By Dr. S. Chandrasekharan
President Dr. Ram Baran Yadav mentioned in a meeting on June 15 that the interim constitution cannot be revived now by any ordinance nor can the care taker government continue for ever. He added that the way out is a consensus among the political parties for moving forward.
But in Nepal context, “consensus” appears to be the most abused word and if in four years the political parties could not come to an understanding for at least an outline of the constitution what guarantee is there that they would now come up with any viable move to break the current constitutional dead lock?
What is the guarantee that the six hundred and odd members of the interim assembly will not go back to their old ways to go on arguing without coming to any consensus even on basic issues? As one analyst said the members of the interim parliament knowingly embraced “death” on May 28 and the question now of the revival of the assembly is similar to reviving a dead body after rigor mortis had set in!
Many suggestions besides fresh elections on November 22 for a constituent assembly have been floated by scholars. The alternatives mentioned are for a “round table Conference” suggested by the break away faction of the Maoists led by Mohan Baidya, revival of the Constituent Assembly by many members of the erstwhile CA, supported by many from the mainstream parties and even by Dahal of CPN (M) though opposed by Prime minister Bhattarai.
One of the news papers in Nepal carried a survey and asked for people to choose from three alternatives- revival of CA, elections to the interim constituent assembly and elections to the parliament. The last one – election to the parliament topped the list! It shows that the people are fed up with the current political uncertainty!
The best way would be to continue with what has been declared- to go for fresh elections in November though this would require an amendment to the present interim constitution. This is what the CEC of Nepal, Mr. Upreti has said. Even then there is a problem- as the amendment by an ordinance will have to be ratified by a non existent assembly! Yet this should be possible as the Supreme Court can come up with a possible way out!
Surprisingly, despite the constitutional crisis there appears to be no major law and order problem in the country and life goes on as usual. In the interior there have been no local elections for the last ten years and yet it has been ‘business as usual’!
Despite some hiccups, integration of the PLA with the Nepal Army is moving on. The Nepal Army started the integration process in right earnest on 6th of July but had to be suspended on a minor issue of age determination. The Army wants to go by the record of the UNMIN while the PLA combatants want the army to look into other records to determine the age. Since only 3123 have volunteered for integration, the Nepal Army could be a little more flexible as these combatants have proved their worth and fitness in the field and should be treated with respect that is due to them.
The two mainstream parties instead of finding a way out of the political impasse are up against the government for going in for a “full fledged” budget. Again the Supreme Court had to intervene to say that since article 88 of the interim constitution is involved only a partial budget( one third of previous year’s) could be passed by an ordinance. This appears to be the view of the President also though PM Bhattarai feels that a full budget is possible.
In this political vacuum, almost all the parties are facing internal problems. The Maoists have already split. The UML is on the verge of a major exodus with many of the leaders belonging to the janajathis are up in arms against the official policy of the party to stick to non ethnic based federal provinces.
There is a kind of political churning taking place. Prime Minister Bhattarai has openly called for an “alliance for federalism.” The UCPN (M) and one of the Madhesi groups- the UDMF has in principle agreed to form a federal alliance. Bhattarai has also approached the NEFIN ( Federation of Indigenous Nationalities of Nepal) to join the alliance.
Sushil Koirala of Nepali Congress has solicited the support of the ruling party TMDP of Mahant Thakur. Mahant Thakur was one of the senior most leaders before he left the Nepali Congress.
In the current situation, it is being realised by the three main parties that both the Janajathi and the Madhesi groups are a force to reckon with and that they can ill afford to ignore them.
After two days of a ‘national conference’, the NEFIN announced the formation of a new party on 6th of July and among many other issues, their declaration said – ” Major political parties have been ruled for by Brahmins, patriarchic and single upper class supremacists and have failed to include minority groups” and therefore “formation of an inclusive political party based on the doctrines of human rights, social justice, equity and equality and ethnicity is the need of the hour and hence this should be implemented at the earliest.”
It is difficult to say if the new party would have any long term effect on the politics of Nepal but it certainly would have an immediate impact in the coming elections of November 22 and beyond. As said before, both the janajathis and the Madhesis cannot be ignored anymore.
Although there are no signs of instability, there is certainly an “air of uncertainty” and sooner it is cleared better it would be for Nepal and the region.