A diplomat stationed at the Consulate General (CG) of India's office in the Tarai town of Birgunj is reported to have encouraged Madhesi politicians to “create a storm” to oppose a recent pact on State restructuring. While leading politicians have criticised the instance as “intervention”, India has strongly denied the allegation.

Division

Two dailies belonging to the Kantipur group — Nepal's biggest media house — reported in their Friday editions that S.D. Mehta, a consular at the CG office, told Tarai politicians across party lines that the division of Madhes into several parts had “broken his heart”. At a cocktail reception on Wednesday evening, Mr. Mehta — according to the news reports — urged leaders to “take to the streets before May 27”.

On May 15, Nepal's national parties had reached an agreement to carve out 11 States in a future federal set-up; the names and the boundaries of the States were to be decided later. The informal understanding is to carve the Tarai plains into five provinces. This has drawn opposition from Madhesi parties. Madhesi Ministers have threatened to resign if the deal is not revised and a Broad Madhesi Front led by the former Foreign Minister, Upendra Yadav, has declared an indefinite strike in the Tarai and obstructed Parliament.

Maoists, Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist Leninist), and the Nepali Congress have criticised the diplomat's action as “interference in Nepal's internal affairs”. Deputy Prime Minister Narayan Kaji Shrestha ‘Prakash' said the government would draw the attention of the Indian government to the matter. Maoist chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda' met Indian Ambassador Jayant Prasad to enquire about the reported statement. And the UML has asked that Mr. Mehta be declared persona non-grata.

Embassy rebuts

The Indian Embassy has strongly refuted the allegation, terming it “factually incorrect and misleading”. It said, “Such attributions seek to distract from the friendly relations between India and Nepal. India remains committed to supporting the Constitution-making process for the establishment of a stable, democratic and prosperous Nepal and will cooperate in the manner determined exclusively by the people and leadership of Nepal.”

Indian officials said they have “scrupulously” stayed away from Nepal's constitutional debates. On form of government, even though different Nepali politicians lobbied with New Delhi to back either a presidential or parliamentary system depending on their preferences, senior diplomats say they did not intervene in the issue at all. The eventual compromise worked out by the Nepali parties is for a mixed system with a directly elected President and a strong P.M. elected indirectly by Parliament.

On federalism, while older mainstream parties claim in private conversations that India is backing Madhesi parties, a senior Madhesi politician, on the condition of anonymity, said: “We feel India has not supported our cause enough. They in fact urged us to show flexibility for the sake of a constitution.” A diplomatic source pointed to the contrasting perceptions and said India had no intention of getting embroiled in ‘internal divisive issues of this nature'

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