Nepali politics : Are we stuck in another quagmire?

Nepalis have eagerly been waiting for the formation of a new government,

which would hopefully give the nation a direction. The new government should

have been formed by now as the major parties have already reached an agreement on the process of electing the president and the modalities to form the new government. Unfortunately, the Tarai-based parties’ precondition that the agreement reached between the then Koirala-led government and them be included in the Interim Constitution (CA) has obstructed the conduct of the Constituent Assembly meetings. Furthermore, they have also threatened to bring the entire nation to a grinding halt if their demands are not met within a fixed time-frame.

We can all fully sympathise with the many genuine demands of the Tarai people which, inter alia, include the recognition of their cultural identity and language, their effective participation in national decision making process, employment in government offices on the basis of proportional representation and the recruitment of Tarai youth in the Nepal

Army on a quota basis. However, their current demand for the declaration of the entire Tarai covering Mechi to Mahakali as a single autonomous Madhes province and the recruitment of Tarai youth en masse in the army needs serious deliberation and should not be acceded to in haste as a matter of political expediency.

The three major political parties — CPM-Maoist, CPN-UML and the Nepali Congress (NC) — have not acceded to these two demands yet. Furthermore, two Tarai based political groups — the Chure Bhavar group and the Tharu group spearheaded by Tharus of western Nepal — bitterly oppose declaration of the entire Tarai belt as a single autonomous province. The genesis of the present stalemate can also be traced to the Koirala-led government’s fixation of holding the CA election at any cost, even as it had virtually lost its credibility. Towards this end, it had stooped to appease the Maoists and all other political and other organised outfits that could flex their muscles and threaten with dire consequences if their demands were not met.

Under duress, as it were, the outgoing government made numerous agreements with many outfits meeting their political and other demands in haste without even seriously examining the consequences. In a democracy, national policies are formulated by the people’s representatives either through consensus or through the verdict of the majority. In our case also, any amendment to the Interim Constitution (IC) would require a two-thirds majority. Why is this simple legal procedure not appreciated by the belligerent parties who are themselves members of the CA?

It is not clear what exactly the outgoing government agreed with the Madhesi parties, but any agreement needed to be included in the IC certainly would need to be ratified by the CA. If the three major parties are not even considering the tabling of the pertinent clauses of this

particular agreement for amendment or adoption, this would be unfortunate and myopic. Having the clauses discussed for approval does not necessarily guarantee its passage and this needs to be fully appreciated by those putting up the demands. If this modus operandi were accepted by all concerned, we could move ahead without the nation having to come to a grinding halt.

The nation is yearning for a durable peace and to ride on a fast development track in order to catch up with the monumental national losses brought by years of conflict. The nation’s energy must now be devoted to social and economic development and not get stuck on issues that are in the realm of the CA and not within the scope of either the outgoing or the incoming government. In an ever increasing interdependent and globalised world, national boundaries are fast disappearing with the formation of unions of nations and the development of common markets in order to improve people’s living standards.

In this context, the demand for a single Tarai autonomous province could be counter-productive since this demand does not seem to have the backing of the majority of the people in the Tarai. Furthermore compliance with this demand could motivate other groups to make similar demands, thus catapulting the eventual disintegration of our nation.

As the IC has already enshrined the concept of multiple autonomous states within a federal democratic Republic, we should be focused on accomplishing this challenging and rewarding task. With this in mind, it is sincerely hoped that all our leaders will soon arrive at consensus to overcome the present crisis and work together in formulating a road map that could extricate us from the present quagmire and lead the nation towards peace, prosperity and national well-being .

Thapa is Mahasamiti member, NC