The smaller parties in the Constituent Assembly (CA) and a number of their members have started speaking out against the ‘authoritarianism’ of the three big political parties. They have demanded an end to the practice of deciding things in Baluwatar and then having the CA rubberstamp them. They have also accused the Big Three of eroding the dignity of the elected assembly. Indeed, given the way the CA meetings have so far been conducted, there is cause for concern. The first CA meeting was delayed by more than ten hours. The second was also delayed, and met only briefly. The third meeting, for lack of business, had to be postponed to June 18 (yesterday), which, again for the same reason, has been deferred indefinitely - though the parliamentary meeting is scheduled for Friday. The three parties could not agree on the distribution of power. This has conveyed the impression to many that the CA, for which the people fought hard for nearly six decades, has been reduced to a state of insignificance.

The political parties could have sorted out their disagreements without seeming to weaken the importance of this people’s body. And here, they must take responsibility. But the dissatisfied parties and members should also bear in mind that they cannot just escape their duty by heaping the blame on the three parties. They must look a little deeper sincerely to find why the CA is receiving rough treatment. More than two months after the election to the CA and three weeks after its first meeting, the legislature is still living with a government not elected by it — a situation unthinkable in any parliamentary democracy. The voters can rightly ask the smaller parties and all the CA members why they are failing to assert their sovereign right to elect a Prime Minister and a President immediately and why they are recognising somebody not elected by the CA as head of state or government. In this respect, the smaller parties, their leaders, and the CA members have also a lot to answer for. The mere sense of outrage — as expressed in the CA yesterday — does not hold much meaning.

Most of the smaller parties and their leaders are also guided by narrow interests, so they have been unable to take up the most important issues with the courage of conviction. Should anybody’s conditions be allowed to make a prisoner of the CA? Every political party (and every member thereof) should carve out a role for itself. The life of this CA is two years, and during this period, there will arise many occasions on which the smaller parties and their CA members may lament their marginalisation. In the legislature, numbers do count, and the people have chosen some parties to play big roles, and others smaller ones. But the quality of the members, the strength of the ideas put forward by them and the way they do it, and, very importantly, their moral force, will also considerably determine the level of any party’s place in the CA. Be aggressive in the right causes, or do not curse the three parties alone, and your fate. Smaller parties might even think of forging alliances — to maintain the dignity and authority of the sovereign elected body.