A political deadlock impacting the constitution-writing process is nothing new in Nepal. But a vulnerable and loose equation, based on an understanding among discredited political parties — which have promised to “deliver the constitution within a year at any cost” — is hitting many road blocks. Members of the Constituent Assembly (CA) are getting more assertive this time round, compared to the submissiveness to their respective party bosses they displayed during the four-year tenure of the first CA. At one time — around early June 2012 — they had even collectively come round to the idea that they would just raise their hands and give an “aye” vote, if the leaders brought a draft of the constitution prepared outside and never debated in the House. However, the current assertiveness is more for personal gain.
The government has missed two scheduled dates for presenting the annual budget in the House. Parliamentarians cutting across party lines are demanding that each of them be given Rs 50 million for an “MPs’ development fund” that will cost about Rs 30 billion to the exchequer of an impoverished state. Corruption, or bargain for personal gain, is no more a matter of shame in Nepal. Official records show MPs bungled a huge amount allocated to them under the development fund last time, with a sizeable number of them pocketing even the secretarial expenses without setting up any “secretariat” or hiring any secretarial staff.
In fact, the party bosses, especially of the big three — the Nepal Congress (NC), Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (CPN-UML), and the Unified Communist Party of Nepal-Maoists (UCPN-M) — have reason to promote corruption, or even institutionalise it. Having to appease MPs is a compulsion. These parties went to the polls for the second CA on the pledge that they would hold elections to local bodies — hasn’t happened in 19 years — within six months.
But neither the NC and UML — two parties in the coalition — nor the UCPN-M have moved the agenda forward. The reason: their hand-picked nominees run and control the local bodies that get huge development funds routed through the ministry of local development. They rule the local bodies and use the funds without any accountability, with corruption percolating down to the lowest level. Maoists argue that since Nepal is going to go federal with the new constitution, why go for an exercise (local bodies elections) that needs to be repeated as soon as the new constitution comes?
There may be some merit to what those opposed to local elections at this stage are saying. But …continued »