Elusive Consensus

Prime Minister’s recent observation that he will not quit his position without promulgating the constitution has been misconstrued by some, including some prominent leaders, to suggest that the statement was nothing but a clear indication that Koiral

Nov. 7, 2014, 5:45 p.m. Published in Magazine Issue: Vol: 08 No. -10 November. 7- 2014 (Kartik 21, 2071)

Several extensions provided to the Constitutional-Political Dialogue and Consensus Committee(CPDCC) were wasted by the three major political parties in that they failed to forge consensus on  the vital issues that remained unresolved in the erstwhile CA and are likely to remain unresolved if voting is not taken resort to. It is said that leaders have reached some kind of tacit understanding on the system of governance, electoral system and judiciary but the ruling parties and the principal opposition parties are still sticking to their old positions on the vital issue of state restructuring: names and number of states to be formed are the two subjects that leaders have failed to reach agreement on. While NC and UML are for the creation of up to seven states, Unified Maoist leaders want at least ten states to be created along ethnic lines. Despite decision of leaders to continue discussion even after the expiry of the latest deadline on Sunday, November 2, no positive results were obtained. Expectedly, NC and UML, the two coalition partners, have formally registered their proposal on all the contested issues. The proposal with the backing of 404 members, enough to endorse the new constitution, wants Nepal to federate into seven provinces, currently named on the basis of their geographic location, but with a provision to allow the State Assemblies to decide on names and headquarters later. They have also made their position clear on the system of governance and other issues. Rift between the ruling and the opposition parties is seemingly on the rise. Chair of CPDCC,Bhattari, has postponed the committee’s meeting. He may have done it with good intentions but he should not forget that it is done without consulting the concerned and neutrality is expected of him as far as further work on proposal submitted by NC and UML is concerned.

Power sharing concern of some leaders is said to have created this unpleasant situation, often derailing dialogue and progress on constitution preparation. Ideally, leaders should have put their heart and soul into constitution writing and should not have shown serious concern now for power sharing  because it is crystal clear that those occupying top posts now will have to vacate their positions after the new constitution is  promulgated.Unfortunately,this does not seem to be the case as some leaders in the opposition are reported to be impatient about grabbing power at the earliest while some, showing some patience, are trying to seek assurances about power sharing in the changed context after January 22. Sadly,lust for power is reported to be a major factor impeding consensus  on major issues. Prime Minister’s recent observation that he will not quit his position without promulgating the constitution has been misconstrued by some, including some prominent leaders, to suggest that the statement was nothing but a clear indication that Koirala intends to extend his tenure as head of the government. Commoners, however, understand PM’s seriousness about the constitution and are not at all prepared to believe that he intends to hang on to power unnecessarily. Many people also strongly feel that gross injustice will be done to the country and its people if he quietly sneaks out of office, to show his selflessness, without giving the much-awaited constitution. Since it is the collective responsibility of political parties, mainly top leaders of major parties, to give Nepal a new constitution, credit or discredit emanating from their deeds should be collectively shared.

Feuding leaders of our country may kindly remember that Libyans revolted against Kaddafi and physically liquidated him to have democracy; prosperity for better life, peace and stability but the ever escalating violence there is frustrating people because what they aspired for is nowhere to be seen and felt. Aspirations of Libyans for better life and stability could be a distant dream if the alarming violence there does not end soon.Likewise, Iraq as a country is being destroyed because the extreme instability there shows that the nation once ruled by Saddam seems to be disintegrating into religious and ethnic states.Saddam and Kaddafi were both tyrants and had nothing to do with democracy but the fact to be noted is that under them the two nations were not burning so much then as they are today. Because the situation and condition of these countries deteriorated alarmingly over time, even the most hated dictators are remembered by the suffering people there who could also be thinking occasionally that their countries would probably not be on the verge of extinction had the two been alive and in power.Nepalese,irrespective of their location, are nationalist and do not want  propogation of ethnicity and regionalism to the extent that it creates serious divisions amongst regions and different ethnic groups. People’s dislike for this has been clearly expressed in the latest CA election in which parties talking much about regionalism, often ignoring national interests, and ethnicity got severe electoral thrashing.

Leaders of political parties have to make sure that the proposal registered at CPDCC by NC and UML does not lead to serious polarization between the ruling and opposition parties which have already opposed the proposal and accused the ruling parties of backtracking , ignoring the spirit of all the agreements agreed upon in the past. In the current stagnating situation, NC and UML cannot be blamed and accused much if their proposal, as reported by some, could be the basis for either forging consensus or paving way for voting for the settlement. In fact, people agreed with and supported assertions of some leaders such as Oli,Nepal and Gautam of UML that CA will not be held hostage to indecision for long even if parties fail to forge consensus on disputed issues.Indeed,people want unresolved issues to be either settled on the floor of the House through majority vote or put them to referendum at the earliest. Issues to be tested, however, could be more than the currently disputed ones because number of people demanding testing of secularism and monarchy in a referendum is also on the rise. Whichever course of action our leaders decide to harp on to resolve political issues, it has to be done soon and under no circumstance can the ailing economy showing alarming signs be ignored any more. There is no harm in repeating numerous times the fact that Nepal, known all over the world as an agricultural country, is importing rice as well as other agricultural products approximating 18 percent of country’s total annual import. Huge trade gap, current account deficit and negative balance of payment are some of the worrying aspects of our economy. Economies do confront problems occasionally and need corrective actions for their resolution. For example, US and UK economies are showing signs of good recovery after experiencing slackness for a long period of time. However, the euro zone, second biggest economic area of the world, looks vulnerable to deflation, which may not let the two economies grow satisfactorily for long. World leaders are monitoring the global economic situation, which does not look good, to at least insulate their economies from adverse conditions outside. It is high time that we resolved our political disputes soon and start paying proper attention to the worsening economy.NC and UML should still be very open to dialogue on the number and names of provinces, despite garnering support of more than four hundred members, and it is advised that Prachanda stops roaring on the strength of the loosely knitted 22-party alliance that can fall apart anytime.

Dr. Tilak Rawal

Dr. Tilak Rawal

Dr. Rawal is former governor of NRB.

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