Does Madheshi Morcha want constitution ‘amended’ or ‘re-written’?



The Madheshi Morcha, an alliance of Terai-based parties in Nepal protesting against the new constitution, this week responded to the Prime Minister’s official invitation for talks. In its reply to PM Oli’s letter, the Morcha listed seven preconditions for talks to begin.

A phrase has made it to the seven-point demand, and it is likely to stall talks between the agitators and the government. The phrase in question is: ‘re-writing of the constitution’.

Not only is the phrase likely to hamper efforts to re-start negotiations, stalled since the Prime Minister’s visit to Indian in February, analysts say, members of the alliance themselves are in the dark about it. Demand #2 on the list of seven says that the government should be prepared to re-write provisions in the constitution that are discriminatory.

The hawks in the government are likely to interpret the demand as the Morcha’s attempt to forcefully establish that the constitution has failed. For them ‘rewriting’ would involve resurrecting the already dead Constituent Assembly to write the constitution again. This could be reason enough for them to not to engage in fruitful negotiations with the Morcha.

Who is behind it?

The Morcha has always been saying that its 11-point demand should be addressed by amending the constitution. But one of the alliance members, Forum-Nepal, especially its president Upendra Yadav, has in the past few months raised the issue of ‘re-writing’ the constitution. This is a demand majority of Madheshi leaders disown. Save for Yadav, everyone wants an ‘amendment’.

According to a source, the discontent was pretty evident during the Morcha’s meeting on Thursday. The Morcha is clearly split in two.

Not only is the split about amendment vs re-writing, it is also about the ‘Federal Alliance’, a group of pro-identity parties including the Madheshi Morcha. While Yadav insists that the Morcha should go for talks only after the government invites the Federal Alliance for talks, Mahanta Thakur and Rajendra Mahato say that is not necessary.

Following a heated debate, the Morcha decided to tread the ‘middle path’ by responding to the PM’s call with a seven-point demand. “We are ready to sit for talks if our preconditions are met. It was Upendra ji who drafted the response,” says a Morcha source. “It was Upendra ji who inserted the word ‘re-writing’.”



When Onlinekhbar asked Sadbhawana’s Rajendra Mahato about the demand, he asked, “Is ‘re-writing’ a part of the seven-point demand?” Mahato said demand #2 was to amend the constitution, not to re-write the whole document.

Is re-writing possible?

In layman’s terms, re-writing would involve ‘deleting’ the present constitution and writing a new one. Similarly, amendment would involve making changes to its provisions. In the absence of the Constituent Assembly, re-writing the constitution seems far-fetched.

Everyone knows that Yadav is a student of Law, and he knows the norms of the constitution.

But why is he insisting on ‘re-writing’ the constitution? There are many who see this as a move to stall negotiations as members of the Morcha themselves have disowned the demand.

There are analysts who believe that Yadav wants to continue with the agitation until the eve of the election so that he can capitalise on it. It must be noted that during the first CA elections, Yadav’s party became a force to reckon with just because the Morcha was in agitation. But during the second CA elections, Morcha suffered a heavy loss because it was not in agitation.

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