10-16 October 2014 #727

Dangers of delay

Post-festival, constitution writing will be a battle ground for competing personal and partisan interests
Anurag Acharya
The nation may be immersed in a festival hangover, but away from the media glare the politics was churning away.

Speaker Nembang tried to drive a sense of urgency by detaining senior leaders from leaving Kathmandu, but so far the netas seem to be doing little but debating endlessly about the moral right of consensus politics.

But they keep harping on about a timely constitution. This week, CA and Parliamentary affairs Minister Narhari Acharya told the people of Chitwan that the government will ensure constitution within stipulated time, but did not specify how that is possible given the opposition’s obstruction of CA proceedings for over a month. Communication Minister Minendra Rijal delivered a similar platitude to people of Biratnagar, as did UML’s KP Oli  at his residence in Bhaktapur.

Although there has been no positive development on threshing out contentious issues, NC and UML leaders seem confident that the government will be able to table and endorse a constitution within a set deadline. This may sound encouraging to a layperson who has no appetite for nuanced debates inside the CA, and those who just want normalcy restored to everyday life and economy. But those of us who have been covering blow by blow this political exercise since 2008 know, netas are either fooling themselves or insulting public intelligence.

In the run up to a winter showdown, the CA will become a battle ground of competing personal and partisan interests. But we should be more worried about its spillover effect on the streets.

For Pushpa Kamal Dahal and Mohan Baidya, being the silent partner to this exercise is an unattractive choice, since the erstwhile comrades are both struggling to maintain their political relevance with Baburam Bhattarai heading all negotiations inside the CA. After obstructing the parliament for over a month, Dahal finally returned to the political centre stage this week as the head of high level political mechanism. It will be interesting to see if Mohan Baidya also agrees to join the mechanism he once criticised Similarly, Madhes-based parties who have an underhand in the bargain for state restructuring will try to make the most of their three seats in the HLPC. They will be fighting to establish their political agendas, just as they will be battling to save their own regional vote banks. And with big parties preventing their leaders from forming a cross-party caucus, janajatis inside and outside the CA may look to take their cause to the streets.

But these are still groups willing to negotiate their terms within secular republic constitutional framework. The winter will see a rise of forces that do not seek to engage in the constitutional process at all, but are looking to intervene and disengage. The personal and political aspirations of those leading these forces are at odds with those engaged in the process inside the CA.

This week, NC’s Khum Bahadur Khadka returned to his hometown Dang in the mid-west and threatened to wage war if Nepal is declared a secular republic in the new constitution. “The country will plunge into another war if the CA does not declare Nepal a Hindu state,” warned Khadka. After serving his corruption sentence, Khadka returned to NC politics last year but has remained ineffective within the party. So, predictably he seems to be trying to win back his electorate by whipping up sentiments in politically and demographically sensitive Dang-Nepalganj area.

On the eastern front, J P Gupta-led Tarai Madhes Rastriya Abhiyan has already denounced CA as a ‘slaughterhouse’ and declared Madhesi lawmakers as traitors. After failing to convince ailing Jaya Krishna Goit to join his campaign, Gupta is also busy trying to woo leaders like Matrika Yadav and leaders from Limbuwan to expand his influence from Jhapa to Mahottari. Although Gupta does not have a separatist agenda like CK Raut, he insists only a political movement (presumably led by him) can helprestore rights and dignity of Madhesis.

A common Hindu family of mid-west or a Madhesi from eastern Tarai may not necessarily buy into politics of a discredited Khadka or Gupta, but incapability of those charged with drafting the statute can frustrate the populace, making them cynical and flammable to any political spark.

Dasain is over and before long Tihar and Chhat will be here, after which the winter deadline for the statute drafting will be looming. If the parties don’t find a way to resolve the deadlock on contentious issues of federalism and governance model soon, the approaching winter will be bitter and cold.

@Anurag_Acharya

Read also:

Politics in a vacuume, Editorial

Missing another deadline, Damakant Jayshi

Dahal’s dilemma

Nepal’s soft underbelly, Bihari K Shrestha

CA on track

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