At a time when the constitution should already have been written and done with either through consensus or voting, two of the four major political forces in the Constituent Assembly (the UCPN (M) and the Madhesi Front) are gearing up for street agitation. The opposition alliance wants to build pressure against the NC-UML’s effort to vote on the disputed clauses in the new constitution.
This polarisation between the alumni of the 2006 April Uprising has delayed the constitution. No matter how different they were in their political backgrounds and ideologies, they came together in 2006 to restore democracy and peace in the country. But their very ideologies are now becoming a barrier in the constitution writing process. The acrimony and bad blood between them is at its worst.
The polarisation between the ruling and opposition parties has cleft society vertically down the middle. The April Uprising that they jointly spearheaded was a response to Maoist violence and King Gyanendra’s hunger for power. The people’s movement simultaneously defeated Gyanendra’s ultra-rightist as well as the Maoist’s ultra-leftist views. In the ensuing political trajectory, the country embraced republicanism, federalism, secularism and an inclusive policy. These political agendas, which have been legitimised by the two CA polls, are foundations of the new constitution. There is no dispute whatsoever on these issues among the major political parties.
The current discord seems to be caused by a deep sense of insecurity that some political leaders have about their political future in the post-constitution period. The NC and the UML are not opposed to federalism, the main agenda for the opposition’s agitation. The current deadlock is partly caused by the self-obsession and the need by some NC-UML politicians to preserve a foothold in their constituencies.
The NC and the UML have more than sufficient lawmakers to pass the new constitution. But, there is a growing voice within the ruling parties to reach a consensus with the opposition. They know that it will be difficult to implement the constitution if it is boycotted by the UCPN (M) and Madhesi parties. On a positive note the opposition, too, has not completely abandoned negotiations. By delaying their protests, they have still kept the doors open for communication.
Some political leaders are actively helping both sides resume talks. If discord between agents of political change persists, it will benefit those who do not want these changes at all. So, the ruling and opposition parties must stop blaming each other and try to reach a consensus. If they want to ensure the country’s prosperity through an inclusive political system, there are no alternatives to talks and consensus.