These are the days of denunciation, not debate; confrontation, not reconciliation; and grandstanding, not sincerity of efforts to break the deadlock. Politicians in this country believe this is the only way to appear holier than thou.
It would be unfair to tar all politicians with the same brush. But the UML’s K P Oli and UCPN (M)’s Baburam Bhattarai take top honours when it comes to vitriol. The only difference is that while Oli mostly uses epigrams, innuendos and barbed Nepali proverbs, Bhattarai is crudeness and bluntness personified. Just visit his Twitter timeline @brb_laldhwoj
to get a ringside view of his thought process.
In this gloomy scenario there has been one positive development, though. On Tuesday, there was apparently a secret brainstorming involving younger leaders of the NC, UML and the UCPN (M) ostensibly without the knowledge of their party bosses.
The younger leaders came together to discuss ways to put pressure on their party heavyweights. Some of the youth leaders have a good public image and are known to exert some influence within their respective parties. However, they face big hurdles to get any possible greement approved by their seniors. Some of that stems from a sense of insecurity among party bosses about the popularity of their own junior colleagues.
Let’s hope the young turks get somewhere. The country cannot remain hostage to future election calculations of a handful of party bosses in each of the four political forces – two combos on either side of the battle-lines. Oh yes, it has now boiled down to this, as well as sharing of top state positions
after the promulgation of the new constitution.
The NC-UML say they want to prevent a future ethnic conflict and disintegration of the state if we have single ethnicity-based states. The Maoist-Madhesi alliance
claim their struggle is about ending age-old Nepali state discrimination and exclusivity. But these are all hollow stances, the real reasons are more petty and personal.
If the younger leaders fail, it would be the end of Plan A – that is, Constitution by consensus
. There can be no two opinions that this is the best way to draft the constitution. But this insistence on consensus when the parties are unable to let go of their positions has now attained farcical proportions.
The Maoist-Madhesi alliance make it look like they are the righteous ones fighting evil forces (Bhattarai’s reference to Mahabharat case in point) and want the “regressive” forces to accept their ideas on disputed subjects. That is consensus for them and their apologists. On the other hand, the NC and the UML see themselves as upholders of democratic norms and portray their current opponents as bad losers who are unable to come to accept the public mandate.
This confrontation has made Plan B – drafting the constitution through voting in the Constituent Assembly – close to unattainable as well. Some parties, including the UCPN (M) and Madhesi Janadhikar Forum (Loktantrik) had promised that in their election manifesto. Besides, all of the parties represented in the second CA agreed to adopt Plan B if consensus failed. That was on 21 March, 2014 when they passed the CA Rules of Procedure. This is uncomfortable truth to the progressive lobby but that’s what it is.
This leaves us Plan C: going for a referendum. Which is not a new idea: it is mentioned in the Interim Constitution. But of course, the UCPN (M) will
have none of it. They have a readymade answer against it, that it is against spirit of their “revolution” which they portray as if all ordinary Nepalis supported the mandate of the Jan Andolan II. It really baffles to witness the extent to which this party air brushes history.
If the parties failed to honour their self-imposed deadline of 22 January to promulgate the constitution, they risk squandering hard-earned gains, a scenario mentioned in this space previously. All four major forces would be responsible but the bigger blame would rest with the Maoist and Madhes-based parties. RPP-Nepal would be too happy to go for Plan C.
There’s still time for the four major political forces. People are mighty ticked off and all the righteous indignation of the parties would come to a naught if they continue with their recklessness.
Lengthening the fuse, Editorial
Cracks in the Madhesi front, Om Astha Rai
Contentious consensus, Anurag Acharya