The country’s major political forces are fighting over whether to seek consensus or press ahead withthe provision of two thirdsvote at the Constituent Assembly to promulgate the new constitution. In that backdrop, moves appear afoot to create new factions and find allies with the strength to create a new political balance.
Although the process of creating a new force within Nepali Congress is still in the initial stage,new voices are already surfacing. Within Nepali Congress, former minister Khum Bahadur Khadka is leading a pro-Hindu group,threatening the leadership that they will oppose any constitution which does not declare Nepal as a Hindu State. Khadka reportedly has the backing of over 20 CA members.
Similarly, Madheshis and Janjatis too have already threatened the leadership that they will revolt in the Constituent Assembly in case the new constitution goes against the interest of Madhesh and Janjatis.
The new unity efforts of RPP and RPP-Nepal will have major implications in voting. If RPP unites with RPP-Nepal, RPP will be unlikely to vote for a secular constitution. These new political moveshave indicated that the ruling parties will see weakening of their two thirds majority chances.
Looking at the mood of political forces, CA chairman Subas Chandra Nembang withheld the meeting of CA for another week. The entire political scenario indicates that promulgation of new constitution by May 29 is unlikely.
“Madeheshis within Nepali Congress will not vote in the CA in case the proposal made by our parties does not protect the interest of Madhesh and Madheshis,” said Amrish Kumar Singh. “Since there is no provision of whip in CA like in legislature parliament, we will vote as per our conscience.”
Singh’s indication is that the present numerical strength, the magic two thirds, can erode at any time and turn into a damp squib.
At a time when Madheshis are making efforts to unite for their cause, a group of Janjati members are reportedly in a process to form an informal Janjati Caucus.
“We will not vote in a constitution which is against the spirit of inclusion. As our leaders are undermining the cause of Janjatis in the process of constitution writing, we are in the process to informally revive caucus in case political leaders propose the new constitution without recognizing the identity of Janjatis,” said CPN-UML members nominated under proportional representation.
Along with the threat from Madheshi and Janjati leaders, there is no immediate sign to end the current political stalemate between the ruling and opposition as both the factions are defending their own stand. With the announcement of three days’ general strike, onApril 7, 8 and 9, UCPN-Maoist and allies have shown that they can go to any extent to press the ruling parties to budge.
“Untilthe ruling parties give up their insistence on passing the constitution by a two thirdsmajority, start any negotiation has no meaning. If the ruling parties agree to maintain the status quo, as was before January 22, then only, we can withdraw our protests and return to Constituent Assembly,” said Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda. “Since Constituent Assembly is our agenda, they cannot ignore us and they cannot undermine us.”
Deputy prime minister and CPN-UML leader Bam Dev Gautam said,“Since people have given us clear two thirdsof majority, we cannot wait for the opposition till eternity in the name of consensus. The ruling alliance wants to promulgate the constitution through consensus but we will follow the constitutional provision and bring the new constitution on the basis of two thirdsmajority.
Amidst the political crisis, the new scenario emerging in the name of religion, ethnicity and region will further complicate the situation. Even Indian Foreign Secretary SubrahmanyamJaishankar, during his visit, stressedthe need of “a broader understanding” to settle the constitutional issue in Nepal.
As various new forces emerge, the future will not only depend on the political parties of Nepal but also on regional forces, religious groups and ethnic minorities. Even the crackedsurface within UCPN-Maoist led alliance of thirty parties on the agenda of regional question indicates that the Nepal’s coming political scenario will be more complex.
These scenarios will push the constitution writing process into further uncertainty. Meanwhile, Nepal’s development and economic prosperity will suffer in the days to come.