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#4422, 5 May 2014

Himalayan Frontier

Nepal: Challenges to Constitution-Making
Pramod Jaiswal
SAARC Doctorate Fellow, Centre for South Asian Studies, JNU

The Unified Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (UCPN-M), the single largest party from the first Constituent Assembly (CA) election, is in a dilemma after suffering a setback in the second CA election. The party seems to have lost direction and is in a disillusioned state due to its shrinking strength after the 2013 election.

The Maoists called for a national convention on 1 May 2014 to formalise a new strategy and to restructure the party. They want to downsize its Central Committee to 99 members, with 75 elected directly and the remaining 24 nominated for make inclusive representation. 33 Politburo and 11 Standing Committee members and executive heads would be elected thereafter.

Prachanda, in his political document presented at the inauguration of the national convention, clarified that the party is not in a state of subjective preparedness for the socialist revolution, and he argued for a national capitalist-driven industrialisation campaign. He said: “Our party’s new working direction (tactic), devised under the strategy of socialist revolution, demands a higher level, proletariat class-oriented revolutionary spirit to prepare and take all-round initiatives for the long term legitimate struggles. But, our party and conduct suffers from ambiguity, inertia, frustration, escapism and utter individualistic anarchy” (Ritu Raj Subedi, The Rising Nepal). He also remarked that there was a need to form a broader Communist alliance within which all the Communist parties in Nepal, including the Communist Party of Nepal-United Marxist Leninist (CPN-UML), could be accommodated. However, the proposal drew a fair amount of criticism. That he is not able to deal with different factions in his own faction is not promising. He is still struggling to unite with the faction led by Mohan Baidya, which walked away in 2013.

Prachanda has proposed a change in the working style of party leaders at all levels (centre, state, district and local). Participants have repeatedly questioned the lifestyle of the leaders since joining the government in 2008. They are no longer the representatives of the working class and poor peasants. There were also demands for handing over of the party command to the second rank leaders. However, no such leader in the second rank has the capacity to challenge Prachanda, Bhattarai and Shrestha.

Factionalism in the UCPN-M has weakened the party and does not allow any of the party policies/ strategies to be implemented. Prachanda also talked about the possible disintegration of the party; Bhattarai stressed the need for a new political force, and Shrestha talked about party disillusionment. This has discouraged and confused the cadres. There is fear that the downfall, if not disintegration, of the party is inevitable if it is not able to present timely remedies.

Political experts like Prof Krishna Khanal have stated that if the party does not transform itself with time, it might disintegrate. It should form new strategies as it has entered democratic politics and wartime strategies are outdated. It is yet to be seen how the power composition inside the UCPN-M unfolds, but it is in the interest of the people and the party that no further split takes place that could further complicate the constitution-making process in Nepal.

The first CA, which dissolved in May 2012, could not deliver the constitution because the major political parties could not forge a consensus on federalism. There was disagreement on the nature of federalism and the number of federal provinces. There were proposals to make eleven federal states on identity and capacity. The federalism issue is going to haunt the second CA as well.

The UCPN-M is trying to forge a working alliance with Madhesi, Janajati and other small parties that support identity-based federalism. This would strengthen their bargaining power on constitutional issues.

The CA, which is working at a snail’s pace, is yet to nominate 26 CA members and give complete shape to the Assembly. Providentially, in March 2014, the CA was able to elect its five committee heads based on political consensus. With the appointment of these heads, the constitution-writing process might be faster but many problems are still yet to be overcome. Despite the recent optimism, everything depends on how the major political parties are able to take all the other political parties into confidence. They also need to address concerns of the minority groups like Dalits, women, Madhesi, Janajati, Muslims and people from backward regions that have been fighting for equality, identity, social justice and dignified representation in the state under a federal system. Without their support, the CA will not be able to deliver a viable constitution. The most challenging task for them is to reach out to the Mohan Baidya-led CPN-Maoist. If the political parties are able to meet all of these challenges, they might be able to deliver the constitution by the stipulated time, which is mid-February 2015. If the political parties fail to deliver the constitution the second time around, the country will have to face serious consequences.

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