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Constitutional revolution in Nepal

Constitutional revolution in Nepal
The Nepali Congress (NC) re-asserted its commitment to promulgate a new constitution by 22 January, 2015. It is perhaps the most profoundly democratic constitution in the SAARC region. Prime Minister and NC leader Sushil Koirala, affirmed this at a joint meeting of the party´s parliamentary and central working committee on Sunday at his official residence in Baluwatar. The NC has already submitted its views on the proposed statute. There is a broad consensus about it among NC, Communist Party of Nepal (United Marxist-Leninist), Rastriya Prajatantra Party and Bahujan Shakti Party.

But there are hurdles in the way. The United Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), Madhes-based and some other minor parties have  been opposing the idea of sending the draft document to the parties stated above under preparation by the Constitutional Political Dialogue and Consensus Committee, set up by the Constituent Assembly. The opposition reflects narrow politicking by the discredited UCPN (Maoist), thanks to its power-mongering and greedy chairman Puspa Kamal Dahal, also known as Prachanda, whose opposition is essentially factional.

The CPDCC is headed by his arch rival Baburam Bhttarai, ex-PM and once the second-in-command of UCPN (Maoist). Dr Bhattarai had resigned from the polit bureau of the UCPN (Maoist) in protest against Dahal. His group has already set up parallel organisations inside the UCPN (Maoist). When  Dr Bhattarai was given the green signal to send the report to the five major political parties of the constituent assembly, the 20-party alliance  of the opposition with the  UCPN (Maoist), a major constituent, endorsed the decision.

The obstacles put forward by the dominant UCPN(Maoist) are in a way a volte face, if not crass opportunism. “So long Comrade Prachanda is at the helm and manages to stick to the top post, the party has no future. But for his personal political ambition and non-communist life style, the party would not suffer a crushing set back with number of directly elected members to the CA from 229 in 2008 to 80 in 2013 and 12 per cent fall in vote share. Comrade Bhattarai has to share the blame as he too was more engaged in factionalism more than waging inner-party ideological struggle from the beginning”, said a former member of CA, in a long conversation with IPA.

Dr Bharttarai, in an interview to Kathmandu Post in August, stated clearly that “there is nothing like a new mandate of the election. The basic principle of the new constitution is enshrined in the 12-point understanding, Comprehensive Peace Agreement, Interim Constitution and various agreements reached between the Madhesi, Janajati and other parties. That is the basis of the new constitution. The number of parties in the CA is secondary. Based on that, we are going to write the new constitution and the Madhesi parties have already agreed upon two states in the Madhes. So I don’t think there is going to be much debate on it. Even the Janajati and other social groups also are quite accommodating. The problem I see is with the old parliamentary parties, which still hold onto some hangover of the old unitary form of state.”

The new statute is based on  “five principles of identity: ethnic, geographic, cultural, linguistic and historical continuity. It will  also be based besides four principles of capacity economic inter-relationship, state of infrastructure and possibilities, availability of natural resources and administrative feasibility. Based on these principles, we are going to evolve a model of federal restructuring”, the CPDCC chairman clarified. When the CA entrusted Dr Bhattarai with the task of overseeing the preparation of draft constitution, he was reposed a confidence and was asked to use “his own judgment” on matters of differences that are not too entrenched. Widely respected for his ideological depth, way above top Nepali Maoist leaders like Prachanda and  Mohan Vaidya ( a pungent critic of Prachanda), Dr Bhttarai does not indulge in showbiz revolutionism such as pouring in anti-India venom, thanks to his academic grooming at the Jawaharlal Nehru University where he did his PhD. dissertation.   

Political scientists and sociologists, who look forward to deep-going democratic transformation look forward to the outcome in the battle of Nepali political parties for a constitution, which will permanently end feudal heritage that thrived on poverty and ethnic divide. There are well-thought provisions in the draft document. Among them are the protection of rights of each community and indigenous ethnic groups. “Each community shall have the right to protect, maintain and practice culture,” the document states. “However, it shall not be considered an obstacle if special legal provisions are made to control evil practices and the value system built around a cultural heritage.

Since that culture stands for the special identity of a society and the prestige of a community , each community has faith and trust in its culture.” And on the rights of indigenous ethnic groups, the script says, “The indigenous ethnic groups will have the right to their identity and a respectful access to natural resources on the basis of their dependence on such resources might to social security: Single women, the elderly, people with disabilities, physically impaired, helpless citizens and the tribes that face the threat of extinction shall have the right to social security according to the provisions made in law”. IPA

Sankar Ray

Sankar Ray

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