Point of some return
- Best course of action is still to attempt to reach consensus by January 22
Jan 18, 2015-
There is little sign that a constitution will be drafted by January 22. Politics seems increasingly polarised, with the ruling parties trying to push a vote in the Constituent Assembly (CA) and the opposition threatening to walk out of the process. Now, however, there are some indications that the parties are backtracking from their extreme positions. The leaders of the major parties now state that they are in favour of releasing an ‘agreement paper’ by January 22, which will outline points of disagreement and promise to the population that the parties are committed to drafting a constitution. In one way, this is a positive sign. It indicates that the parties are aware that a constitution that doesn’t enjoy the support of the opposition cannot be durable, and might even invite conflict and instability. The fact that the ruling parties have adopted a slightly more conciliatory posture also seems to be due to the efforts of various international and domestic actors in recent days. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was the first to encourage the parties to draft a constitution through consensus. This was followed by similar calls from the UN’s Under Secretary General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman, ambassadors from important countries, and the President. Their efforts seem to have worked.
While it comes as a relief that the parties seem to have pulled back from their extreme positions, the general political environment is still quite dismal. The parties continue to stick to their narrow and partisan positions. There continues to be a great deal of misinformation floating around, especially on matters related to federalism. Many of the top political leaders involved in the negotiation process are more concerned about holding on to their constituencies, attaining positions of power after the constitution is drafted, and undermining their rivals, than with the substance of the constitution.
Even if the parties do come out with an agreement paper, therefore, the general population will remain very skeptical about the intentions of the parties. There is little to suggest in recent history that the parties will continue to negotiate in earnest after the January 22 deadline passes. If their past actions are any guide, the parties will likely abandon the negotiation process and move on to other things after they fail to draft a constitution by January 22. It is time that the parties realise that this strategy is not sustainable. The best course of action is to continue efforts to reach consensus on the constitution by January 22. This is quite possible, as there are still a number of days left before that date. If this becomes impossible, the parties need to outline a process that is binding on them, and that forces them to continue negotiations over the new constitution in the weeks after January 22.
Published: 19-01-2015 09:15