminary report before consulting with the stake holders.
While commenting against the LBRC, the fact of another side is also there that declaration of local units is becoming late to accomplish the elections including in the local level within the stimulated timeframe. As the preliminary report made public by the LBRC can be corrected, the political parties, which have opposed the preliminary declaration of the report, need not be so anxious. Considering the situation that the government has to hold the local, provincial and parliamentary elections within 18 months, the issue of number and boundaries of the local units should be settled without further delay.
As implementation of the constitution is entirely associated with the ongoing peace process and conducting of elections are the preconditions, the political parties should settle the partisan differences immediately to let free the technical commission like LBRC to function independently. CPN UML led government had formed the LBRC to recommend the restructuring of local bodies as per the article 295 (3) of the constitution, which clearly provisioned that the commission should be formed to restructure local bodies within six months of the constitution’s promulgation. And, the guideline given to the commission by the Oli led government was also on the basis of constitutional provision, though there were sufficient points to make the terms and reference acceptable to all.
The guideline or terms of reference given to the commission should have consulted with the major political parties. The Oli led government failed to be liberal to consult with the major parties, though the constitution has given authority to the government to fix the commission’s guidelines The terms of reference given to the commission to create viable local units factoring in population, geographic area and administrative proximity would not have altered but there was a space to add some points in the 19 points terms of reference to make the commission much more acceptable.
Whatever the mistakes were made in the past, the political parties should stop the blame game to set up criteria to revise the commission’s terms of reference. The tenure of the commission has to be extended for few weeks to consult with the stake holders in the local level. While recommending so to the political parties, we would like to remind here that delay on the state restructuring of the local bodies should not be delayed the elections because this would push the closer to a constitutional void.