A day after the government decided to seek fresh mandate to draft a constitution, the country celebrated the Republic Day on Monday. But with the term of the Constituent Assembly expiring without giving people a new constitution, people are visibly frustrated. They are frustrated that the political parties failed to meet their aspirations, which has raised doubts over Nepal becoming a federal republican state in a true sense. The level of frustration is understandable given the political vacuum created by the unfortunate dissolution of the Constituent Assembly and announcement of fresh elections. But there was also no other way out after the parties failed to find consensus on the all-important issue of federalism and its modalities which is important to start the process of dismantling the age-old discriminating society and providing equal opportunities to the marginalized communities.
With the earlier SC verdict, the stay order and Sunday night’s CA dissolution and announcement of fresh election, people have been deprived of their right to formulate their own constitution. The encroachment of SC on the supremacy of the parliament had raised doubts about the independence of the judiciary which has been running on pretty much the same mode it has been following for decades. It is quite surprising to see democratic forces like Nepali Congress and CPN-UML agreeing to and welcoming the dissolution of the CA elected by the people. Many people are now asking questions on social media pages whether the Supreme Court or the parties who favoured dissolution of the CA would take responsibility for the political vacuum that has arisen. But knowing the parties’ working style and their narrow mindset, we doubt anyone will come forward and take responsibility and answer the hard questions.
The issue, however, is not about when and how the constitution should be formulated but what should be included in it. When the “People’s War” ended following the 12-point understanding between the then Seven-Party Alliance and the warring CPN (Maoist), people heaved a huge sigh of relief as the decade-long conflict had caused immense suffering in the country. Thousands of people were killed and the country´s development brought to a grinding halt. One positive outcome, however, was the strengthening of the debate on the grievances of the minorities who had been deprived of their rights and discriminated for a long time. Along with the debate, the demands from many minority groups increased as every community started to assert its rights and seek equal share in all state affairs.
The nation at present is on the verge of a societal chane, a change that is expected to transform the country. It is not an easy task. But we need to start now to address the grievances of the marginalized communities and create an all-inclusive society where all the people--irrespective of their castes/ethnicity, religion, region and gender--get equal opportunities. And all this would be possible only through the drafting of a new constitution through a democratic process. Seeking a fresh mandate is a way towards that end. But, for this too, there should a consensus among the parties to move forward. Thus, the current need is to put pressure on the political parties to pull up their socks, start thinking positively and work together finding a consensus.
For this, Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai, who has now lost his legitimacy in the absence of an elected parliament, needs to resign from his position. For their part, the parties need to get themselves busy in the homework for the formation of a consensus government to hold the election for another Constituent Assembly. If the parties fail to overcome their differences and fall short of addressing the all-important issue of federalism, the situation could lead the nation into further turmoil, a situation which should be avoided at all costs