Constitution In Three Weeks, Is It Possible? : Bishnu Prasad Gautam

Now only 22 days remain for the popularly elected Constituent Assembly (CA) to promulgate the much-awaited new constitution. However, the political parties are focussed only on reaching consensus on the contentious issues of the constitution instead of working to draft the full constitution. As a result, the political parties are less likely to meet the deadline of January 22, 2015.

All the major political parties, during and immediately after the 2013 CA election, had committed to give the nation a new constitution by January 22 this year. They had also promised to apply the democratic process to deliver the constitution should they fail to forge consensus. But 13 months after the formation of the second CA, the parties have neither reached consensus nor have they initiated the 'process' to realise their commitments.

The people had mandated the Nepali Congress and CPN-UML with a two-thirds majority to lead the constitution-drafting and promulgation tasks. However, they have failed to work as per the people's aspirations and have been wasting time in the name of reaching consensus. The latest political developments have raised suspicion that the deadline of January 22 will also meet the fate of the earlier deadlines.

Much time wasted

Although Prime Minister Sushil Koirala and senior leaders of both the ruling Nepali Congress and CPN-UML have been reiterating that the constitution would be promulgated within the deadline, either by forging consensus or through the due process, the leaders seem to be only wasting time in holding meetings or wooing the UCPN-Maoist and other parties that faced a debacle during the CA elections. As a result, no tangible progress has been made in drafting the statute either way.

It is obvious to all that the political parties and their leaders wasted four years of the tenure of the first CA elected in 2008 in the name of forging consensus, and when the Supreme Court prevented the leaders from extending the term of the CA on their own, the present CA was elected to accomplish the task of writing the statute through a democratic process. But again the political parties and their leaders have disappointed the people by repeating history as if the new CA was formed to give more importance to forging consensus than writing the constitution.

Now that the UCPN-Maoist and its allies have announced a series of protests against the ruling parties' plan to draft the constitution through the due democratic process, the chance of drafting and promulgating an all-acceptable constitution has become rather slim. The UCPN-Maoist, which had gone to the second CA with a clear message that the new constitution would be drafted by following the democratic process, i.e. on a majority basis, made a U turn when the election results went against it. Now the same party is trying its best to thwart the constitution-drafting process by sticking to its stance. It is neither ready to build consensus nor is it ready to go for the due process. The move of the UCPN-Maoist looks suicidal, considering its weakened strength over the years. 

A democratic constitution is a must to institutionalise the achievements of the 2006 April Uprising, which took place on the basis of the 12-point agreement signed between the then Seven-party Alliance (SPA) and the then rebel Maoists in New Delhi. In the nine years after the Delhi agreement, the SPA and Maoists have witnessed a drastic shift in their ideology and size, with the Maoists breaking into three parties, and the Nepal Sadbhawana Party, one of the components of the SPA, breeding several parties and siding with the Maoists on the issue of federalism, which was not included in the Delhi agreement. On the other hand, the two factions of the Nepali Congress got united on the eve of the 2008 polls.

The constitution-writing process has been greatly complicated by the addition of new demands and actors to the 12-point agreement. The regional and Janajati parties, which mushroomed after the 2006 movement, have been responsible for the delay in drafting the main law. As a popular proverb goes, too many cooks spoil the broth, the addition of parties and new issues has thwarted the people's desire to have a new constitution.

Yes, a new constitution cannot be written by excluding the UCPN-Maoist, as it is one of the key components of the 12-point agreement and the political change of 2006. But if the party continues to play foul under different pretexts, pushing the constitution-writing process into uncertainty, there is no alternative for the ruling parties, which had won the trust of the people, to draft and promulgate the new constitution as per the spirit of the political change of 2006, without compromising the norms and values of democracy.

If we delve into the activities of the Maoists of the past eight years, we can conclude that they have given more importance to power than meeting the agendas they had raised. The abolition of the monarchy and constitution through the CA were their main demands, but now they are running away from the CA. They compelled the Girija-led government to postpone the first CA elections twice after coming to learn that the situation was not in their favour. They repeated the same tactics during the election of the president.

When its chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal 'Prachanda' became the powerful prime minister after the 2008 CA elections, he gave more importance to securing power than working to institutionalise the changes. His attempt to dismiss the then Chief of the Army Staff Rukmangat Katwal resulted in his own ouster.

The political environment further deteriorated after Prachanda played the role of king maker in pulling down and forming new governments during the tenure of the first CA. He played one UML leader against another, and instigated the Janajati leaders of the other parties to desert their mother parties. Unfortunately he failed to prevent the division in his own party.

The seed of division that was first sown during the Palungtar plenum grew and led to the creation of the CPN-Maoist (Baidhya) just before the second CA election. Recently another party, the CPN-Maoist (Chand), has been created. Now the Maoist party of the pre-2008 period has been divided into ABC (Ekikrit, Baidhya and Chand) splinter groups, with C treading the path of the pre-2006 movement. It seems they do not want the institutionalisation of the changes of 2006.

It may sound like a bitter truth, but Prachanda may not be ready to draft and promulgate a democratic constitution unless he sees a chance of becoming the president, as was his ambition after his party joined mainstream politics in 2006. But in reality while playing one trick after another, he has turned himself into a tin pot leader, which he has yet to realise.

Sacrifice

See the social sites, they are full of harsh comments criticising him severely. A leader of a stature like Prachanda should not have been a subject of criticism. Instead of nurturing his ambition, he should be ready to make sacrifices for the nation and people. He could at least create an environment for the promulgation of a progressive constitution instead of spoiling the situation further by resorting to protests and bandhs and bringing constitution writing to a halt.

At a time when international players are active to create divisions among the Nepalese, which is evident from the recent controversial write-up by the British ambassador to Nepal, under different pretexts, the political parties should be serious to end the transition period by promulgating the new constitution in time. And Prachanda is expected to play his role.

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