Dr. S. Chandrasekharan.
It is almost certain that a full-fledged draft constitution will not be ready by May 28. At best a skeleton federal constitution that would skirt most of the contentious issues could be readied by the deadline and presented.
Even for this, the cooperation of all the political parties will be necessary and as of now it is not seen to be forthcoming. The PM has to blame himself for this sorry state affairs and he has done nothing in the last three months to pursue the two vital pending issues- the peace process and the drafting of the new constitution. He has given the impression that he cannot be trusted.
PM Khanal, perhaps with the blessings of Maoist Chairman Dahal appears to think that he could go ahead with the statute making and the peace process with the present coalition and that too without the support of other political parties. His recent decisions including the cabinet expansion are also unlikely to contribute to the overall objective of getting a consensus.
In total disregard of his own party colleagues as well as of the views of the Nepali Congress, he went ahead and inducted K.B. Mahara as the Home Minister. The MJF and two other fringe parties have also been taken on board. Upendra Yadav has been given the foreign affairs portfolio in addition to being made the Deputy prime Minister.
It is ironical that the cabinet expansion by Khanal is not going to strengthen the current coalition. It has caused rifts within his own party as well as in others.
Both Madhav Nepal and K.P.Oli are unlikely to forgive him for letting them down for the second time. The UML is on a self destructive course and PM Khanal is happily contributing to it.
Three newly appointed ministers of Baidya faction of UCPN (M) did not turn up for the oath taking ceremony. Senior leader and minister Barsh Man Pun resigned from the important post of peace and reconstruction hours before the cabinet expansion was announced. He is said to be unhappy with the appointment of Mahara as the Home minister.
The selection of ministers from the MJF has also caused differences between Upendra Yadav and his deputy J.P. Gupta.
Despite fundamental differences, one point that should bind all the political stake holders together is that there is no viable alternative to the extension of the constituent assembly. There could be no political vacuum and President’s rule or fresh elections are out of question.
There have been mischievous references in the Nepalese media that India is not for extension of the constituent assembly. This conclusion is based on the reported views expressed by the Madhesi leaders on their return from Delhi in opposing the extension. This did not mean necessarily that they were advised by India!
Is there an alternative solution? Should the statute making process go ahead without making progress in the peace process? These are issues that are to be seriously thought of before opposing the extension.
There is need therefore for the parties that are opposed to the extension like the Nepali
The CC meeting of the Maoists that ended last month has mandated their Chairman Dahal to go ahead with his agenda of “peace and constitution.” It is not clear whether Dahal has sincerely moved away from the line of “people’s revolt” taken at Palungtar Plenum or whether his commitment to peace and constitution is just a tactical shift.
Yet this opportunity should not be lost and other parties should insist on the Maoists agreeing to the regrouping of the combatants immediately. The integration plan produced by the Nepal Army is doable and could be discussed and fine tuned. The Nepali Congress whose cooperation is critical for the peace process could focus on the integration first before thinking of configuration of federal units, forms thereof as well as other contentious issues in the constitution making.
Since extension is inevitable, the immediate need is to ensure that irreversible and credible steps are taken towards integration