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Back to square one

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012

Nothing dramatic happened when State Restructuring Commission submitted its report today, at least nothing that we haven’t seen before. After months of deliberation, bitter debates and media mongering between formation of ‘an expert panel’ and state restructuring commission, the CA had formed a 7 member commission to propose a tentative federal model in November. But the commission was destined to fail from the day one.

You don’t need an expert analysis to figure out that a politically appointed commission was only going to be an extension of the conflict between the appointers, and from the day the commission began its work the media leaks about the bitter spats and boycotts had sent all the wrong signals.

On Tuesday afternoon, when the seven members submitted 200 pages long report to Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai, the ‘note of dissent’ written by three commission members grabbed headlines. Nobody was interested in the content of the proposal, because it has been already been discredited.

“We had to come up with a separate proposal because the report was dictated by the majority members”, admitted Sabitri Thapa Gurung, one of the dissenters. “We signed the report with ‘note of dissent’ only at the request of the commission chairman Madan Pariyar”, Thapa further clarified to the media gathered outside the PM’s office in Singha Durbar.

Three dissenting members Sabitri Thapa Gurung, Ramesh Dhungel and Sarbaraj Khadka wrote a note of dissent on crucial parts of the report including model and structure of federal states, privileged political rights for the majority community in the proposed state, right to self-determination for the proposed states and residual rights. While the report proposes 10-states based on ethnic and regional identity, the 6-states alternate model proposes a north-south extension based on geography and population.

Two and half months have been in vain and the May deadline is inching closer. We are back to where we began, a sharply divided political landscape and unrelenting actors. The government and CA is already in panic as they are making last ditch effort to convince the supreme court to reconsider its earlier verdict not to extend CA deadline beyond May. The judicial activism of SC verdict may prove suicidal if the CA fails to meet the deadline, but sadly the parties have outrun their mandate by a mile and the CA seems to have lost even last of the public faith.

The parties have no choice but to sit with the two reports and find a way to patch them together. The buck has been passed back at them and they better score. Only a constitution can help restore credibility of the CA and its members, nothing less will.

Anurag Acharya

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