Nepali Times Asian Paints
Make haste slowly

Of late, political wrangling appears to have taken a back seat. This is not to say that it is not continuing with the same intensity as it has been, simply that there has not been as much fodder for the media. A half-formed cabinet (with the imminent addition of the Madhesi Janadhikar Forum led by Upendra Yadav) is better than none, people seem to be thinking, so let us get on with our lives. Reports of progress made by the Commission for the Investigation of the Abuse of Authority and inquiries into factors that have contributed to Nepal's general economic malaise have cultivated a sense that if things aren't great, at least some progress is being made somewhere.

In the meantime we must keep an eye on the deadline for the drafting of the constitution. Work by the sub-committee under the Constitutional Committee continues apace, and its tenure was extended by a fortnight last week. But it's hard to avoid the feeling that with another extension of the Constituent Assembly an increasingly likely possibility, the biggest issues are being dodged. While each and every one of the disputed constitutional issues is important, until the politicians come to an agreement on governance structure and the restructuring of the state, Nepalis will be in the dark regarding what shape the federal republic of Nepal will take.

With public consultations an impossibility under the current timeline for constitution writing, by now it is probably not a good idea for the politicians to rush through a makeshift constitution, even if they were able to. If the relatively straightforward issue of citizenship rights, particularly with regards to women, generated such cackhanded resolutions on the part of the now-defunct high level taskforce, one can only imagine what political exigencies will do to the practical, legal and moral concerns that must be taken into account when deciding on how Nepal is to be structured. There must be checks and balances on the mistakes the Constitutional Committee might make in the form of public consultations.

This will be possible once more if the Constituent Assembly is extended. A detailed timeline on both integration/rehabilitation of the PLA and constitution writing is an absolute must before this extension is effected. Of course timelines can and have been adjusted to suit political inaction. It is thus all the more necessary for the Maoists, UML, Nepali Congress, and the fragmented Madhes bloc to come to an agreement if not on power-sharing, at least on these two outstanding issues. Nepali Congress must rouse itself from its slumber and play its part in the peace process, if not in government. The Madhes parties should immediately desist from dreams of another movement aided not by the people of the Madhes, but its criminals. There is no time to stand and stare, and even less to indulge in repellent brinkmanship.

All's not lost, PRASHANT JHA

1. Soni
"With public consultations an impossibility under the current timeline for constitution writing, by now it is probably not a good idea for the politicians to rush through a makeshift constitution, even if they were able to."

I absolutely support this position. What has happened has happened. If you rush into the constitution making process, it would lead to additional complications. 

That alone does not mean that there would be no constitution on or by 28 May. This being Nepal, they may be planning to rush through to keep the record of having last minute solutions appear out of thin air.

However, the sensible thing for the government to do is to make a clear statement of facts, and clear all doubts. They must admit that given compulsions that they are too embarrassed to talk about, they could not complete the entire process and, therefore, they have a cunning plan which would help them sort out the situation. 

The cunning plan would involve the following with the first point most preferred:

A)      Conduct fresh elections for the CA, or

B)      Do what this editorial suggests and provide a pre-set timeline that must be followed. If any of the deadlines are missed the PM or (someone) would immediately resign or undergo some other sort of penalty. Raising the stakes in this manner will ensure everybody that the government is serious about what they are saying.

2. Soni

You might believe that what I am going to say is pretty irrelevant in the present context. However, I think this is about the right time to, again, highlight an issue that has been kept in backburner for far too long.

A fascinating element about the change in Nepal is that most people don't really understand what change is likely to happen in this country. Nobody has answered the question, what after the constitution?

Variously upset and jubilant about the disruptive changes in the form of abolishment constitutional monarchy and establishment of secularism, as well as the threats and opportunities likely to emerge from Federalism, Nepal's elites have failed to inform the ordinary citizens that these are not really the changes, but structural adjustment required for the real changes. While the latter two will have an impact over the long-term, which is a month after you are dead, an ordinary citizen who does not care about such things will not feel much of a difference in his/her everyday life.

The real change is in the policy that the new revolutionary political elite seek to bring.

Most of Nepal's elite's are simply socialist converts masquerading as anti-communists. They simply do not have it in them to argue in opposition to the Maoist stance because they know that if they do, they would end up using the same vocabulary that the communists use and naturally end with their conclusions.

However, what is being ignored to the peril of future generations of Nepali's is that a conversion to socialism is akin to throwing off Hinduism as the state religion (a laudable move) and replacing it with the Shariah or the Torah/Talmud. Sure you can do that, but surely the intellectuals of Nepal can help use understand that real implications of such a change as well as it key characteristics in clear and unequivocal terms. 

Notice this gem from the preeminent SLC topper in the country.

"A fresh agreement between capitalists and proletarian republicans would be the best alternative at the right moment," said the Maoist ideologue. "If that does not happen, one side will dominate the other one and try to impose its will."

Who are the capitalists (the FNCCI?) and who are the proletarian republicans? Are the latter an offshoot of the Maoist ideology or is it a new terminology designed to deflect attention further? How can they reach an agreement over the heads of people who don't understand either? Would doing that be "liberal democratic"? What is the "right moment" and what conditions and developments would create that moment?

3. Anil

While the situation in the country for the common citizens is getting from bad to worse, the political parties/intelligentsia keep on harping on their own agenda.

The Maoist clearly understand that the constitution  cannot and will not be drafted even if the CA is extended multiple times mainly because of the inherent contradiction between goals and aims set by the democratic forces and the Maoist. The ultimate goal of the Maoist  is state capture which is not possible at this stage. Despite being the largest party in parliament and having YCL and PLA, they understand that naked power grab (like blockading Kathmandu last year) will not be successful for a variety of reasons.

So their strategy will be:

1.Continue CA to claim their legitimacy, and force the government to continue to pay their party for maintenance of PLA.

2.Keep the opposition parties in disarray by sowing in contradictions based on ethnicity and other dividing measures, proposing unrealizable ethnic  federal units .

3.If possible form the government, and if not make a government which is pliable to their demands and try to destabilize the state from within, while keeping their PLA and YCL intact.

4.Prepare for eventual power grab by wearing out the opposing forces . Eventually they feel the public will get tired of the anarchy and impunity which they have helped create and sustained; and will welcome a strong authoritarian government at the center which the Maoist believe only they can provide. Then they hope to crush opposing parties first at the center and then at regional levels, and move on with their agenda of creating a unitary communist state.

Meanwhile the Congress and UML parties are too demoralized and inept on their own to meet these threats head-on, and keep on hoping that somehow by continuing with the status-quo including paying for the Maoist PLA  they are buying time, and eventually the Maoist party will split. The regional parties  do not have a broad enough base to be effective at the national level other than playing spoilers, and even their core supporters seem to be getting disillusioned.

The danger to the Maoist from this strategy is not so much from other national and regional parties which they have been able to deftly manipulate (by taking advantage of their greed and ambitions), but from within.

1.The PLA may be too demoralized to continue fighting after having seen their leaders political shenanigans and lust for power, money and bourgeois life-style.

2.The YCL may be too corrupt and complacent making money and local leaders may have their own individual interests and priorities to heed to the leaders call for revolution.

3.The ambitions of the individual party leaders at the center may be hard to reconcile if they do not see results(rewards) soon.

4.Then there is still the Nepal Army which so far they have not been able to make it dysfunctional despite efforts like the Katawal episode.

Having said that,the Maoist and all the other parties have to be clearly understand that the current state of affairs cannot indefinitely continue. If the constitution is not drafted on time, the CA will lose its legitimacy(remember it was elected for only two years), and it is only right that the politicians should prepare to face the people's verdict.

Another CA body should be then elected  with adequate safeguards in place, so as not to repeat the same mistakes.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)