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Local elections postponed in a province on Indian border as threats of interference loom

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Kathmandu (AsiaNews) – The Nepali government has announced the postponement until 18 September of local elections in Province N. 2, which is located on the border with India, following threats of violent protests against the elections by the Rastriya Janata Party (RJP).

Some fear that India is interfering in the province in order to disrupt the elections. Elections in Provinces N. 1, 5, and 7 will go ahead as planned on 28 June.

The RJP has put pressure and threatened violent protests to prevent the poll until its requests are heard. “As long as the government does not consider our demands we will not participate in the elections,” said Senior RJP leader Anil K. Jha.

“The government has agreed to amend the constitution, but there has been no progress towards increasing local districts based on the population,” Jah added. “If we go into the elections right now, we won’t have any plans to reassure the Madhese.”

The Unified Leninist-Marxist Party (UML) slammed the decision. The “RJP is ruled and driven by Indian and Nepali Hindu fundamentalists who want to prevent the application of the secular constitution,” said UML Party Secretary Yoges Bhattarai.

“They believe that if elections are held, secularism will be institutionalised and religious freedom will prevail. That is why they want to undermine the new secular constitution and re-establish Hinduism with the help of India,” he added. “There is no political reason for postponing the elections, but there is a malicious interest in depriving people of their secular rights.”

Sudir Sharma, editor of the well-known Kantipur newspaper, noted that some in the province are worried that the RJP is becoming a tool of India to weaken the constitution.

Upendra Yadav, a leader of another Madhese party, criticised the postponement. “The RJP is not the only party in Madhesh,” he explained. “The will of the people should not be controlled by the personal interests of a few leaders.”

Deputy Prime Minister and Education Minister Gopal Man Shrestha, who also acts as government spokesperson, explained that the decision was made after opponents said that they would participate in the elections in September. He also noted that the purpose of the step is to avoid clashes and deaths among Nepali citizens.

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