Constitution Day Special A Commitment In Order
For Nepal, revolutionary changes are not rare, nor unique. After 1997 BS, when the Rana regime decreed capital punishment on four heroes of Nepal – Sukraraj Shastri, Dashrath Chand, Dharma Bhakta and Ganga Lal – its fall was definite and forthcoming - BS 2007. For the Ranas, there was no end of the regime in their short sight and low vision. Common Nepalis also believed the regime was here to stay forever of at least for the next several decades or generations. But for the world outside watched the great fall of the powerful British Empire where the sun never set.
In the year 1947, though, the sun set right in front of the eyes of the millions. The last but one Rana PM Padma Shumsher JBR tried to save the sinking ship through a fragile tool – the Constitution of Nepal. The first of its kind the fragile thread proved unsuccessful to stop the fast falling autocratic regime. In fact, the constitution of PM Padma didn’t have time to show its impact on his government and the people. It didn’t live long.
Time and space do not allow this writer to go on enumerating the strength and weaknesses of the other constitutions that followed Padma’s. In the chain of constitutions, the 2047 constitution was considered ‘the best so far’. It guaranteed the fundamental rights of the Nepalis and clearly outlined the state policy in the post-Panchayat democratic Nepal. Experts and elites also believed after all the constitution offered what the time and context asked for or needed in order to stand in line with other democracies of the regions and the world. The only extra item it had was a space for the ‘constitutional king.’ It was only after BS 2063/2007 that a new, interim constitution was promulgated declaring Nepal as the ‘Democratic Republic’ with no space for the royal institution that carried the legacy for three millions plus years.
The new constitution of Nepal left a much checkered history behind its birth and promulgation. First, its gestation was troublesome as it took a long time to come out. Two expensive fanfares called ‘the election for the Constituent Assembly’ were staged with a 601-member CA to write the constitution. However, the Assembly with several kilos of brain could not produce any tangible expected result in four long years! None of the brains realised that it was a great blow on the face of 26 plus million Nepalis waiting till midnight outside the Assembly hall to hear the outcome of the deliberation till the last minute. A very courageous, brilliant and highly academic PM Dr. Bhattarai emerged from the heated hall and declared, ‘there will be no Constitution from this Assembly, we are terribly sorry. ‘Obviously, the draft was aborted before it took the final shape.
Normally an average Nepali is a very sincere, patient and tolerant human being. Bearing a hard blow and a ‘dash’ on face, people took it easy. There was no popular anger or some kind of demo against the unwanted outcome of the Assembly. There was no heated argument against the sad move of the assembly members after consuming a huge amount of resources from the tax payers of Nepal and several other nations of the world. The whole world was taken aback when the 601 couldn’t deliver what they were mandated to do by the people. There was sadness and shock all over.
At this juncture, the people could do only one thing – get ready for the second round of polls and they did it as planned by the Election Commission although the government then and now keeps harping on the tune that it completed the election as if the government, and not the EC is responsible for holding the election. That is why Purander Acharya, a noted writer/columnist recently said in interview – Should the government take pride in holding the election successfully as if it were EC? Shouldn’t it be talking something higher, bigger focusing on the development than on one regular phenomenon assigned to one special organ of the government, like the EC?
But then whatever happened to the two rounds of local elections that were never executed during the two decades? Isn’t there something called feeling of ‘shame’ in the dictionary of our leaders? Perhaps none because considering the place of their origin and level of their qualification, a dictionary is a luxury. So, who cares to carry and consult one?
Subash Nembang, the former Speaker of the House and a veteran leader in the top rank of CPN-UML, noted rather succinctly in the opening of a recent interview – as far as the success of the constitution is concerned, something achieved, something not. Or, that is what he seemed to say. This is right because, after more than a highly remarkable 90 per cent approval from the House, there were agitations from the next day of its promulgation. Vote today and protest the next day? Where is the conscience of the MPs? People have been asking it repeatedly.
The constitution had a lacuna, to begin with. The leadership failed to collect people’s views on its strengths and weaknesses. People, even elites were not engaged in fruitful discussions on major issues. Everybody seemed to be in haste. Despite this, there is a book and it is functional. There are always issues with slightly less attention than expected but these can always be sorted out through ensuing laws and directives. The challenge now is to focus on its implementation, unity and integrity of the nation and sovereignty.
Finally, once the rounds of local, provincial and central elections are complete, the constitution will regain its vital force as the main law of the land. The constitution guarantees hosts of rights. Right to have a clean, creditable and responsible government is a must. It will take herculean effort for Nepal to come out of corruption, lack of transparency, and political instability. A feeling is now urgently needed: ‘This is my constitution and I will spare no effort to defend it, to safeguard it at any cost.’