Writing it wrong
- Representation and inclusion, agendas of Janaandolan II, have been seriously undermined by the NC-UML coalition
Feb 23, 2015-Baburam Bhattarai and most of the Maoist-Madhesi alliance have been recently claiming that status-quoists and regressive forces are undermining the rights and privileges of the majority. While one might just ridicule such claims, based on the 2013 Constituent Assembly (CA) election results where these ‘regressive forces’ were elected by the people, the accusations might actually be true. (Bhattarai has gone a step further in rejecting the CA election outcomes in one of his interviews, but that is not the purpose of this piece). The trend of taking state power for granted as a basis for trying to drastically change state mechanisms (generally for the worse) has been a naïve trend in the Nepali political arena. Even worse, forgetting all prior commitments and promises immediately after coming to power has been the dharma of our politicians. Taking oneself as the only legitimate force and relegating all others has been popular practice. The Shahs, Ranas, and Thapas did it then; the Koiralas, Dahals, Olis, and Bhattarais are doing it now.
A failure to deliver
It is true that the Nepali Congress (NC) and CPN-UML, the ‘democratic’ and centre-right parties, were given an overwhelming mandate at the 2013 CA election, compared to their representation in the first CA. With the biggest two parties in the coalition government, the public was not just optimistic about the promulgation of the constitution on time, it was also hopeful about peace and development. The election made the NC-UML the largest parties not just to draft a constitution soon or expand the economic prospects of the country, there was one other vital component as well, which the ruling coalition does not seem to understand. The people do not want them to repeat the mistakes made by earlier governments. At the same time, citizens want them to ensure the implementation of agendas established after the mainstreaming of the Maoists into Nepali politics following Janaaandolan II.
Sadly, the coalition has failed to deliver. The moment the NC-UML formed a government, they just did away with, among a lot of others, the most basic things they had to ensure: representation and inclusion. The question of purposeful representation and inclusion was a far cry here; they did not even satisfy numbers. The agenda of giving rights to the marginalised does not seem to have been taken into consideration. As reiterated by Professor Pitamber Sharma in one of his recent interviews with Kantipur, all the political parties are confused and they just do not have the political will to work things out.
The party leaderships never seem serious about the issues that matter, like inclusion. The Sushil Koirala-led coalition government and nearly all of its appointments have seriously undermined the inclusion of all groups that have long remained unrepresented in Nepal’s state organs. The same thing was reflected in whatever nominations to the CA they made and the various governmental and semi-governmental bodies they have been forming. They should have brought forth new faces from diverse groups, including women, youth, Dalits, Janajatis, Madhesis, religious minorities, and people from remote areas. Instead, they passed on the opportunity to purposefully give ownership to all groups of people and bring those in the margins to the mainstream. The counter-argument here could be more meaningful representation and not just representative ones, like the Maoists’ recent case with Lharkyal Lama.
By and large, representation is what the proponents of identity-based federalism (which is largely understood as ethnicity-based federalism these days) have been demanding. There is a whole history of skepticism associated with the Maoists’ championing of identity-based federalism, but that is not my concern here. I have interacted with many champions of identity-based federalism and they have clearly stated that they want the marginalised to get meaningful representation, and thereby rights, authority, and voice from the local to the national level.
With the attitude of the NC-UML and the illogical and offensive arguments made by some politicians, not just has the coalition hurt the sentiments of the people, it is also making the people lose faith in them. Journalist Prashant Jha, in one of his recent tweets, rightly pointed to an analogy between today’s NC-UML and the Gyanendra-led government in undermining the people’s sentiments.
The attitudes and actions of political parties like the NC-UML showcase the history and continuing marginalisation of communities in Nepal. With actions like these, not just will marginalisation continue, but it will also give impetus to the quest for liberation, pushing the country towards another a longer transition or conflict. Whenever the chances of mainstreaming come, a few politicians, for their vested interests and lack of political will, do not do what they should. But then, they do not seem to realise that the power they hold is transitory. People always look for alternatives and they always end up finding one.
Sharma is a student of political science
Published: 24-02-2015 09:07