Saturday, July 05, 2014

Tightening The Tent Of Tentativeness

Now that a top leader of India’s ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party has publicly ruled out the return of the monarchy in Nepal, you would expect our political establishment to redouble its efforts to promulgate the overdue republican constitution.
Some leaders, to be sure, have been issuing remarkably upbeat prognoses on the process. Beneath the surface, however, you get a palpable sense that the stars still have not yet aligned properly.
Superficially, the issue of federalism continues to haunt our march towards New Nepal. Everyone knows that without addressing the expectations of inclusiveness the Maoists heightened – and the other parties jumped onto as a political ploy late in the day – the document is doomed. Yet no one seems to be able to find that formula for fullness that would also be in keeping with the principles of national and geopolitical viability.
While federalism has come to embody the quest for completeness, it only masks the other dimensions of our identity and institutional crises. In recent weeks, we have been rudely awakened to the appropriate role of the courts and the media in our emerging polity. International lessons abound when it comes to establishing a dignified relationship between the citizen and the state. The much-maligned air-and-water theory of adaptation still hovers over the national discourse.
Here’s the rub. A new constitution would set the parameters of our politics in ways that cannot be fully grasped today. Deep down, this uncertainty haunts every political party and player, major or minor. The people may be clamoring for finality, especially considering the repeated upheavals they have endured within a single generation. The political establishment cannot be ready for conclusiveness unless each constituent can be assured of its place and prospect.
Still, politicians feel obliged to assure us of their abiding commitment to fulfilling the mandate of Constituent Assembly II. And they are looking for novel ways of doing so. So much so that politicians whom you would not normally consider weirdoes end up making wild assertions.
Speaker Subhash Chandra Nembang said the other day that enacting the new constitution by January 22, 2015 would be the greatest tribute to late prime minister Girija Prasad Koirala. Nembang, in fairness, was addressing a program commemorating the 90th birth anniversary the Nepali Congress titan and thus had to be polite. But personalizing the vital undertaking as an act of homage to Girija babu? What happened to the martyrs? Or our collective wisdom as a nation?
Minister for Law, Justice, Constituent Assembly and Parliamentary Affairs Narhari Acharya, for his part, claimed that Nepal would witness political stability once the new constitution was promulgated. But political instability is not exactly our problem, is it? At least not compared to the 1990-2002 period of parliamentary democracy.
The political class has been remarkably subdued now when it comes to pursuing the proverbial warfare by other means. Perhaps this is because each party is mired in internal battles. Surely, Acharya could have been more convincing by conveying the urgency of completing a task long overdue at considerable public expense.
In order to comprehend the tentativeness of our political class, Maila Baje chose to re-read BJP leader Vijay Jolly’s remarks, which one English daily had headlined: “Monarchy won’t make a comeback: BJP leader”.
Professing respect for the Nepali people’s desire for change in 2006 – which he said he had personally witnessed in Kathmandu at the time – Jolly said the BJP had actually supported the removal of the monarchy. Yet when it came time to be categorical in our midst about the future, Jolly’s precise words were: “I don’t think monarchy will make a comeback in Nepal”.
How many provinces are we contemplating, again?