We wholeheartedly agree with the demand of Nepali Congress district presidents—expressed during their recent conclave at Bahrabise, Sindhupalchowk—that the party’s central committee must pick its prime ministerial candidate without further ado in order to put pressure on PM Baburam Bhattarai to step aside. This is important to give the much-needed impetus to the long-stalled political and constitutional process. But we have deep reservations about aspects of the 14-point declaration issued at the end of the two-day gathering. For instance, it calls for fresh elections to a 240-member parliament with a mandate to draft a new constitution, which the declaration deems is “the best possible way to resolve the current political deadlock.” The proposed parliament will apparently draft a new constitution within a year and function purely as a legislature for the next four years. Hedging its bet, the conclave didn’t rule out revival of the dissolved CA either. Both options are problematic.
What the country needs the most at this critical juncture is a constitution of the new federal democratic republic of Nepal, and this has to be done through a proper Constituent Assembly. Only a constitution promulgated through a CA will have broad legitimacy and be in tune with the aspiration of Nepali people for the last 60 years. Thus, instead of electing a parliament which can also function as a constitution-drafting body (as recommended by the recent NC conclave), we believe a far better option is electing a CA proper, which, after a fixed period (say a year) can continue to function as a regular parliament until the next general election.
It will also be unwise to go for parliamentary polls when the make-up of the old electoral constituencies is itself contested. Parliamentary polls held without restructuring old constituencies will not be acceptable to the vast majority which fears old elites are looking to prolong their stranglehold over state machinery by sidelining their demands. In other words, such polls will not be in keeping with the inclusive agenda. The new CA should be much smaller (ideally around 200-250) as compared to its behemoth 601-member predecessor; the new CA can build on the agreements reached by the first CA. Separately, we believe a reinstated CA (whose deadline was repeatedly extended on questionable legal grounds) won’t have the same legitimacy that a CA established on the back of a fresh mandate will.
As the Election Commission has ruled out elections on Nov. 22, the government has no option but to garner broad political consensus for another electoral exercise. Given the current political dynamics, that looks unlikely without the resignation of the current government. It will be disingenuous of PM Bhattarai to continue to hold on to his post when he has failed on virtually all his promises, most crucially on delivering a constitution by the May-end deadline, and at a time when there is no other legal option (save political consensus) to take the country out of the current constitutional crisis. As things stand, only a constitution promulgated by a newly elected CA can do the job