In fairness, the process, albeit delayed, was remarkably robust. Ultimately, the draft experts submitted to the elected assembly was amended after fairly forceful, if at times flashy, public input. That text was then voted upon article by article. And when the final version of the document was put before the assembly, it commanded more than two-thirds support.
If not allowing the perfect stand in the way of the practicable is the operative standard, let’s us all breathe in relief: better late than never. But, then, there’s that pesky little thing called politics. With an entire region of the country, comprising half the population, having rejected the basic law, promises of prompt amendments appear unlikely to mollify that constituency.
What difference might a couple of days’ delay in promulgating the charter have made in terms of its legitimacy? Then, again, what guarantee was there that last-minute talks with the disparate and divided Terai-Madhes-based groups would have borne fruit, right? And let’s not forget that, from the extreme fringes of the ideological spectrum, the document ways always going to have been pronounced dead on arrival.
Much has been made of India’s apparent displeasure with the process as well as the product. Nepali leaders rebuffed New Delhi’s last-minute intervention and kept to their schedule. However, they, too, probably aren’t in a celebratory mood for having done that. When the ideologically distinct Indian media uniformly begin to lament how Nepali leaders spurned New Delhi, you can guess that the story is still being scripted.
The Indian government didn’t sound too happy in its official response to the promulgation. Because of that perceived frostiness, no one knows what New Delhi’s next move might be. The Terai might suddenly go quiet, trying to make the best of the situation now and regroup for the next round. On the other hand, things might flare up to an extent almost justifying India’s expressed anxieties. The Chinese, of course, could afford to be happier about the outcome because it’s not their porch that’s smoldering. The responses of the other different external stakeholders have been consistent with their stated positions.
As has been long stressed in this space, there was no alternative to promulgating the constitution, Great Earthquake or not. There’s no doubt the process begun in 2006 was flawed, more so because of the subsequent slapdash compromises than because of the original spirit of the “People’s Movement II”. Much time and money was spent on keeping alive the idea of “New Nepal”. No matter how nebulous, it assumed a life of its own and needed a body.
Critics like yours truly will continue to point out that out, but not wearing some sinister see-I-told-you-so smirk. The drivers of the promised change are in full control. They can no longer blame the palace for subverting a people’s quest for full sovereignty. The first rule of thumb is that an empowered people will have greater expectations from their leaders.
Most astrologers said the time the constitution was promulgated was not propitious. A secular state may need not pay heed to such antiquated analysis. Yet the essential question remains: Can we prove the astrologers wrong?