By Dr. S. Chandrasekharan
As scheduled, President Ram Baran Yadav formally and officially promulgated the new constitution on 20 September, 2015.
The Government declared both 20th and 21st September as holidays to enable the people to celebrate the ushering in of the new constitution. Kathmandu was generally in a festive mood and some formal celebrations have been planned both by the Prime Minister as well as by the Party leaders. Both the Nepali Congress and the UML had urged the people to celebrate the occasion as a “Diwali”
With the promulgation of the new constitution, the interim assembly will convert itself into a regular legislature under Article 296 of the old constitution. Nepal would get a new set of leaders at the top. As agreed to informally by the three top political parties who are running the show, the UML will select one of its leaders as Prime Minister. K. P.Oli who is waiting to become the Prime Minister will have to wait for some more time until current PM Sushil Koirala returns from New York after attending the UNGA anniversary meeting.
The Nepali Congress would choose its President ( most likely the current PM Sushil Koirala) and the Speaker’s post will go to the Maoists.
While celebrations are going on in the north, the southern Terai Madhes area had decided to observe 20th September as a “black day.” The TMDP of Mahant Thakur, the FSFN of Upendra Yadav, the Terai Sadhbhavana Party of Mahendra Yadav as well as Rajendra Mahatao have joined together to continue the agitation. Disenchanted Maoist members led by Matrika Yadav are also joining into a fresh alliance to continue the agitation. The Tharus who had kept a distance with the other Madhesis have also joined.
For while, it was thought that Gachhadar will go back to the join the top three parties and there were also indications that a four point agreement was being hammered out just before the promulgation. Yet it fell through and it is said that it was only because of the arrogance shown by the top three in pushing through the constitution though Gachhadar was too eager to join them!
Violence continued in the Terai particularly in Birgunj and Janakpur. One person was killed and two more seriously injured with bullet wounds in Birgunj in the Police firing. Janakpur is to hold a massive rally today. One more succumbed to the injuries in the Bhairawa firing.
There seems to be no end to the violent agitations in Terai Madhes. Over forty people have died and there seems to be no end. It is time the Madhesi leaders review their strategy to prevent unnecessary loss of lives.
A desperate bid by the Indian Foreign Secretary who had carried a personal message from PM Modi was politely listened to, given a lecture in return and sent back without backing out from the decision to promulgate the new constitution without any further dialogue.
The Indian Foreign Secretary said that India wished to see that the new constitution incorporates concerns of all the stake holders through dialogue and flexibility. The Indian PM’s concern was about the unrest in Terai districts, the spill over effect of the unrest in the Indian side particularly when elections are due in that State. But this had no effect!
A week earlier, there was a long article by the President’s Press Advisor, in the Republika claiming that Nepal is proud of its democratic constitution and of their leaders and is not to be fooled by “absurd ideas.” It was a direct indictment of the Indian position and of the Prime Minister Modi on the current crisis. This could not have come out without specific clearance from Prime Minister Sushil Koirala.
My view was that the Indian Foreign Secretary should not have gone at all only to be rebuffed when it was clear that the leaders of the top three were determined to go ahead with the promulgation and were in no mood to listen to any advice.
It is a pity that the constitution that is supposed to unite the people has resulted in disunity. To claim that ninety percent voted for the constitution is statistically right but everyone knows that the Madhesis and most of the janjathi communities are unhappy with the new constitution.
There is still time for a dialogue.