The resignation of Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai has been a hotly-debated issue of late. While those in the opposition have been demanding his resignation to create an environment of consensus for the formation of a national government, the ruling coalition partners have been adamant that his resignation would only come when there is consensus on federalism. This debate of whether the prime minister’s resignation or the consensus on federalism should come first has added to the difficulty of overcoming the current constitutional and political crisis.
The issue here is not whether the prime minister should resign. The discussions should rather center on addressing the all-important issue of federalism, which is now the crux of the problem. The parties had virtually hijacked the debate on federalism from the erstwhile CA by confining their discussions within closed doors. The parties are making the same mistake again by discussing among themselves whether consensus should predate the formation of a consensus government. We believe there should be a proper debate on federalism, as this is the most opportune moment to address the age-old grievances of minorities. The fact is that despite being a multi-cultural and multi-ethnic society, Nepali elites have traditionally defied the rules of equality, creating rifts on the basis of ethnicity, class, gender and geography. This age-old feudalistic nature of the society has to change and it should change now.
The first people’s movement in 1990 ended the stranglehold of the Panchayati system and opened up opportunities for political parties to establish a genuinely democratic system. But short-sighted leadership put paid to that hope, which ultimately led to the second people’s movement in 2006. This movement heralded a major change by overthrowing the autocratic monarchy. But now that the parties have failed to draft a new constitution, the debate on whether they are actually up to the task has once again started. The unceremonious dissolution of CA had dampened the spirits of the people who had voted for change, hoping the new constitution would usher in a system to uplift the living standards of the general people by protecting their basic rights and ensuring equal participation of all in nation-building. But it wasn’t meant to be.
Under these circumstances, it is up to the prime minister to chart the way by resigning without further ado. Such a move will create an environment for the formation of a consensus government, which would then work to overcome constitutional difficulties and clear the hurdles towards CA polls to get a fresh mandate. People are not in a mood to accept the reinstatement of dissolved CA. With the changed political scenario and with the voices from the marginalized groups coming out strong, the equation in the newly-elected CA is going to be different. The elections, on November 22 or at a later date, would give the people an opportunity to gauge the merit of each party’s federalism agenda. On the other hand, a hurried-through constitution, it is not hard to foresee, would not be acceptable to all