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Nepal: Picking up the Pieces: Speaker Finally wakes up: Update No. 306

Note No. 733                                    Dated 05-Feb-2015

By Dr. S. Chandrasekharan

Once the target date was missed, the media is full of criticism of all political leaders for their failure to produce a draft of the constitution within the self-imposed target date of 22nd January 2015.

Many of the analysts in Nepal have described the failure as a “collective one” which perhaps is true.  But to me, the failure should be placed squarely at the door of the Speaker of the Assembly who had sat through all these five years without taking any initiative, particularly in the last one year of the new Assembly where he could have pursued a more active policy.  Instead of discussing the contentious issues that were not many in the assembly itself, he franchised the issues to various committees for “consensus.”  He thought that his job had been done when everyone knew that consensus would not lead them anywhere.Too late in the day, he seems to have suddenly woken up.  On 24th January despite being surrounded by noisy opposition members mainly the Maoists and the Madhesis, he made a “declaration” that he would take it upon himself the job of constitution draft making and take it to its logical conclusion.  He should have done this in the beginning itself soon after the elections.

He also expressed his sadness over the top leaders’ failure to produce the first draft of the new statute by the dead line of 22nd January.  He promised to make a statement on the 25th on the next steps to be taken -which he did by announcing the formation of a “Proposal Preparation Committee” consisting of 73 members. 

While the alliance of the ruling political parties, gave the names of 49 members, the Maoist led opposition has not submitted any names.   They have instead declared that they would continue the agitation which we expect to be both inside and outside the Parliament, as if the five days of hooliganism displayed by them inside the Parliament were not enough!

The Ruling parties were apologetic.  R.C. Paudel, the Dy. Leader of the Nepali Congress while apologising to the public for their failure to produce a new constitution blamed the opposition for “conspiring against expediting the constitution making process.”

K.P.Oli, the leader of the UML who from the government side should take the blame for the failure, condemned the vandalism of the Maoists inside the Parliament which he said was unpardonable and unacceptable. He was right when he said that the Maoists have debased and belittled themselves, but hasn’t he also proved to be the major stumbling block in not giving both the Madhesis and the Janajathis their due in the new constitutional set up?

It serves no purpose in going into the past and look for the reasons for the failure of the new interim constitutional assembly in promulgating the new constitution.  Some perturbing questions arise and these have all been highlighted in the Press.  The points were--

1.  Why were the efforts for consensus making delayed and postponed to the last two months preceding the deadline?  Why did it not start soon after the elections a year ago?

2. Why was the issue of “state restructuring” delayed till the last and finally just a month before, the ruling alliance brought out a definitive recommendation?

3.  What was the Speaker doing for the last one year when he had all along behaved like a spectator?  Why did he not pursue and monitor the most important committee CPDCC led by Bhattarai which neither forwarded nor recommended the final definitive proposal of the ruling party till the end?  There appears no point in his coming out with the truth that the problem was one of power and not of consensus!

Now the international community and India are being blamed for the log jam in the draft preparation. 

Both the UML and the Nepali Congress are to be blamed for closing their eyes on the main issue of ethnic identity.  By maintaining a rigid stand, they have thrown both the Madhesis (many of whom were once ardent followers of the Nepali Congress) and the Janajathi onto the lap of the Maoists. 

Prof. Lok Raj Baral has recently pointed out that the parties should not ignore the identity issue in federalism.  One should look at the experience in India where many thought that linguistic division of India would lead to disunity and break up.  This has not happened.

It is therefore not too late for the two major mainstream parties the NC and the UML to reconsider their stand on the ethnic identity and by recognising it, will only strengthen the country in the long run and not the other way.