The State has already spent billions of rupees for the Constituent Assembly (CA) which has two important tasks to accomplish – end the peace process and draft new constitution of the Federal Republic Nepal. Although the tenure of the CA has been extended for four times, it is not sure that whether the most awaited constitution will be drafted before May 27. Even if it is drafted within that deadline, the present political chaos indicates that the new constitution may not be able to lead the state toward stability (though it may be too early to predict). There are some critical issues three decisive major political parties and Madheshi front have to bear in mind at this critical juncture.
First and the most important issue is they have to realize that they are not representative of all the people. How can we believe that leaderships, who cannot even represent their party, are able to represent people and the whole nation? Why do meetings among political parties are always inconclusive? It has been apparent that political parties seem to be ideologically fragile. They seem to be diffident about what they think and say about the future of the federal republic Nepal. On the one hand, they are not able to develop consensus in their own parties and on the other hand, they think that whatever they agree is acceptable for the people. This kind of misconception is major set back for the delay and likely failure of the CA.
We clearly see that political parties lack both critical studies on nation building and negotiation skills. Especially the leaderships of three major parties seem to ignore the existence of the CA and its members. From a layman perspective, although negotiation and consensus among parties are required, it is not good to make the CA non-functional. Every contentious issue should be discussed in the CA that would help parties reach logical conclusions.
People foresee that even if the constitution is drafted within May 27, it may not be acceptable for Janajatis, dalits, women, Madhesis, and even Brahaman-Chetris. First, political parties have already irritated people for not being able to reach logical conclusions in many attempts. People suspect whether or not they are sincere about writing the new constitution. In addition, there is a stark difference among political parties regarding the nature of federalism. While Maoists seem to favor ethnic federalism, Nepali Congress and UML are arguing for geography and economic viability. While Brahmans-Chetris are against ethnic federalism, Janajatis are not ready to accept federalism that does not address their ethnic identity. Likewise, the Madheshi front’s ‘one-madhesh-one-state’ is not acceptable for Tharus and other Janajatis in Terai. This kind of contention has created very volatile situation in the country. For example, Janajatis have already started criticizing Nepali Congress and UML as anti-Janajati parties. As the demand for ethnic federalism in mounting, the Janajatis leaders from Congress and UML have already crossed their party border and started putting pressure on their leaderships for ethnic federalism. Likewise, Maoists are blamed for provoking ethnic agendas in politics. Those who are against ethnic federalism argue that the agenda of ethnicity may push the country into ethnic conflicts and violence. Contrary to this, Janajatis argue that without ethnic federalism the long-seated history of feudalism and exclusion cannot be removed.
It is apparent that it all kinds of federalism proposed by different parties are contentious. In this situation, political parties should be more cautious and serious about the nature of federalism. They should not only think about drafting a constitution for the sake of constitution but also analyze whether or not it represents voices of people. It is time to think that what happens if people do not accept the constitution in future. Who will be responsible for the conflict and instability invited by the new constitution? How will the newly formed states function smoothly? Political parties should also discussion these issues critically. But as there is no time for taking the draft of the constitution among the people for their comments, it is almost certain that the constitution is going to be just an ideological mixture of Maoists, Congress, UML and Madheshi front. As there is no enough time to inform people and incorporate their voices before it is promulgated, it is almost certain that the new constitution will certain to be no other than legitimization of ideologies of three major parties.
The myopic vision of Prachanda, Shushil Koirala, and Jhalanath Khanal is no longer helpful to forge consensus for the timely and sustainable drafting of the constitution. These three so-called key players of the constitution drafting process should be ready to listen to the voices of people from all walks of life. Rather than having futile meetings among them, they should propose and organize a conclusive round-table meeting with Janajatis, dalits, womens, Madhesi, civil societies and so on. This is a more democratic process to finish the constitution drafting and lead the nation to a new era.