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Born-again CA

Thursday, September 6th, 2012
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Politicians are afraid of elections, they should be forced to go back to the people

Some people believe in reincarnation. So, there is some logic to arguments put forward by those who say there is life after death of the Constituent Assembly.

The country is sinking into a black hole with a lame duck prime minister trying to rule by ordinance, a ceremonial president who doesn’t want to rock the boat, no parliament, no constitution, no budget, no investment, no governance, no development, and no idea about when elections will be held.

Reviving the ex-CA will bring back a certain certitude, focus our minds on fixing the constitution and hauling ourselves out of the morass we have gotten ourselves into. A born-again legislature would force political leaders to make one final push for consensus on the points of disagreement on the constitution which they could not achieve four months ago. This could come as part of a package agreement where the parties also strike a deal on an interim government to take us to the next election. In short, the country would start moving again.

There is nothing wrong with hoping for the best, and being optimistic. But it is difficult to see how there can suddenly be an agreement which eluded leaders earlier. The CA’s second coming is a bad idea, it is like making a blunder to correct a mistake. Taking the country back to the dangerous dead-end of 27 May would not solve any problems, it would take us back to the brink and force us to relive the spectre of communally-laced street violence.

The idea of reincarnating the late unlamented CA is being pushed by a few discredited political leaders who have nothing left to lose. It is mainly the project of Pushpa Kamal Dahal, who has been stoking identity politics with an eye on his own political career, no matter what that may do to the country. Given his wily ways, he has been working on the morally bankrupt and disgraced wimps in the other parties.

Depending on what works with each of them, he has been dangling carrots and massaging egos with Sher Bahadur Deuba, Sushil Koirala, Madhav Kumar Nepal, Jhalnath Khanal to rustle up a consensus on CA revival. The strategy seems to be working, Koirala and Nepal are wavering while the others were for revival all along because they thought it would help them fulfill their personal ambitions.

But the unspoken reason all these scheming gentlemen want the CA back is because of they are terrified of elections. By now, Dahal must have seen the writing on the wall and noticed his plummeting approval ratings in polls. He knows that in the next elections, even his own party votes will now be split. And the kindest thing we can say about most NC and UML leaders is that they are honest enough not to have very high expectations of themselves. The Madhesi parties have splintered so often and are of such ill repute because of blatant corruption that if it wasn’t for the Tarai vote bank they’d not fare well either.

Reviving the CA is undemocratic, it is an insult to the citizens of this country, it is a violation of accepted rules and norms. The only way forward is for the prime minister to get the president to announce polls for VDC and DDC councils, and general elections for a new parliament that can perhaps serve for its first six months as a constitution-writing body.

There is the danger that campaigning will be along ethnic lines and parties will whip up identity politics to mask their non-performance on development and the economy. There could be repeats of the voter intimidation and cheating of 2008, but those issues can be addressed by strict new Election Commission guidelines.

We don’t want to be haunted by the ghost of an undead CA, the politicians should be forced to go back to the people.

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