Nepal: Political Parties Not Sincere in Adhering to the Deadline: Update No. 304
Note No. 730 Dated 30-Dec-2014
By Dr. S.Chandrasekharan
There appears to be no seriousness on the part of te political leaders to expedite the constitution drafting process.
Though the dead line of January 22nd was a self-imposed one, it was one date on which all the political parties had expressed their commitment at the time of the elections for the second interim constitution.
It was expected that all the political parties irrespective of their ideologies would commit themselves from the day ‘go’ to discuss on the contentious issues (that were not many) and come to an understanding. Serious discussions started only three months ago and that too half heartedly and as the dead line is approaching, a flurry of activities is seen now.
In a desperate move and too late in the day Prime Minster Koirala formed a four-member “task force” from the four major entities ( the NC, UML, UCPN -M and NSP) to find a common understanding within two days! With too short a time given, the task force cannot be expected to produce a miracle when the major leaders had achieved nothing after innumerable meetings over almost one year.
In the midst of all these on 21st of this month Dr. Baburam Bhattarai made a curious statement that it is the “content that matters” and not the dead line. If so, why all this hurry? The indecisive approach of Prime Minister Koirala and the “delaying tactics” adopted by the Maoists have both contributed to the present delay and impasse in constitution making.
Speaker Nembang was right and quite justified in saying that the problem is power and not consensus. For once, PM Koirala on the 18th of this month threatened the Maoist leader Dahal to either forge a consensus on constitutional issues or be ready to settle disputed issues of the constitution through the voting process.
It was one of those rare occasions when Koirala appeared to be serious but unfortunately Dahal knowing Koirala well made a counter threat that his newly formed alliance of FDRA would take to the streets in case the government goes for voting in the Assembly. This worked and again everyone is talking about a consensus!
It is a pity that the Madhesi groups are joining hands with the Maoists in delaying the drafting of the constitution. In all the proposals on the configuration of the provinces, the principle of having one or two Madhesi provinces has been accepted and what is needed is to focus on the actual configuration of the Madhesi provinces. Instead they are arguing among themselves whether there should be one Madhesi or two Madhesi Provinces even now! (See Upendra Yadav’s statement on having one Madhesi province.) In this process the Madhesis are allowing themselves to be exploited by the Maoists.
Meanwhile, Maoist leader Dahal has come up with another set of proposals for the configuration of provinces. This time it is for six provinces with two for the Madhesh and four for the hills on a mixed approach of identity and economic viability! This again I suspect is to delay the proceedings and the attempt is to obfuscate and confuse other political parties on the “real position “ of the Maoists on the contentious issues.
Dahal in one of his statements said that he would come up with a ‘bottom line’ on the contentious issues and then hold ‘clear’ discussions with the ruling parties. For a person who is so much used to shifting goal posts, the ruling parties should tie him down now to specific positions and take a firm view on every issue. Unless this is done, there is going to be no end to the ongoing discussions on constitution.
There are media reports to indicate that after January 22nd P.M. Koirala will face the crisis of legitimacy as he became a Prime minister to deliver the new constitution within one year. This does not appear to be correct as almost all the parties had vowed to finalise the document within one year! But there seems to be an understanding between the Nepali Congress and the UML that the post of Prime ministership will be handed over to UML. It is said that K.P.Oli is waiting in the wings to take over the post of prime minister after 22nd and it is also said that in the process of constitution making- only two persons are proving “very difficult.” One of course is the Maoist leader Dahal and the other is the UML leader K.P. Oli!
What Koirala should do is
* There is nothing sacrosanct on the date 22nd. If it is really going to be difficult to adhere to the date, declare a fresh date for finalising the draft but adhere to it.
* Commit the Maoist leader to a specific stand publicly on the few remaining contentious issues like, the form of government, the judiciary and the configuration of provinces and then discuss openly and not behind doors.
* Separately open a channel to the Madhesi and the janajathi groups and be sincere in discussing his problems on the configuration of the provinces.
* He has to be firm and seen to be firm which he is not. His meek reaction to the British Ambassador’s open letter on the Human Rights day that was an affront to the dignity and the sovereignty of the nation is one such example.