Sunday, December 07, 2014

Speak Up, Dear Leaders

By now, it is pretty much clear that if we do indeed get a new constitution by January 22, it will have been merely because of our political class’s fealty to its self-imposed deadline. The document will not be able to appease every constituency, address every grievance, and anticipate every impediment to future we all want.
Why let the perfect stand in the way of the good, right? Why indeed. But what after January 22? Will we have a mechanism in place to revisit constitutional issues, say, every ten years? If so the number and structure of states should not be too big of an issue. Maybe we can try either a presidential and prime ministerial system first and come back to change it if we don’t like it. But will mere pledges made today be enough to placate the disaffected, whose ranks are only bound to grow?
Then there’s the school of thought articulated most recently by Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Maoist Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal. What is so sacrosanct about January 22? After all, it was a deadline imposed by lawmakers, chastened by their failure to complete their job the first time around. Call it a case of entanglement by eagerness.
No, the sky didn’t fall when the last constituent assembly repeatedly missed its deadlines and eventually died on us. But, then, Dahal, too, needs to address a couple of things. Why is consensus being forced upon a political process that has, at its roots, multiparty competition? Wasn’t conformity and the other cousins of consensus supposed to be the hallmark of polities like the maligned partyless Panchayat system we had long ago cast aside?
The numbers game need not necessarily be bad if what the Nepali Congress, Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist-Leninist and others are intent on push through corresponds to their respective platforms during the election campaign. Shouldn’t elections have consequences?
But, more importantly, why does Dahal think the ruling parties are so averse to consensus. Forget the master-slave routine he is spouting at every turn and focus on the substance. If the insecurities of political parties revolving around state restructuring and mode of governance have become so entrenched, what is to say that those same fears won’t perpetuate a stranglehold on the new system? If the fate of districts like Jhapa and Kailali are so stuck on considerations related to the commingling of India’s state and international borders today, what else might go up in the air tomorrow?
But who are we kidding, right? Such questions became irrelevant about two years after the first constituent assembly was elected. After that, we bungled into a series of side deals to keep up the fiction that the 12-Point Accord was alive, primarily for the benefit of its sponsors.
Maybe our politicians should finally come clean and throw at us what resembles a constitution on January 22. Before we can catch the booklets to start burning or ripping them, our pols should scream at the top of their lungs: “As your elected representatives we tried our best to reconcile everything you’ve been asking for. This is what we’ve got, and we’re sick and tired. Now, take it or leave it, coz we’re going home.”  How newer could Nepal get?