Amid a face-off between the president and the government over the Citizenship Law Amendment Bill, CPN-UML chairwoman KP Sharma Oli blamed the ruling parties for rushing the bill through the lower house without proper deliberation.
Presenting a policy paper at the party’s Central Committee meeting on Friday, Oli expressed his displeasure that the House of Representatives approved the bill without any revisions, ignoring President Bidya Devi Bhandari’s request to review the bill.
“The bill was passed in the name of the majority without even holding consultations (with the opposition) on very sensitive issues raised by the head of state,” Oli’s report said. “This is an undemocratic and unparliamentary measure which only aggravates tensions with the opposition.”
Oli listed seven points that the bill must address, arguing that it is not enough to implement the constitutional provisions on citizenship. The document proposes a period of reflection before granting citizenship to foreign women married to Nepalese men and to incorporate the recommendations of the State Affairs and Good Governance Committee of the lower house.
Oli opposed the approval of the bill by the lower house, which has already sent it to the National Assembly.
As Ganesh Timilsina, president of the National Assembly, is a confidant of Oli, part of the ruling parties fear that he could derail the approval of the bill.
On August 14, Bhandari sent the bill back to the lower house for review, attaching his 15-point concerns and suggestions. The lower house, however, ratified it on August 18 without any revision and transmitted it to the National Assembly.
Bhandari, meanwhile, consulted with legal experts, members of civil society, and serving and retired officers of the Nepalese army, much to the chagrin of the government and ruling parties.
The government and the five-party ruling alliance have expressed strong reservations about Bhandari’s consultations, calling them “activism”.
Some of the ruling party leaders see his decision as an attempt to pressure the National Assembly to take into account his concerns.
Anita Devkota, Nepal’s Congress whip in the upper house, said the bill was due to be introduced on Monday, but that did not happen because the House focused on the condolence motion after the member’s death. of Nepal’s Lower House Congress Pradip Giri.
The upper house was then adjourned until Sunday as the parliamentary committee to study and monitor the implementation of federalism was visiting Province 1 and Madhes Province according to a predetermined schedule.
“The bill is expected to be introduced on Sunday,” she told the Post. “I believe it is approved the same day or the next day.”
Hosting a press conference on Thursday, Interior Minister Bal Krishna Khand also made a similar statement. He said the bill will be presented to the upper house on Sunday and will be approved after deliberations.
Briefly speaking to the Post, Timilsina, speaker of the upper house, said the bill would be registered on Sunday, but he refrained from providing details on how long it would take to pass it.
“The bill will be presented at the next meeting,” he told the Post. “The further course will be determined after holding consultations.”
Three upper house congressional lawmakers told the Post that Timilsina wants the bill discussed in the House Legislation Committee for at least a few days.
“We want the bill to be discussed in plenary without sending it to committee,” one of the lawmakers told the Post. “As lawmakers are not allowed to register amendments to the bill, there is no need to send it to the House committee. It’s just a time-saving strategy on the president’s part.
They, however, say that even if sent to the Legislation Committee, the bill cannot be put on hold for long. In the absence of an elected chair, the committee is led by Congressman Narayan Datta Mishra, as he is the oldest member.
“If the bill is sent to the Legislative Committee, we can ask the president to send it back after deliberating for a few days. The ruling parties hold the majority on the committee,” another upper house congressman said. “I don’t think the president can last long. The bill will be approved at most in about a week, even if he tries to delay the process.
Congress lawmakers say that since the ruling parties can secure a two-thirds majority, which is enough to topple Timilsina, he won’t dare stand in the way of his approval for long.
The UML has 16 members in the upper house of 59 members while the ruling parties have 37 members.
Two of the three appointed by the president are also close to the parties in power.
Similarly, Bamdev Gautam and the Loktantrik Samajbadi party are also part of the ruling alliance. If all unite, the strength of the parties in power will be greater than two-thirds.
“We requested the Business Advisory Committee meeting on Sunday morning,” Devkota said. “The progress of the approval process will be determined by the meeting.”