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Deconstruction before reconstruction

Tuesday, June 9th, 2015

Nine years after the end of the conflict and seven years after the first election to an assembly tasked with drafting a new constitution, the four main political parties finally came to an agreement late Monday night on the last pending element of the peace process.

Ostensibly, the deal involved a compromise on an 8-province model for Nepal’s future federal structure. If it was simple as that, the great wonder is that it took so long for them to hit upon that formula. Which means it was never only about the constitution only, but about getting to power, controlling state resources, and taking all the credit.

This week’s nocturnal compromise involved the NC-UML giving up its stand on six territorially-designated provinces, and the Maoist-Madhesi alliance letting go of its insistence that eight future provinces be ethnically demarcated conclaves. They met half-way to allow a commission to decide on boundaries and future federal legislatures and also how to name themselves. It is disingenuous that they have bargained as if it was a fish market about an arbitrary number for provinces without figuring out what those provinces are going to look like or what they are going to be called. However, it was probably the only compromise possible at the present time.

In a sense, what the four parties cunningly did was pass the buck on the remaining sticking points on the constitution to someone else somewhere to resolve later. It is the tragedy of Nepal that it needs a major disaster or a violent street uprising to shake things up. This time the ruse of the need for a national unity government for reconstruction gave a sense of urgency that lifted the deadlock on power-sharing.

All four main political parties got what they wanted from the deal. The NC and the UML had a gentlemen’s agreement that Prime Minister Sushil Koirala would make way for the UML’s KP Oli as soon as the constitution was agreed upon. The ailing Oli was impatient to become prime minister, but for that Koirala had to step down and to do that the constitution had to be passed first.  Koirala needed a graceful way to step down, and wanted to bequeath a historical legacy to bolster his stature at the upcoming party conclave. “Let’s go for eight, then,” a downcast and evasive Koirala is supposed to have said at the four-party meeting on Tuesday morning.

Pushpa Kamal Dahal of the UCPN(M) missed being at the centre of things, and by dangling carrots in front of Oli assured him of backing for prime ministership if it was going to be a government of national unity that included his party. Bijay Kumar Gachhadar of the Madhesi Janadhikar Forum (L) is in it only because he has an eye on a key portfolio in the national government. In doing this, Dahal and Gachhadar dumped 28 members of their 30-party alliance proving that this was never really about federalism or ethnic autonomy.

If one is to try to see the glass as half-full, then this is a step forward. A national unity government will be formed next month after the CA does the paperwork on the constitution. Oli may not be well, but he is more decisive than Koirala, and can hopefully inject  a sense of urgency into the reconstruction process. We want to be pleasantly surprised, but given their past record on governance and transparency (the lack thereof) we are not holding our breath on the new government suddenly become an epitome of efficiency and honesty. The same old discredited persona are going to be in charge, the thoroughly corrupt all-party mechanism that governed VDCs and DDCs are now going to on the national stage. It is a given that distribution of compensation for earthquake survivors is going to be a repeat of the inequitable way compensation for conflict victims was handed out.

Dolakha after earthquake

Photo: Kunda Dixit

This week in Dolakha we saw the enormous task of rebuilding. Of the 59 hospitals and health posts, 53 are destroyed. All 363 schools are damaged. Nearly two months after the quake 80 per cent of the inhabitants of Charikot live in tents. On Chaighyant St buildings look like a pile of Lego blocks. The famous Maoist dictum that there has to be deconstruction before reconstruction has a whole new meaning in post-earthquake Nepal, and not quite in the way Pushpa Kamal Dahal intended.

One way to ensure accountability is to announce local elections right away. That is the only way relief and rehabilitation budgets will be better spent so that everyone benefits and jobs are created in the process. Campaigning for that election itself may be a way to spur candidates and parties to be more responsive to the needs of the people not just in the 14 quake-hit districts but in the rest of the country.

Read also:

Constitution deal inked Om Astha Rai

Political tectonics Anurag Acharya

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4 Responses to “Deconstruction before reconstruction”

  1. Manita Sh on Says:

    Thanks to the devastating earthquake!!!

  2. Marty Logan on Says:

    To call this a deal is certainly Pinnochioesque. The contentious issue, which for years delayed a constitution – and the recovery of the country after a civil war – is punted over to a commission! I would like to view the glass as half full – I really really would – but what are the chances that those who fought for a new model of statehood are going to sit back and let the “same old discredited persona” and “thoroughly corrupt all-party mechanism” – as you so nicely put it – get on with (no) business as usual? If anyone had doubts about the true nature of Nepal’s ruling class this recipe for yet more disaster should sadly bring them down to earth.

  3. Daniel Gajaraj on Says:

    At this time I would like to remind my friends about the the story: How Dr. B.R. thew Chairman of the Drafting Committee of the making of the Constitution of India
    Ambedkar was the opponent of Mahatma Gandhi through out . He and Ganddhi fought against each other during the Rouind Table Conference in London .
    Ambedkar was for the separate constituency for the Dalits and Mahatma it. Mahatma was prepared to die better than to concede separate constituency for the Dalits.During the six months in the C.A. between 9 dec. 1946 and 3 june 1947 he had done excellent work. Ambedkar lost his seat after the partition of India as East Pakistan was created and he represented from the t constituencyfrom that part..
    Rajendra Prasad and Vallavbhai Patel felt handicapped without the services of

    Dr.Ambedkar.Nehru wanted to appoint Sir Ivor Jennings,an international authority on constitutional law. Nehru and Sarijini Naidu met Gandhiji and reported the poor progress.
    Gandhi rejected Jennings.
    Nehru frankly said to Gandhiji that “Ambedkar was the blockade to the Freedom Struggle.’
    Gandhiji told Nehru that ‘freedom has come to India and not to Nehru.,and therefore Dr. Ambedkar ‘s talent and capacity should be utilized for building up modern India”

    Conclsion rhat we can now make in creating the Reconstruction or Rebuilduing Authorityafter the Devastation due to this Great Earthquake is to select the best man who can lead andwill be trusted by all citizens sans part card carrying members will be :

    in our opinion is the dark horse:
    Rukmangad Katwal .
    His proven competence ,courage and non-political stature can be very useful.
    So let us ask this General to lead in the making of the devastated country.

    No more partisan suethasta netajis.
    Enough is enough.
    No more ,no more. Draft General Katuwal.

  4. Daniel Gajaraj on Says:

    The Prime Minister is the real Project Manager of the country.
    He must take up the sole resposibility for rebuilding the earthquake devastated country . This is what the management principle says. He cannot escape this resposibility at any pretext.
    He can utilize the best person with proven competence and acceptable to the citizens as his special executive person.
    At this time in the country ,the best candidate for such undertaking must be non-partisan ,not belonging to any political party but a national common man.
    We have trade unions , student bodies or any professional groups divided and carrying party flags .
    This has ruined our institutions.
    Late us take the instance from other countries when they have drafted retired army chiefs for construction projects.
    As Moist Chair has recently said ;”Everyone knows there are no permanent friends or permanent enemies in politics. ”
    So this can be applied in selecting the executive head under the Pm in the reconstruction of this catastrophic event as well by engaging the services of Gen. Katuwal. Other- wise bhagbanda system will prevail and we have suffered enough by that type of tradition.

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