The 22nd September issue of The Indian Express quotes a senior Nepali Kangress leader as saying: “It is a constitution born of a surrogate mother. The EU is happy with secularism, and India with a republican Nepal… The Nepalese people didn’t have much of a role in it.” What this means is that, given the surrogate pregnancy controversy underway currently in Nepal, three foreign zygotes were implanted into the womb of Nepali politics and the new 2015 constitution – republicanism, secularism and federalism – which is bereft of any Nepalipan but Nepalis are expected nurture and raise them.Furthermore, despite all claims to the contrary that this was finally – after six decades – a constitution made by the Nepali people, it turns out to have been made only by three Bahun oligarchs in a dark room and supinely agreed to by their party serfs (none of the oligarchs even bothered consulting their party central committees). Today the only good thing about it at all is that this political begging bowl since 1951 (maangikhanebhaando) of a legitimate constitution only being one made by a constituent assembly has now been consigned to the dustbin of history after this round of failed adventurism.
After big party politicians played around and wasted immense national resources for seven years, this constitution was ramrodded through in almost seven days, and from the perspective of Madheshiand Tharuleaders, at gunpoint. It was not done for any altruistic reasons but for UML’s Khadga Oli to be prime minister “in seven days”, and for the Nepali Kangress not to be illegal on of 22nd September (the interim constitution drafted by these very parties stipulated that parties hold their general assemblies within five years to qualify for legal registration extension with the election commission, and that would have expired for the Kangress on this autumn equinox if a changed stipulation could not be inserted into the new constitution). To cover up leadership incompetence (even folks who run small-time NGOs know when and how they should hold their general assemblies in time), an entire constitutional provision has been changed. How noble and statesman-like, these Loktantrick leaders of New Nepal!
The ramrodded new constitutionalso ignored the suggestion from the people in the hastily organized public consultations in mid-July, which to the consternation of the oligarchs turned out to be a sort of mini-referendum, and which asked for mainly three things. First, Nepal should be a Hindu state, that being an important part of its national identity where other religions too have enjoyed freedom to practice but not to malign others (there are two old mosques since centuries ago right next to Nepal’s royal palace and churches since the early 1950s: can one think of a Hindu temple as such in Riyadh or Rome?). Second, the CA should not be derelict in its duty of defining federal provinces and cannot hive off that task to a future commission. Third, to prevent musical chair, backroom-bargained and foreign-interfered prime ministers that we saw since the mid-1990s, Nepali voters should have the right to directly elect their chief executive.
The third demand has been totally ignored and we are back to a failed Westminster model minus the King, an institution that was above competitive party politics. Its absence will be felt even more acutely in the months ahead as parties try to elect as head of state a party hack as president that will enjoy no legitimacy despite dressing as a king and trying to do the king’s job at BhoteJatra. It is also a serious challenge to the credibility of the Cash Maoists since they started their ‘Peoples War’ in 1996 against this very parliamentary model which they said was ‘a butcher’s shop where a goat’s head was placed on display and sold dog’s meat’. Now, after sacrificing seventeen thousand Nepali lives and bombing countless buildings and infrastructure (all the while their leaders were living and educating their children in Delhi!), they are back to selling dog’s meat in such a butcher’s shop.
In trying to fool all the people all the time as is their wont, the oligarchs have met and not met the first demand for a Hindu state. It is much like a MaHasatire of the 1980s that depicted a lawyer writing the client’s age in a manner that could be interpreted as thirty two or twenty eight depending on which way the case needed to be argued. Nepal has been declared a ‘secular state’ but with the caveat that ‘secularism will be interpreted to mean the protection of age-old (sanaatan) religion and culture and freedom of religion and culture’. The silly oxymoron should be recognized as such if one is not to have to give a Nobel prize in linguistic jugglery to the folks who drafted this contradiction far superior to even the legendary Goebbels! For Vedantically inclined Hindus like me who are proud of being the inheritors of an unbroken five thousand years of philosophical tradition while rejecting completely its caste and untouchability that were much later accretions since the decline of the Lichhavis and Buddhism, this interpretation poses a serious problem. Going by the letter of the new law, I would now have to ‘protect the age-old culture of casteism and untouchability’ that I totally disagree with!
It is the second demand from the people of getting on with the job of defining the federal structure that has landed the oligarchs (and the rest of the country which currently burns through their irresponsible dilettantism) in a hot soup. Without any debate, let alone within the Constituent Assembly, not even within their own parties, the oligarchs played dice with numbers from five to fifteen, did a couple of pendulum swings from eight to six and then settled on seven with no logic whatsoever but only gerrymandering considerations of electoral constituencies belonging to the big party oligarchs. What has been delineated as seven provinces does not meet the goals of identity, capacity, history or national unity. It is a tinderbox of unending future conflicts. The people asked for decentralization of which the first priority is local self-government entities, for which no homework whatsoever has been done so far.
A serious issue of legitimacy has now emerged: backroom deals between oligarchs have already decided who is to be the next prime minister in the coming seven days, who the new speaker in twenty and who the president in thirty days – and it has been codified into the new constitution. Yes, New Nepal should have new leaders after a new constitution, but they should be decided anew by Nepalis through fresh elections, and not through opaque backroom deals. Why should the same old faces be foisted upon them in an unending game of musical chairs? If the prime minister, president and speaker of the parliament should change, why should the 601 members remain the same for the next four years? They are already what are popularly called ‘date expired’, since they were elected to make a new constitution and hold local elections within a year, which they failed to by almost a whole year. Thank you very much, now if you think you have done a good job, go back to face the people, tell them what you have done, and see if they approve and you get re-elected. Do a Greek Alexei Tsipras if you have the guts and political honesty!
As these lines are being written, strong displeasure has been voiced by the MughlaniSahu and scared oligarchs are desperately playing the nationalism card. Unfortunately, genuine nationalists are not buying it for a very simple reason. You have already rented your wombs out to the Mughlani and Euro Sahus since the 12-point Delhi Deal of November 2005: the disagreement now is only with the Sahus insisting that – since they paid you for it – all the triplets, including anti-Hill federalism be implanted in your womb but you are pleading to have only two, republicanism so that one of your own can be king and a slated-for-miscarriage secularism of questionable anatomy. You can’t have your cake and eat it too: the nightmares of Hitchcock’s psycho crows have come home to roost and you have to pay the price. The best option for you? Admit your mistakes since 2005 and retire from public life, leaving the space to younger and untainted leaders.