When it became almost certain that the new constitution would not be delivered on January 22 because consensus on disputes was nowhere to be seen and the ruling parties, commanding two-thirds majority, looked determined to take resort to legal process, voting, to pass the constitution, enraged opposition members took very little time to change CA into some kind of a hooligan-dominated play ground on the night of January 19. Chairs and mikes were broken by members of the opposition parties who even scuffled with marshals deployed there and hurled mikes and broken pieces of chairs at some leaders of the ruling parties. Although all CA members from the nineteen- party alliance effectively participated in the sloganeering to obstruct House proceedings, members belonging to UCPN Maoist were seen engaged in activities that required massive use of physical strength. A few days later, determined-looking CA Chairman declared creation of the proposal committee for questionnaire preparation on January 25 amidst loud protest by opposition lawmakers. Although the committee, without representation of the opposition parties, is said to have completed the assigned task, done by a subcommittee formed to do the job, observers are skeptical about positive outcome of the exercise as the opposition alliance led by Prachanda has decided not to attend the House proceedings. Likewise, the fourth largest party(RPP,Nepal)lawmakers walked out of the committee meeting protesting that their demand to include some issues such as secularism,monarchy,etc were not at all entertained by the committee. At one point, Prachanda even floated the idea of resigning in mass from CA.
Despite PM Koirala’s repeated assurance that the new constitution would be delivered on the promised date, people had begun to be apprehensive as the day drew closer but many of us had hoped that the situation would not deteriorate to this extent. Not even a much-hoped joint press conference was possible to assuage doubts and relieve the commoners of their growing anxiety. While the decision of Nembang and the ruling party leaders to proceed with the preparatory work for voting cannot be judged inappropriate at a time when differences looked increasingly irresolvable, the concerned will have to be careful to make sure that Prachanda does not feel being pushed into violent agitation with his back at the wall.
Indeed, the possibility of two elderly Maoists (Prachanda and Kiran) joining hands with more radical-sounding Biplab for agitation cannot be written off, although the question of leadership may not be easily resolved. It may be mentioned that Kiran has been repeatedly urging Prachanda to quit CA and his party has also officially decided to approach UCPN Maoist for unification. In the event of two senior leaders agreeing to forge an alliance with the younger leader for agitation, the movement will not take much time to spread through the length and breadth of Nepal inhabitated by Nepalese most of who live a life that is far from satisfactory. It is universally seen that areas with political instability, poverty and rampant corruption provide fertile fields for extremists to progress with their radical ideas.Boko Haram ,a radical group, has succeeded in controlling a sizeable chunk, about the size of Belgium, of oil-rich but highly corrupt Nigeria and radical Islamists-driven ISIS has under its control parts of instable Syria and Iraq, which is about the size and population of Jordan. It has also made headway in Libya which looks on the brink of collapse. Few examples cited here adequately show that extremism/radicalism flourishes in fragile areas with poverty, illiteracy and misrule/corruption. ISIS and BokoHaram may succeed in creating temporary disturbances even in prosperous and relatively peaceful areas of the world but such outfits and their activities do not last long in countries governed by good people whose main task is to create a peaceful and stable environment for people to make the best possible use of their skills and resources. People living in European and North American countries with very high level of education and per capita income do not easily buy radical thoughts and ideas unlike in poor Asian and African countries with high level of unemployment, illiteracy and poverty. When educated people are gainfully engaged in economic activities, they have no time for extremism of any type. In this context, difficult situation in debt-ridden Greece in EU needs to be cautiously handled by European leaders because people facing massive unemployment and sharp cut in government spending since long are likely to be vulnerable to radical thoughts. In Greece, Mr.Tsipras, who opposed both job and spending cuts, was elected prime minister in recent elections. He will have to be realistically compromising so that EU could continue with its support to stop the country from getting into a situation of political strife and economic chaos. It is in the best interest of both resourceful EU and Tsipras not to let the situation further deteriorate in Greece, which is geographically not far away from radical-infested Syria, Iraq and Libya.
In Nepal, it is time for leaders on either side of the fence to exercise maximum restraint so that the working environment improves, making it possible for leaders to sit around the table for discussion. Hurling of accusations such as the one between K. P. Oli and the alliance led by Prachanda should stop, boycotting CA meetings should not continue for long and the announced protest programme of the alliance should be short and very peaceful. Indeed, the ruling parties will have to be generous and flexible in getting the opposition back into the constitution making process as demanded by many including President Ram Baran Yadav.It is encouraging that the two major parties (NC and UML) are reported to be making genuine efforts to bring the Maoist-led opposition alliance to the negotiating table. In the mean while, Questionnaire Committee should show no signs of haste because the opposition alliance wants the entire exercise leading to the alleged unilateral preparation of the constitution to be stopped. If the situation so demands, there is no harm in stopping House business for some days because the object is to prepare an implementable new constitution with maximum participation of the opposition parties.Prachanda-led alliance has to understand that they are a small minority in CA and thus cannot afford to be too demanding in negotiations, while NC and UML,commanding overwhelming majority, should not forget that promulgation of the constitution per se is not enough because what matters most is the implementation of the law of the land, which is not possible without cooperation of the opposition. Situation is not yet hopeless in that UML has hinted at holding talks on stopping further work provided Maoist-led alliance comes to the table after halting its protest programme. PM Koirala has officially invited the agitating parties,as desired by NC and UML, for dialogue. The response from the opposition has been lukewarm. Hope his oft-repeated win-win and give-and-take formula has not turned obsolete and will help him this time around to make some positive headway. The failure to bring the constitution on the promised day cannot be solely blamed on him nor his continuity in power can be taken as lust for power in such a fluid situation, but people would definitely hold him answerable on issues related to governance, rising level of corruption, economic relief to the needy and the slow moving economy. His finance minister has definitely succeeded in garnering resources from both bilateral and multilateral sources but if the situation further deteriorates as apprehended the duo (Koirala and Mahat) will have no choice but to sit on mounds of unutilized resources for quite some time, waiting for the capital to fly elsewhere. Probably due to lack of investment climate, Rs.143 billion is lying idle with the central bank. efforts need to be made to bring to meaningful dialogue not only forces within CA but disgruntled elements outside of it also because what people expect from it is not a text book but an acceptable main law of the land. Therefore, in the present instable times, when even a small timer C K Raut, accused by many as a secessionist, deserves some hearing and accommodation, let alone major political players like Prachanda and his two former associates (Kiran and Biplab)who have the capacity to further complicate the already instable situation. Nobody wants confusion and chaos to last long in this land of Lord Pashupatinath and Gautam Buddha.