Sunday, November 30, 2008

Koirala’s Constitution Con(tra)vention

The Nepali Congress, party president Girija Prasad Koirala says, would be compelled to float its own constitution if the Maoists continue impeding the process of drafting the new one through the constituent assembly.
Ostensibly, this is Koirala’s latest response to the Maoists’ intimation that they would proceed with the integration and management of armies with or without the Nepali Congress on board. Koirala’s acquiescence here seems unlikelier with each new condition he sets. First, he complained he never got a real invitation to join the Army Integration Special Committee. Then he said the national army had no place for politically indoctrinated people. Now he insists the Young Communist League be dissolved before any integration process could begin.
From Koirala’s intensifying stridency, one wonders how open-ended his payback time might just be. The Maoists did heap untold indignities on him from the outset of the peace process. After coming out of the shadows, Maoist supremo Prachanda kept ratcheting up pressure for concession after concession to the point where Koirala had to don an oxygen mask with cylinder in tow.
Forest Minister Matrika Yadav, obviously egged on by Prachanda, got increasingly personal in his acts of insubordination. For several weeks at one point, Koirala seemed to have no clue whether the Maoists were in or out of the government. Since the party’s ministers had forwarded their joint resignations to Prachanda, the ex-rebel in chief became even more ambiguous on their exact status – and improved his bargaining position.
Embittered, the Nepali Congress president has today gone to the point of repudiating key deals that underpin the peace process. From U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to Indian External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, Koirala has wasted few opportunities with visiting dignitaries to internationalize the Maoists’ mendacity. Whether it ever occurred to the Nepali Congress chief that his complaints also betray his own failure as the interim head of state and government is moot. (It was his job, after all, to straighten out the Maoists, wasn’t it?)
The Maoists seem to be shrugging off Koirala’s tirades. Why wouldn’t they, since he keeps on claiming the Nepali Congress single-handedly brought about the end of the monarchy? Surely, the Unified Marxist-Leninists have something to say on the matter, but they are too busy conducting themselves as ruling-alliance partners as well as members of the opposition.
If the Nepali Congress were to act on its latest threat, it would not be as outrageous as it might sound. Remember the mock sessions of parliament Koirala presided over during the first phase of the royal regime? Some of the participants themselves privately used to make fun of the proceedings. Yet the resolutions ended up underpinning the “historic” proclamation of the reinstated House of Representatives that, among other things, suspended the monarchy and secularized the nation.
Given the right circumstances, a Nepali Congress-drafted constitution could even go on to win international legitimacy – or at least the calm support of most of the countries that matter in Nepal. Kerensky, in this instance, would stand a chance of trumping Lenin who, in turn, would be scurrying for cover in the constituent assembly. But there’s a catch. Foreign-drafted versions of the constitution, we have long been told, are floating all over the place.