There is no point continuing with endless meetings and keep fooling people all the time
“We won’t agree unless you agree with what we propose,” is the recurring message
from the opposition parties led by UCPN (Maoist) on fundamental issues of the constitution, especially on federalism, model of governance, judiciary and electoral system.
The ruling coalition made up of the Nepali Congress and the CPN-UML retort: “We are for consensus; but if we can’t have it, let us enter the process of voting.”
In this back-and-forth
, consensus on the disputed elements of the constitution has become a mirage. In the words of Madhav Kumar Nepal, the Political Dialogue and Consensus Committee (PDCC)
never had serious discussion on the points of disagreement, a fact confirmed by UCPN(M) Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal and Sadbhavana Party’s Laxman Lal Karna last week.
When the NC and the UML proposed to send a detailed list of agreed and disputed subjects with a questionnaire to the full CA, Dahal and Karna ruled it out, saying the PDCC never formally took up the disputed subjects. This was mandatory, since the CA had asked the PDCC to send the plenary such a list.
PDCC Chair Baburam Bhattarai has always been reluctant to endlessly discuss the disputed subjects in the committee, preferring to iron them out at the top leadership level of the parties. Perhaps Bhattarai was being pragmatic, but it does repeat his role in the last CA.
This time we are headed in the same direction unless there is dramatic change in approach and attitude. We have already missed a few deadlines
in the CA calendar of events, and it is looking more and more likely that we will miss the C-Day deadline of 22 January 2015.
The major dispute, again, is federalism
. The UCPN (M) wants no less than 10 states, most of these carved on the basis of single ethnicity. Bhattarai recently proposed a different model, which actually is a rehash of the party’s stance on state restructuring.
Last week, while announcing protests against deciding issues by a majority vote, Chairman Dahal maintained that past agreements need to be honoured. This is cherry-picking by a party that lost the elections.
What Dahal and the protesting party leaders are forgetting is that all the 31 parties represented in the CA have agreed to enter the ‘process’ -- voting as per Article 70 of the Interim Constitution if they cannot reach consensus. The draft of the CA Regulations, prepared by a body headed by Sadbhavana Party’s Karna, was passed unanimously on 21 March.
The UCPN (M) and the Madhesi Janadhikar Forum (Loktantrik) led by Bijay Kumar Gachchhadar have clearly committed in their election manifestos to go for voting if consensus fails on any disputed subject in the constitution. Now, Gachchhadar is at the forefront of leaders singing the ‘consensus-only’ tune.
There is a reason behind this. The Maoists and the Madhesis
lack the numbers in the assembly to get any of their ideas endorsed whereas the ruling coalition, with backing from the Rastriya Prajatantra Party (RPP) and others – wields a comfortable two-thirds majority. This is the kind of majority that the CPN-Maoist never had in the last CA before its split. Even with the support of all Madhes-based and smaller parties which had a united position on the number of Madhes states (at the most two) and ethnicity-based provinces, they were always well short of the required 401 in the 601-member CA.
For sure, the NC and the UML leaders have gotten carried away by their majority
and think they can ram through whatever they want. This arrogance is not helpful in resolving disputes, and they need to genuinely reach out to Madhes-based and Janajati parties. One way is to take them into confidence, the other is to go ahead and decide the contents as per Article 70 of the Interim Constitution. The first is unlikely, the second is full of risk.
The parties need to admit it is crunch time. Consensus on fundamental issues is not going to materialise, even if one were to ignore Kamal Thapa-led RPP-Nepal, which wants a return to a state of Hindu monarchy. There is no point in continuing with these endless meetings and keep fooling people all the time.
The parties need to put their heads together and find a solution. This time they will not be forgiven if they fail.
Dangers of delay, Anurag Acharya
Missing another deadline, Damakant Jayshi
Politics in a vacuume, Editorial
Reckless federification, Editorial