Nepali Times
Left, right. Left, right.

Pushpa Kamal Dahal and his comrades in the bush want the present constitution scrapped. Presumably, they want to have a dictatorship of the proletariat declared in its place. The Unified Marxist-Leninists, on the other hand, saw the Maoists stealing their thunder so they half-heartedly put forward their own bright ideas for constitutional amendments. Then there are the people on the hard right who are furious that their masters lost power, and now want a new constitution that will set right the "wrongs" of the Jana Andolan. So, there you have it: the entire political spectrum except for the centrist Nepali Congress organising to remould the constitution. So we have to ask ourselves: What are they after? Why now? And who benefits?

Our view is: it ain't broke, so don't fix it. The snowball effect of public cynicism about the state of the country has little to do with flaws in the constitution. It has to do with short-sighted, narrow-minded and self-serving polticians who don't deserve to rule. Blame the driver, not the car. Blame the carpenter, not his tools.

The most curious call for change in the constitution comes from the ultra-left. They don't seem to mind that it would need a 1960-type royal coup to form a constituent assembly, since there is nothing in the present constitution that allows it to be scrapped. As with all their revolutionary forebears, the end justifies the means in the single-minded pursuit of power by the shortest route available. Care a hang for the consequences. Then there are erstwhile partyless parliamentarians like Rajeshwar Devkota, who really has nothing left to lose by calling for major rectifications in the constitution.

It seems if you don't like the Nepali Congress, then you are in the change-the-constitution bandwagon. No surprise, therefore, that the temptation was too much for the UML to resist-this was just too popular a political plank for the dominant opposition not to have its own act. As the UML's General Secretary Madhav Kumar Nepal says elsewhere in this issue, we need a national government to ensure that the next elections are clean. Pretty clever move by the comrade from Balkhu in taking the wind out of the sails of Messrs Pushpa Kamal Dahal to his left and Rajeswar Devkota to his right.

Nepalis, being generally gradualists, have indicated by their ballots in the past ten years that they like things to evolve in less unsettling ways than total revolution. Our minds have been primed by successive elections to now contemplate change in governance without being afraid of the consequences of such thoughts. By all indications, the UML proposal to amend certain provisions of the constitution is a trial balloon. They can't be too serious about it, especially if they need to take such amendments to the House for ratification.

Nepalis aren't prepared to give up the essence of the Constitution-that of creating a pluralistic society with a parliamentary form of government, and independent institutions to monitor its functioning. Changes in the constitution are perfectly natural, and even desirable. However, change for the sake of change may be good politics, but it is bad democratic practice. Having said that, Madhav Nepal must be thanked for bringing the discussion back to where it rightfully belongs-to strengthening democracy, not discarding it altogether. Which seems to be what the two lean and hungry Bahuns from Gorkha, Comrade Babu Ram and Pancha Rajeshwar, want.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)