By Dr. S.Chandrasekharan
Despite a successful election with an overwhelming and peaceful participation of the people, the political parties have gone back to their old ways and no effort is being made to quickly convene the parliament and go ahead with the constitution making process. In one sense, nothing has changed and this is sad.
After five weeks of negotiations, the High Level Political Committee that has been revived to placate some of the parties, reached a four-point agreement to go ahead with the political process. The points agreed to were:
1. A Parliamentary panel is to be formed to investigate into anomalies during the CA elections.
2. A Political Mechanism is to be found to facilitate the peace process and constitution drafting.
3. A new constitution is to be promulgated within one year.
4. Parties to formulate a new TRC bill at the earliest.
The points are too general and it looks that these have been formulated to placate one group or other. For example, while everyone agrees that the elections were most credible, to placate Prachanda and his party, point number one has been agreed to as if there was any whole sale flaw in the election process! It was also known that Prachanda raised the bogey of “rigging” more to satisfy his own cadres as he had no other way to explain the debacle of his party in the elections. For his own survival within his party, Prachanda could continue to be more and more obstructive in the days to come.
The way the parties are going about their task, it is doubtful whether the new constituent assembly would be able to complete the constitution making within six months and promulgate it “within one year” as agreed to by the eight party meeting of the HLPC held on the 24th of this month.
Most of the parties are still unable to produce even the lists under the PR system as this is necessary for the parliament to convene. The interim constitution mentions that the parliament is to be convened within 21 days of the elections and yet even the lists are not ready. The parties are unable to take a decisive stand because of internal wrangling over the choice of the candidates.
Strangely, semantic discussions which are of no relevance right now are taking place amongst the parties. Jhalanath Khanal is busy arguing whether the new assembly should be called “second Constituent Assembly” or “Constituent Assembly after the second elections”!
Prachanda has begun demanding another election to a parliament once again within nine months after the promulgation of the new parliament! If the party had a good showing in the present elections as in 2008, he and his party would be the last to call for elections again and instead would have opposed it tooth and nail!
The Nepali Congress which should have taken the lead in the political process, is still struggling to decide on who should among the top three, Sushil Koirala, Sher Bahadur Deuba and Ram Chandra Paudel should lead the government. Some would think that it is time that the old leaders take an advisory role and let others to lead the government and complete the constitution making process. There are many other competent and popular leaders in the party at the middle level to lead the party and the government. But the top leaders do not realise that the party made a good showing not because of its leaders, but due to the efforts of the middle and lower level cadres!
The central working committee of the Nepali Congress after five days of deliberations came to the conclusion that it “has a mandate to lead the government and the constitution making drafting process and deliver the constitution within one year.” If this means that the party can go ahead unilaterally, lead the government and deliver the constitution, then they are mistaken and the people who have placed faith on the party to deliver will not forgive them this time.
Gagan Thapa, the youth leader who could take a more active role in the party in future made the right clarification that the “spirit of the decision is to form a consensual government under Article 38 (1) of the Constitution and a similar approach will be taken while drafting the constitution.
It is good that Gagan made this clarification as there are indications to show that the Nepali Congress is more keen to cajole and placate the Maoists than take the other main party the UML into confidence. It is said that Sushil Koirala secretly met Prachanda and agreed to revive the High Level Political Committee behind the back of the UML!
It is sad to note that the chasm between the Nepali Congress and the UML is widening. It is in the long term interest for stability and consolidation of democracy that the two parties get on well with each other in a genuine power sharing strategy rather than working at cross purposes.
The UML unlike the UCPN (M) of Prachanda came a very close second in the present election and they cannot be ignored. If the UML has demanded a genuine power sharing relationship in the matter of appointments of President, Vice President, Prime Minister, Speaker and chairpersons of the constitutional committees, their requests could be considered adequately.
If the Nepali Congress can spend all its time in engaging the Maoists, it is time they take some efforts to have a separate dialogue the UML to take them as “equal partners” in the constitution making process.
It is noticed that among the eight parties that made up the HLPC to decide on the four parties, five of them were from Madhesh- two MJF factions, TMDP and two Sadhbhavana factions. While the Madhesis lost in terms of their numbers, their vote share in the elections had remained in tact and it is good that this group of five parties are being taken in the highest decision making body.
The main focus of all the parties should be to get on with the constitution making process within six months and promulgate it within one year as promised. If they do not do it, they would only be letting down their own people who have shown overwhelming faith in them in the elections.