Shape of things to come

  • Nepal’s future political course will be shaped by sedimentations taking place within each of the major political forces
- Narayan Manandhar
Shape of things to come

May 15, 2014-

The debate on whether we should first write a constitution or hold local elections seems to have settled down in favour of the constitution within a year. The Prime Minister, along with some major political party leaders, has expressed strong commitment to deliver the constitution within a year. With a January 22, 2015 deadline, we do not have more than nine months to go. Will things happen as per schedule?

Time to waste

Fed up with the Nepali style of procrastinating everything for bholi (tomorrow), ages back, somebody defined today as ‘the tomorrow of yesterday’. Now the phrase ‘after one year’ seems to be replacing our bholi culture. Modern-day management gurus assume time is a significant resource constraint in decision-making. But in our case, time is a resource that is assumed to be available freely, easily and forever. This is the reason why we are coolly ahead by more than half a century when it comes to preparing each new year calendar.

No one can beat us in time management. Had this not been the case, we would never waited for eight years for a Truth and Reconciliation Committee bill—originally, expected to be delivered within six months. Immediately after his appointment, a cartoonist depicted PM Sushil Koirala riding on the back of a tortoise, prodding the slothful animal to move faster. Remember, the Cabinet still has to nominate 26 members to the Constituent Assembly(CA) and complete it.

This scribe is not particularly worried about having or not having “ek thaan sambhidhan” (courtesy Maoist leader, Dev Gurung) within a year, as Jhala Nath Khanal is determined, jasari bhaya pani, to have a constitution within that time frame. Neither am I worried by the Mohan Baidya faction’s threat to burn the constitution if it is not drafted as per the wishes of the Nepali people. (Read, the wishes of the CPN-Maoist equals wishes of the Nepali people). What I am worried about is: what will happen to the government of Sushil Koirala if the statute is not delivered within the promised date? Everybody knows that the responsibility to deliver the constitution rests not with the government but with the CA. Why is the prime minister hell bent on completing the task within a year? Could this be a ploy to keep his wobbling government afloat?

Whither constitution?

Here is one good piece of news for our CA members. On average, every year there will be five countries in the world that will be drafting new constitution and 30 more amending their constitutions. Therefore, drafting the constitution is not a big deal. If the UK can survive for so long without a constitution, why can’t we?

From the very start, there were apprehensions about the commitment of leaders to deliver the constitution within a year. The present CA has been elected for four years. Why would our CA members be interested in performing hara-kiri after a year? The last CA failed to deliver a constitution and unlike what has been expected, the sky did not fall. Instead, we have no less number of people acknowledging that by not having a constitution, we avoided a conflict situation. It sounds like we have a problem at both ends—having a constitution and not

having one.

There is a rumour, albeit unfounded, that a ready-made constitution is there for the taking and the leaders are buying time, lest they be accused of having a brand new, imported sambidhan. The way major party leaders are busy organising party conventions and pulling legs inside their parties gives the impression that they have already made a deal on the constitution. The drama to elect the chairpersons of the five CA committees is another factor for this reasoning.

There are only two possibilities—either the constitution will be delivered on time or it will not. With the blowing of favourable political winds in India post-May elections, if the government and the political parties in Nepal succeed in bringing extreme forces on board and we have a new constitution after nine months, what will happen to PM Koirala? Will he cling to power saying he just performed magic and therefore, be allowed to continue or will he simply quit? The answer is not that simple.

Imagine the second possibility. What will happen if we do not have a constitution within nine months? The prime minister will have a good excuse to quit and handover power to PMs-in-waiting. Again, the unfolding political scenario is not that simple. First, the CPN-UML will not remain a meek spectator to the Nepali Congress’ (NC) power transferring exercise. Remember, the NC was able to form the government only after heeding the UML’s demands. And the UCPN (Maoist) is also waiting for an opportune moment to strike back.

Instability to come

Irrespective of whether we have a constitution by the stipulated time, my prediction is that political instability will continue to feature in Nepali politics. Normally, the months of April and May are the months for political agitation in Nepal. This year, it has been a quiet season. This is because political undercurrents are taking place elsewhere. The future political course will be determined by political sedimentations taking place within each of the major political parties. How things are settled within the NC between the Koirala, Sher Bahadur Deuba and Ram Chandra Poudel factions; within the UML between the ailing KP Oli, Khanal and Madhav Nepal factions; within the UCPN (Maoist) between Pushpa Kamal Dahal, Baburam Bhattarai and Narayan Kaji factions; and within the mushrooming Tarai-Madhesi based political parties. There are also signs of tension within the Baidya faction of the CPN-Maoist. These events will determine the shape of things to come.

Manandhar is a freelance consultant with an interest in corruption and governance issues

Published: 16-05-2014 07:58

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