13-19 March 2015 #749

“I am a risk-taker”

Bhusan Dahal interviews UCPN (M) Chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal on Fireside (Kantipur TV), 9 March

Bhusan Dahal: Why are the Maoist-Madhesi parties stopping the NC-UML from writing the new constitution?

Pushpa Kamal Dahal: Some people accuse us of obstructing the constitution writing process in the name of consensus. They have a misconception that we want consensus just because we lack numeric strength in the second CA. But even when we had numeric strength in the first CA, we never sidelined the NC-UML. And at that time it was they who were pressing for consensus. Now, they are hell-bent on using their numerical strength. It is sheer dishonesty.

The political force defeated by the Jan Andolan II has grown stronger in the second CA, so do you seek a larger reconciliation?

Yes, their strength has certainly increased. And their voices should also be heard. If political parties that collectively led the Jan Andolan II unite, we can still fulfill whatever promises we made to the people through a new constitution.

If so, why is the constitution so difficult?

The political scenario has changed. When we joined the peace process, Girija Prasad Koirala led the NC. After Gyanendra Shah seized power in 2005, he had actually asked me to join a joint struggle against the monarchy. UML leader Madhav Nepal also played a role to persuade us to join the peace process. After Girija Prasad’s demise, there is no leader who can rise above personal interests to reach out. Even Madhav Nepal has lost his say in the UML. The NC president Sushil Koirala and the UML Chair KP Oli are just average leaders. 

Can you not play that role?

I am a risk-taker. When it seemed impossible to pass the new constitution on 22 January, I took a risk. I agreed to go ahead by writing a note of dissent on the form of governance. I thought the NC and the UML leaders would be happy with that, but they walked out. What surprised me even more was the Prime Minister’s reaction, he said the constitution could not be written with the opposition’s reservations. He later apologised to me, saying he did not understand what I meant by note of dissent.

He is now pushing to move forward with the agreements we reached on 19 January.

What exactly happened on 19 January?

We had sorted out everything except federalism that day. We agreed in principle with the model of judiciary and electoral system. As for form of governance, we had decided to go ahead with the NC-UML’s idea of Westminster system, writing a note of dissent. We put the issue of federalism on hold. The Prime Minister is now in favour of writing the constitution by endorsing our 19 January deal postponing the federalism issue. But, things have changed and now, we are pressing for a package deal.   How thorny is the issue of the five Tarai districts?

That is not the main issue. Creating federal states as envisioned by the interim constitution is the crux. We define federalism as a process to ensure rights of oppressed communities. But, the NC-UML define federalism as dividing the country geographically or administratively. That is not federalism. That is just decentralisation.   Despite this, can you write the constitution?

On behalf of 30 political parties, I promise we will show utmost flexibility, but the NC-UML leaders still believe they can write whatever they like in the constitution on the basis of their combined two-thirds majority.

Read also:

New deadline

Us and them, Damakant Jayshi

Better later than never, Om Astha Rai