Nepal: Promulgation of New Constitution: Dead line Missed

| by S. Chandrasekharan

( January 23, 2015, New Delhi, Sri Lanka Guardian) As expected the dead line of Jan 22, 2015 for the promulgation of a new constitution is being missed. The political parties refused to compromise and made little headway in drafting a new constitution. One whole year was wasted.

Too late in the day and very close to the deadline the eight ruling two parties with two independents on January 20 tried to pass a resolution for a panel with a questionnaire on the issues that remain to be solved and get it voted through the assembly. Opposition groups mainly led by the Maoists of UCPN (M) of Dahal with the support of the two Madhesi Groups of Gachhaadhar and Upendra Yadav physically prevented the resolution from being passed.

Tuesday the 20th of January could be called the black day in the parliamentary history of Nepal and the display of hooliganism seen on that day in the Parliament was unprecedented. Chairs were thrown at the podium. Microphones were thrown at K.P.Oli chairman of the UML as well as on respectable UML parliamentarians like Bidya Bhandari and Rishikesh Pokharel. Even Prime minister Sushil Koirala was manhandled. 12 security Marshals were injured in the melee.

Responsibility for the violence perpetrated must be placed squarely on the Maoist leader Dahal who called for “physical obstruction” of the house to prevent the bill being passed. He now claims that his call was for “peaceful obstruction” and the media in Nepal is giving a spin to the whole issue that Dahal has since apologised! Violence was pre planned and Dahal as the senior leader of the opposition is responsible.

Instead of taking immediate action on the chair throwers who were many, the Speaker is said to have formed a task force to enquire into the cases of hooliganism. This is another instance of weakness displayed by an indecisive government.

One other instance that comes to my mind is the decision of the government to send the disputed issues once again to the CPDCC ( Constitutional Political Dialogue & Consensus Committee) headed by Baburam Bhattarai on the 8th of this month with a deadline of 5 days to solve the issues that had remained unsolved for one whole year! Baburam Bhattarai had already made up his mind and the issues were returned promptly on the 13th.

The Maoists then started street agitation from the 15th resulting in damage to many vehicles and shops that refused to close both in Kathmandu and elsewhere. The Maoists now joined by the Madhesi groups have threatened to “intensify” the agitation throughout the country. The government has sufficient forces at its disposal to handle the agitation. The people and the civil societies would certainly go for the support of the government if life and property are threatened.

Instead the Government seems to be worried about the “bandas” getting out of hand!

Many of the nine points raised by the opposition alliance led by Maoists could be resolved without much delay. These include the form of governance where the alliance wants a mixed form of governance, citizenship through mother, bicameral mixed system for federal and pradesh elections, separate constitutional court etc.

But the sticking point will continue be on State Structuring. The Maoist Alliance is still adamant on 10 provinces while the ruling parties are unwilling to deviate from the seven provinces they had proposed. To me, it appears that Dahal’s moves are tactical. It does not matter to the Maoists whether it is seven or ten but what matters to them is they could use this opportunity to consolidate their position both in the Terai and among Janajathis!

Another problem is going to arise on the 22nd when the UML chairman K.P.Oli will lay claim on the post of Prime Ministership. This was the understanding in the ruling coalition when Sushil Koirala took over earlier.

Of late, K.P.Oli is seen to be more of a stumbling block and his elevation as Prime Minister will be another setback for early promulgation of the new constitution. On the 15th of this month, he made a categorical statement that a “federal system separating the hills from Terai is unacceptable. Earlier on the 4th he said that the new provinces must integrate the mountain, the hill and the plains to generate and preserve the country’s larger identity! This means going back to the Panchayat days where the regions were configured vertically.

More problems and more agitations could therefore be expected this year if an unrelenting Oli is to take over as Prime Minister!