Transition To New Governance
The country is all poised to enter a new era of republicanism. It has been a decade since the country was declared a republic, which was made possible by the 2062-63 popular movement. The movement played a crucial role in bringing about revolutionary changes in the political system of the country. The most important change was the abolition of the 240-year-old monarchy and introduction of the republican dispensation.
The decade-long Maoist insurgency, which claimed over 17,000 lives and disrupted the economy on an unprecedented scale, was also put to rest through the sagacious leadership of the then government. The abolition of the monarchy was one of the top agendas of the Maoists. So the Maoists acquiesced to the proposal of the government to come back to the mainstream of politics.
However, it took many years for the republican constitution to come out due mainly to squabbles among the major political parties. The first Constituent Assembly could not accomplish its mission even in four years. However, the second Constituent Assembly managed to promulgate the constitution in 2015 amidst the ravages of the powerful earthquake. With the promulgation of the historic constitution, the country had to bear the brunt of the Madhes agitation and the implicit Indian embargo for six months. But the government and the people faced these adversities boldly.
At long last, the elections to the local bodies that were devoid of people’s representatives for one and a half decades were held, followed by the elections to the provincial assemblies and the federal parliament. Now, the country is on the verge of forming provincial assemblies and the federal parliament. But as things stand, the road to the new system of governance is bumpy. There are protests raging all over the country. The locals are demanding that a certain place be declared the capital of their province. There is, however, consensus on the selection of provincial capitals in provinces 2 and 4 and the rest of the provinces are witnessing agitation of one kind or the other.
With an eye to the turmoil that may deteriorate and fester, the government has now backed down from its earlier decision to fix provisional provincial capitals. The locals are fearful that the government may make the provisional capitals permanent. So they are dreadful of the decision to be made by the government and want a place of their choice to be declared a permanent capital of their province.
The government has said that fixing provincial capitals will rest with the concerned provincial assemblies themselves as per the constitution. After coming into existence, the provincial assemblies will fix and name their capitals. The government will, however, appoint the provincial chiefs. As per the constitution, the provincial assemblies are authorised to declare their provincial capitals through a two-thirds majority at their first meeting. The government is planning to hold the first meetings of the provincial assemblies in Kathmandu.
The groundswell of protests demanding provincial capitals goes on to show that it will be difficult even for the provincial assemblies to fix their capitals. This will encumber the operation of the provincial assemblies. The provincial capitals are the seats of government of the provincial assemblies from where the administration of the governments is run. So it is crucial to have administrative centres for the running of the provincial assemblies.
The political leaders are partially to blame for this grim situation. During the hustings of the provincial and federal elections, they had promised to the electorate that they would make this or that place the capital of their province. On the other hand, the locals also want that the place they are living in now should be the capital of their province. They think rightly or otherwise that a provincial capital will have better development infrastructure and numerous amenities like healthcare, education and transportation. Any decision taken by the government or the yet-to-be-formed provincial governments on the fixation- and nomenclature- of the provinces in favour of the people of one place may stoke the ire of the people of other places. Even political consensus on this matter may not work.
Consequently, it is high time the government formed a technical team consisting of experts. The team should be assigned the task of determining a certain place as the capital of a province on the basis of various criteria. This task should have been accomplished long before. Just declaring a certain place the capital of a province on the whims of the locals will not work. In a cash-strapped country which will have to bear expenses far higher than the current expenses for the administration of the seven provincial assemblies, it will not be affordable to change provincial capitals every now and then.
The country has faced struggles and hardships in transit to the republican setup for over a decade. Now, it is on the verge of getting to its cherished destination with the conclusion of the provincial and federal elections. But some hurdles over fixing provincial capitals have emerged with the popular protests raging across the country. This matter cannot be taken lightly; it should be solved forthwith. So the formation of the aforesaid technical team is more than important.
The locals as well as the leaders and cadres should tumble to the fact that not all places can be declared provincial capitals. For a place to be a capital, certain criteria need to be fulfilled, which the technical team will find out. If the people demanding provincial capitals cannot be convinced and their rage cannot be contained, the situation may turn for the worse. The government as well as the political leaders should act prudently before it is too late. After all, the fixation and nomenclature of provincial capitals are a must for the administration of the provincial assemblies. The sooner the task is completed, the better.