13-19 March 2015 #749

Stuck in the mud

The reasons for the delay in retrieving the Airbus and passing a new constitution are the same: bad management, lack of contingency planning, blame-throwing, failure of coordination, and a breathtaking inability to understand the gravity of the situation.

Just like it took four days to get an Airbus out of the mud at Kathmandu airport last week, Nepal’s constitution is also proving to be a difficult one to get unstuck.

And just as the jet averted a bigger disaster, perhaps by holding back a fatally flawed constitution we may actually have avoided a major upheaval After nearly two months of not being in speaking terms, the various political formations in the country are holding preliminary talks about resuming talks. All sides have now vented off steam, there has been a lot of chest-thumping, sabre-rattling and name-calling. All have been suitably chastised by public disgust, and our impatient southern neighbour also seems to be twisting some tails.

But Nepal’s netas are going around behaving as if they have all the time in the world. The first round of re-negotiations this week failed, as expected. After all, you can’t immediately have an easy consensus when you have sulked for so long, you have to make the public think that it is a long and arduous process.

But Maoist Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal appears to have realised that his show of force in Kathmandu was more of a ‘show of farce’. The idea all along was that the street presence would improve his bargaining position when negotiations restarted. It doesn’t seem to have helped much.

But he doesn’t want to be seen as a stick in the mud, so he has taken the personal initiative to reach out.  The other factor that has goaded him is that his party rival Baburam Bhattarai went off to New Delhi and met some pretty hefty Indian leaders. He is probably hoping that this will tar Bhattarai’s public image as being an Indian stooge. In fact, Bhattarai’s detractors within his own party have ridiculed him for remarks in Delhi asking India to be “more proactive” in Nepal.

After this cooling off period, we have one more chance for the Maoist-Madhesi alliance to abandon their irresponsible and risky stand on identity-based federalism, and for the NC-UML combine to convince Dahal and his cohort that their future lies in adhering to the democratic process and not their politics of threats and division. Dahal must understand that the NC-UML is not against inclusion, but that the formula of federalism that his alliance proposes is inherently against national unity and stability.

The best option for now seems to be the one that the Madhesi leader, Bijay Gachhadar has been pushing ever since January, which is to shelve federalism for now and pass a constitution. After all, the dispute over the demarcation of the five Tarai districts is the only issue holding things up and there is general agreement on basic federalism, secularism and inclusive democracy.

Federalism has now become a dead horse that the Maoist-Madhesi alliance has to keep flogging because there is nothing else they can do. The Madhesi people have realised that a separate Madhes province will not be in their best interest, neither for identity nor for prosperity.

The silver lining is that the leaders are sitting down again. The real hurdles being over power-sharing after the constitution, there is a move to form a national government. If that helps, so be it. But let’s end this absurdly lengthy standoff.

The reasons for the delay in retrieving the Airbus and passing a new constitution are the same. Bad management, lack of contingency planning, blame-throwing, failure of coordination, and an inability to understand the gravity of the situation.

Read more:

Back to parliament

Maoists talk

In an agitated state, Editorial

The anti-climax, Editorial

Tables turned, Anurag Acharya

Better later than, Om Astha Rai

Lengthening the fuse, Editorial

Disaster averted, unfolding disaster, Kunda Dixit

Show of farce