While listening to more than two hours of speech and argument from Maoist leaders Prachanda and prime minister Baburam Bhattarai, Nepali Congress leader Ram Chandra Poudel lost his patience. Poudel finally opened his mouth accusing Maoist leaders of their insensitivity towards constitution writing. Unlike other meetings of the past, the bilateral meeting between Nepali Congress and UCPN-Maoist held on Tuesday (May 15) at Prachanda’s residence turned tense.
“Baburamji and Prachandaji do not want to see the promulgation of the new constitution,” blamed NC leader Poudel. Maoist leader Prachanda and prime minister Baburam reacted by blaming Nepali Congress and CPN-UML leaders for the current political stalemate.
“You and your party are responsible for the crisis. You are conspiring against promulgation of new constitution,” thundered prime minister Bhattarai. “Don’t play with the regressive slogan. People will uproot your party.”
The meeting virtually turned into a war of words. Deputy prime minister and general secretary of Nepali Congress Krishna Prasad Sitaula intervened and pacified both the leaders. “Let’s go for business, this is not the time to resort to blame game,” Sitaula said.
Many see the frustration is natural as leaders of political parties have spent almost the whole of their time in bilateral and multilateral negotiations. However, they failed to come up with any compromise on the 117 disputed issues. From Constitutional Committee to Constituent Assembly, the differences continue to persist, particularly on the agenda of state restructuring, and the form of government and judiciary.
As differences continue to widen, Indian ambassador to Nepal Jayanta Prasad met the leaders of major political parties and reportedly urged them to abide by the five-point agreement signed two weeks ago.
Deal at last minute
One after another, leaders of Nepal’s four major political parties held a series of meetings over the last week to find a consensus on constitution drafting and finally they agreed on Tuesday to settle disputes in many issues.
The Constituent Assembly has resolved all issues except five in the past four years. “We have already almost resolved the issues related to judiciary, citizenship and electoral system, state restructuring and system of governance “, said General Secretary of the Nepali Congress Krishna Prasad Sitaula.
Leader of the Front Bijaya Kumar Gachchhadar also said, “First we will ask the three parties to agree on the federal model. Then we will register our reservations. But we will not be an obstacle in promulgating the constitution by May 27.”
A meeting of Dispute Resolution Sub-Committee entrusted the taskforce to put into writing the agreement. The taskforce comprises Radhe Shyam Adhikari and Ramesh Lekhak from the Nepali Congress, Barshaman Pun and Khim Lal Devkota from the UCPN(Maoist), Bhim Rawal and Agni Kharel from the CPN-UML and Kalpana Rana of Rastriya Prajatantra Party on behalf of various small parties represented in the Constituent Assembly (CA).
However, United Democratic Madhesi Front (UDMF) refused representation in the taskforce, expressing reservation over the Tuesday´s agreement. The taskforce has been entrusted to put into writing the agreement between the parties and questionnaire on 117 issues to be put to vote in the Constituent Assembly by 2 pm, Wednesday.
According to Article 70 of the Interim Constitution, the Constituent Assembly shall, in order to pass a bill relating to the constitution, vote on the preamble and each article of such bill introduced before it. Under this article, it will take at least a couple of weeks to pass a single article.
With a consensus decision, the government has already registered a bill for the amendment of article 70. However, the delay in summoning of the Legislature Parliament has made even the future of the bill uncertain.
Now the situation is that the constitution can be promulgated under a political announcement from the Legislature Parliament. Nepal’s restored parliament has made a similar political announcement in 2006 making many articles of the Constitution of Kingdom of Nepal 1990 redundant.