Virtual reality

The Interim Legislature-Parliament (ILP), despite its awkward-sounding name, has been the most powerful legislature in Nepal’s history, and it has passed the most far-reaching of bills and resolutions. On Sunday, the Prime Minister prorogued its first session, breaking with the past practice of the King doing so. The budget session is to commence in two weeks. The prorogation, in the words of Speaker Subas Nembang, was necessary for the MPs to visit the districts to spread the message of the CA elections. Recently, the parliament amended the Interim Constitution (IC) to empower itself to abolish the kingship should the King be found conspiring against the CA polls. The first amendment included the guarantee of a post-CA federal structure in state restructuring. The 154-day-long session, disrupted for 45 days mostly by the Madhesi MPs of various parties, as also by the Maoists, was felt by many to have left much to be desired in the quality of conduct and presentation of the MPs and also been marked by the habitual indifference of the government.

Perhaps it may not be realistic to expect a sudden change in the habits and culture of the MPs. However, it was a matter of serious concern for parliamentary practice that the Madhesi MPs, except those belonging to the CPN-Maoist, continued to disrupt the House in defiance of party whip and their party leaderships seemed powerless to enforce discipline. But the ultimate judgement on the ILP should be based on whether, during its relatively brief interim life, it succeeds in carrying out the mandate of Jana Andolan 2, the showpiece of which is the successful holding of the CA polls, with which it will take its leave. The ILP is certainly not a continuation of the same parliament brought back to life by King Gyanendra. The 1990 statute, along with the parliament and government formed under it, ceases to exist.

The present legislature has come under much fire for being a “helpless shadow” of the eight-party alliance (EPA). That is true. But even the elected MPs in the past hardly took an independent line, except in extreme cases of internal party squabbles, as exemplified in the split vote of the CPN-UML during the ratification of the Mahakali treaty and the role of the anti-Koirala MPs in defeating the Koirala government’s annual policy and programme — both in the 1990s. The present parliament would lose its relevance without the eight parties, which spearheaded the historic Jana Andolan. The arrangement for an interim legislature could well have been dispensed with, the way it was after the 1990 people’s movement. It now exists just for the sake of convenience. The people gave their mandate to the eight parties, not to the individual MPs, who were handpicked by their parties. Of course, when the CA and then the parliament is elected, the political parties might sit together and give the MPs some freedom to follow their conscience rather than require them always to toe the party line in voting in the House. Until the CA polls, there is virtually no point in the argument.