The central issue of federalism has, unsurprisingly, dominated recent deliberations on the new constitution. Some reports suggest major political forces are closing in on a federal model resembling the one agreed on May 15, 2012 among Nepali Congress, CPN-UML, UCPN (Maoist) and Madheshi parties. This model had 11 federal provinces, with naming and final boundaries left to future national and provincial assemblies. But as desirable as just about any kind of consensual agreement on federalism is, coming to one won’t be so easy. The leaders affiliated to the seven-party Federal Republican Alliance (FDA) led by UCPN (Maoist) are already threatening to take to the streets if ‘identity-based federalism’ is not ensured in the new constitution. Although these forces are much diminished in size after CA II polls, it would be a mistake to dismiss their recent activism as bluster. Many of their demands are genuine and should be addressed by big parties if we are to have a constitution acceptable to a broad constituency.
For the bourgeoisie, revisionism is an inescapable part of life. Revision merely implies that long-established facts or opinions have to be reconsidered in the light of fresh evidences, powerful arguments or revealing insights. Revisionism, however, is replete with derogatory overtones in Marxist discourse. The word is considered to be the container of evolutionary ideas, which in turn is derided as antithetical to revolutionary spirit.
Contrary to the image of being the main Maoist ideologue, former Premier Baburam Bhattarai owes his rise in bourgeois politics to review, reconsideration and revision of public position. Perhaps that could be the reason he has been propped up as the Chairperson of the Political Dialogue and Consensus Committee of the Constituent Assembly (CA II). Everyone knows that political consensus is a mirage in any conflict-afflicted society. Dialogue, however, is the process of exploring all possible avenues of compromise.
In late July, the Legislature Parliament had decided to take the controversial contempt of court bill to public discussions putting on hold the fear that the government was seeking to constrict free expression. Almost three weeks after, there has been no visible initiative to get the consultations started, but what has happened is that the bill has been published in the Rajpatra (Nepal Gazette) and is not open for discussion.
‘Restrictive’ would be too mild a word to describe the bill that had reached Parliament in June. The contents, as they are, give judges unrestricted power to slap contempt charges and fine and even imprison those found guilty not just for obstructing justice—by disturbing court proceedings or not following up on orders—but also for anything that judges could decide as ‘slandering the court’.
Global politics is witnessing great changes. The euphoria of ‘war against terror’ has dissipated with the weak government of Barack Obama in the United States. The result has been the slow but steady decline of American credibility and influence in the world. It also led to the inevitable rise of China. The country once isolated by Americans has become the insurer of American economic and political breathing space. Wherever Americans utilize their arms and ammunitions and newfound ideas, China is just behind to rebuild and secure the place for investment.
The biggest culprit here is the development of information technology, which has blanketed the globe. Nothing remains a secret in global and domestic affairs. People get information in minutes. In this situation what matters the most is the word of mouth, which does not have any value, as nobody keeps it in 21st century.
The never-ending drama of nomination for the 26 vacant Constituent Assembly seats has, frankly, morphed into a farce. Seven full months after the first sitting of CA II, the government on Friday nominated 17 names—eight each from Nepali Congress and CPN-UML and one from RPP-Nepal. The remaining nine seats allocated to the main opposition UCPN (Maoist) and other smaller forces will remain vacant for time being as they have refused to submit their candidate lists. They are protesting ‘unfair allocation’ of seats and the government’s ‘unilateral’ decision to go ahead with the nominations despite their strong reservations. Meanwhile, it is now certain that the CA’s most important Constitutional Political Dialogue and Consensus Committee (CDPCC) will miss the September 6 deadline to settle all outstanding disputes on vital constitutional issues. This prevailing trust deficit among our political parties with just five months to go to the constitutional deadline is extremely troubling.
The 17 nominations also leave a lot to be desired. The 26 seats were meant to be filled by prominent persons who have made outstanding contribution to national life and members of the indigenous communities. The Supreme Court had earlier this year instructed political parties not to decide the names based on purely political calculations. But that is exactly what has happened. Among the 17 nominees are wives, brothers and close confidantes of influential party leaders. Perhaps most egregiously RPP-Nepal Chairman Kamal Thapa has picked his younger brother Ganesh as the party’s sole representative among the 26 nominees. What makes this nomination particularly troublesome though is that Ganesh Thapa, the chief of All Nepal Football Association (ANFA), is currently under the investigation of the Legislature-Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee for corruption. This means that Thapa Jr will be a part of the same body which is also investigating him!