Nepal’s new Constitution, that will complete its first year exactly a month from now (September 20), has far more opponents than supporters. Its legitimacy and workability are being questioned, not because of the large number of its critics, but because those who played a crucial role in bringing in the statute at any cost, have started challenging its core values.
Former prime minister Baburam Bhattarai, who headed the Constituent Assembly committee assigned to ‘resolve political differences’ and give the crucial input to the ‘Drafting committee’, said the country must go for a directly elected Executive Chief, challenging the constitutional arrangement for a Parliament elected Prime Minister.
Bhattarai, an ideologue of the Maoist Party and co-author of the decade-long armed insurgency that saw 17,000 people killed, along with Pushpa Kamal Dahal, has since abandoned the party and formed a new one – Nayashakti Party – and now advocates a new political concept.
The challenge to the core concept of the Constitution by one of its key architect clearly raises the following question: How long can the Constitution that only a year ago was called the best in the world by its architect leaders, survive?
Amaresh Singh, a Congress parliamentarian who mobilised support inside and outside the country, especially in the south, for the Constitution, admitted recently that Nepal’s journey to federalism may not be a workable proposition.
His admission came after more than a hundred people – some out of conviction and others under instigation of pro-federalism parties – had lost their lives in the past ten years of political turmoil. He said his current stance is based on his political maturity and the realisation that Nepal, with its current size and population, will not be able to bear the cost of federalism with multiple provinces.
He also said a federal Nepal will be against the security interests of India and China, two countries that Nepal needs to delicately balance its relations with. How will Nepal celebrate its first anniversary of the new Constitution? The recent alliance between the Nepali Congress and the Maoist Party that have come together to form a coalition government under the leadership of Pushpa Kamal Dahal, have pledged to ‘speed up’ the implementation of the Constitution. But with its key proponents doubting its relevance, the parties in the ruling coalition may find it hard to ignore the criticism.
Besides the issue of federalism, several social and political organisations that are in active contact with India’s RSS and the BJP are also demanding that Nepal’s Hindu status be restored.
The Constitution is clearly losing its support base but whether the parties will start a serious debate to address these grievances, or continue to insist that ‘it is the best Constitution ever’ and celebrate its one year anniversary remains to be seen.