The most believable reason for delaying the constituent assembly polls is not that the election commission hasn't been able to complete preparations. Nor is it because of fears that it will not be free and fair. It's because most Nepalis don't know what a constituent assembly is.
All recent opinion surveys have shown Nepalis to be overwhelmingly in favour of constituent assembly elections because for them it is subliminally synonymous with peace. But voters electing an assembly to draft a new constitution must know why they are voting and what the parties and candidates stand for.
This should be the job of the political parties, but they just haven't gone out to educate voters. The latest IDA poll summarised in this issue also proves just how far removed the parties and their leaders are from the people's aspirations. Most Nepalis don't really care about what happens to the monarchy, they want their lives to improve. The leaders flog republicanism, secularism or ethnic federalism, but people care more about jobs, health, and education.
Most Nepalis are undecided about who they'll vote for in a future election. This should be a dire warning to the seven-plus-one alliance to shape up. As far as the voters are concerned, the parties are preoccupied with petty turf battles. Last year, the people's foremost desire was peace. This year it is development, but they see self-absorbed rulers squabbling endlessly over a division of the spoils.
The survey shows this disillusionment runs deep. The people are fed up with politicians hell-bent on taking to the streets and punishing the people with strikes, blockades and shutdowns. The gas lines, load-shedding and shortages have stretched the public's tolerance to breaking point. We may have sidelined the king, but we haven't got rid of this culture of cynically feeding on the people's misery to make a political point.
The tarai is allowed to simmer so the parties can sit back and enjoy watching the Maoists roast in a fire they started. For their part, the comrades are so desperate to shift attention away from the madhes debacle they are working themselves into a frenzy demolishing royal statues. Simulated outrage, they should know, can work both ways.
Rhetoric about a New Nepal aside, this is the one real chance the state has to get the future of the country on track. A botched election, one that few people believe is free and fair, and in which fewer still know what they are really voting for, can lead to violent ethnic politics. Better to take time to educate voters, ensure it is free from intimidation than stage a hurried and fatally flawed poll.