What does the fee Indian cars need to pay to enter Nepal have to do with the price of tea in China?
After the Dasain break, the country’s four main political parties staggered back to work
. The first order of business was to address the demands from the opposition UCPN(M) that had obstructed proceedings of the House for over a month.
Maoist Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal is feeling a bit left out, and so to assert his presence he wanted to revive the High Level Political Committee and head that parallel government body himself. One year later, he is still licking wounds from his party’s election defeat and can’t reconcile himself to the fact that in a democracy the party that wins calls the shots.
Which is why he also wants to take all decisions on the new constitution on a consensus basis, and not by voting, despite the first meeting of the new CA agreeing that ‘in the absence of a consensus on clauses of the new constitution, the issue will be put to a vote in the House’.
So, the Nepali Congress and the UML decided to appease sulking cry-baby Dahal yet one more time. It is flabbergasting that the NC and UML keep doing this - despite their numerical strength in the legislature-parliament they keep behaving like an insecure opposition alliance.
The NC and the UML sat down with the UCPN(M) on 8 October and ironed out a 5-point deal to give Dahal his lollipop: agreeing to his demand of setting up an HLPC and letting him lead it for the first two months. Shameful, but completely in character on the part of the wimps in the UML and NC.
But it is the other three points that they agreed to that have an Alice in Wonderland quality to them. They agreed that families of the dead and disappeared would get Rs 200,000 each. The NC and UML had vehemently opposed this when they were in the opposition, and their agreement this time seems to be part of a grand bargain.
The NC and UML also gave in to a Maoist demand to discount registration fees on transfer of property they had confiscated from ‘class enemies’ in the mid-western mountains during the war. Again, why the NC and UML would agree to such an illegal provision is hard to fathom unless someone was holding a gun to their heads. By the way, is this what the Maoists meant by 'revolutionary land reform'?
But by far the most absurd point is the agreement on scrapping an increase on tax on vehicles with Indian license plates. Why does a decision that should be taken by the Department of Transportation have to be part of a political power-sharing agreement between the top political
parties in Nepal? What has the fee Indian cars have to pay got to do with the price of tea in China? In whose interest are these parties making bizarre agreements like these? None of the five points the three parties agreed to mentions the word ‘constitution’ even once.
So, let us get this straight: Dahal & Co blocked parliament proceedings for a month because the tax owners of Indian vehicles pay in Nepal was too high? For the Maoists to make such incongruous demands was ridiculous enough, but for the NC and the UML to agree to them is even more irresponsible. Who are these guys that we elected taking their instructions from?
Prime Minister Sushil Koirala’s reasoning must be that he doesn’t have the energy to argue anymore with the Maoists, and to have a new constitution by 22 January he is willing to give in to any demand, however irrational or irrelevant. He seems to be a man who just wants to get it over with.
If this is the kind of consensus we need to promulgate a new constitution in the next three months, then may Lord Pasupatinath help us. Compromising on clauses on state re-structuring and form of governance in the constitution is going to give us a document that (as we Nepalis like to say) is neither a chicken nor a duck.
Dangers of delay, Anurag Acharya
Missing another deadline, Damakant Jayshi
Politics in a vacuume, Editorial
Pause, play, repeat, Trishna Rana