State of Confusion

If you are a Nepali and not residing in your country of origin, you could be forgiven for being confused about where your hometown is now. Of course Nepal’s geography has not changed overnight. But you must be wondering which province you now belong to.

The confusion is obvious after the main parties agreed to form 11 provinces, which are now nameless, and to an extent, boundary-less, along with deciding on the governance structure which, at its best, is complex and would require selfless politicians at the top to make it work. And as we know, a selfless politician is a mythical creature.

Now, we have number of provinces declared (although discontent is becoming a noise already) without boundaries (and maybe with ethnic color to it). This is somewhat difficult to understand for many because you would think that the boundaries were a pre-requisite for forming a state.

Recently, a media colleague posted on social networking site twitter recently, “Won’t it be a matter of shame for me if I could not become one of the 2,081 parliamentarians in New Nepal?”

Laughable? Maybe funny, but laughable it is definitely not. The lines reflect what the newest pact on state restructuring and governance structure is. With the pact to create 11 provinces and huge parliament at the center, the number of politicians getting public post is surely going to be huge. It might remind you of the adage, “I scratch your back, you scratch mine”.

Mind you, we are to have a 311-member Lower House of Parliament while 65-member would grace the Upper House. Among the 311 members in the Lower House, 171 would be directly elected and 140 would be based on proportionality.

If you view the discontent among masses and the marginalized communities, who have patiently been a part of Constituent Assembly for four long years, you might want to question the process of how the decision was reached upon. The ‘centralized’ process of decision making to ‘decentralize’ the nation is definitely not sending right signals. It was not constituent assembly that voted on the disputed issues, but a group of few leaders from major parties, who arrived at ‘consensus’ on who gets what. You could question if it was a real consensus or monopoly of a few, or hegemony of the class that has been in power for generations. In some ways, ‘real federalism’ – if we can use the word – has been delayed. Like they have been handed a check with a due date in future. All after promising cash right away.

All this at the cost of a decade long armed conflict, 16,000 lives (the number ranges from 13-17,000, according to the source) and six years of peace process – which included elected Constituent Assembly for 4 years.

While the parties and groups politicking on ethnic grounds are crying foul, and some groups mourning that the country has been divided, a fact that is almost slipping away from notice is the governance structure.

The structure has been described as – mixed. A directly elected President and Prime Minister elected by the parliament. However, the Prime Minister – who is indirectly elected in some ways – has been given more executive power. The president has been given the authority to dissolve the parliament, and mobilize the army on the recommendation of the cabinet. The parliament has also been given the authority of Censorship to impede on the directives of the president.

You could ask: What is wrong with that provision? But a careful look would tell you the idea is flawed. In democracy, it would be sane to think that a person, elected directly by the masses, would have the ultimate say in deciding nation’s course of action. A person, who has entire nation’s votes (read majority) would not like to, and should not be made to, look like a puppet. If we needed a puppet (or a ceremonial) Head of the State, why should we spend millions of rupees of taxpayers’ money (which is hard to come by) for a nationwide election? Doesn’t make economic sense? Neither does it make a political sense. If a person, who has entire nation behind him/her, is not allowed to take executive decision, who else should be given that right? And you could ask: What was the intent behind coming up with such a decision?

It would be understandable if the UCPN – Maoists (read: extreme left) were taking these decisions unilaterally. Apparently, the decision is a combined one, with CPN-UML (read: moderate left) and Nepali Congress (read: moderate), with some Madhesi parties also joining the bandwagon – due to their sheer number and being representatives of marginalized groups. And that’s the worry, if such a decision is taken by a combination of almost all the forces represented in the Constituent Assembly, it closes door for people – who feel unfairly dealt with – to go and complain.

However, the major parties coming to a single point after all these years must be lauded. For, it shows that they can deliver, if they have the political will to do so. But one would wish that, after all these years, the decisions could have been more inclusive. If an inclusive Constituent Assembly, like the one we have, cannot deliver, what options are left with us – the people?

This write-up appeared in The Kantipur Times, published in Australia, on 23 May, 2012.

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