The second Constituent Assembly is consistently in the news, but not for the reason it was elected: to write the country’s new constitution.
The latest negative news is that when CA members started getting itches and rashes, it was discovered that the chairs in the main hall and the committee rooms were infested with bed bugs. “At least this will keep them awake,” quipped a cartoon character in a Nepali newspaper. That was a reference to pictures published in newspapers showing a near-empty CA with even the members present all snoring away.
CA members have come under blistering attack in the media for pressuring Finance Minister Ram Sharan Mahat to dole out Rs 50 million in pork barrel funds in the new budget for their constituencies, up from Rs 1 million currently. Even though the CA is still missing 26 nominated members, the total outlay would be a whopping Rs 9.1 billion.
Oblivious to the public mood, 223 CA members on Wednesday presented another list of demands: tax-free vehicles imported, increases in house allowance and body guards.
Cumulatively, the demands have tarnished the image of the CA members, spreading the public perception that they are not serious about meeting the deadline for writing the constitution by January 2015. This has added to the general sense of drift in government and the bureaucracy, with many urgent appointments and decisions pending.