Federal Republic Moving On Robust Path – Telegraph Nepal

LalbabuYadav

Member, Constituent Assembly, Nepal

With historic three-tier elections and formation of strong government, Nepal has embarked on federal republican journey amidst the minor hiccups. The government, led by the Communist Party of Nepal (CPN), has completed half of the tenure in office.

Though there is mixed responses to the performance of KP Sharma Oli-led government, it is catching right direction. It can do more to the benefit of the people but it frittered away some opportunities by indulging in unnecessary disputes that have only taken their toll on its credibility.

The Covid-19 has brought some challenges for the government to accomplish the task it has promised to the people. Following a brief tension, the federal government and provinces have come to terms to deal with teething problems roiling the new political setup.

For now, federal project is sailing smoothly but the demands to reinstate Hindu state and monarchy still poses significant challenges to the new system, and likely to put a spoke in the wheel of the Oli government.

Emerging digressions may severely hit the nation building task, a common agenda of all parties. Any irrational detour from Constitution’s roadmap will get us nowhere.

Upbeat about his resounding electoral victory and election to premiership, PM Oli had set out catchy slogan – Prosperous Nepal, Happy Nepali. Indeed, it is fitting motto of his government but he is walking down a bumpy road. Mustering enough resources to meet rising development aspirations of people remains a key challenge. He has to unite and win the confidence of entire party’s rank and file to this end.

He is leading a monolithic party following the unification of two communist parties- CPN- UML and CPN- Maoist Centre. It is a combination of opposite schools of communist thoughts. Along with another chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda, Oli should demonstrate his mettle to manage intra-party differences and ideological incoherence in order to realize his ambitious vision of national prosperity. Meanwhile, the main opposition party, Nepali Congress, is weak and not in position to prevent the government from taking drastic measures.

For a robust democracy, the nation needs strong opposition. However, for the Oli government, the weak opposition is a plus point to push its sweeping socio-economic reforms in the country. History has handed him an onerous responsibility. The In success of his government, the nation will usher in a new era of peace and development. In failure, the nation will plunge into an abyss of doom and endless of transition. Thus, it is a case of huge success or bust.

Experiment with Improved Parliamentary System:

The nation is in the course to achieve lasting peace, stability and prosperity following the promulgation of the constitution in September 2015. It declared Nepal federal, secular and republican state with inclusive democracy and proportional representation of all marginalized social/ethnic groups and regions.

Major political actor came to a common ground to issue the statute, thereby ending prolonged political transition in Nepal. The country adopted parliamentary form of governance with executive Prime Minister and ceremonial President. The major political parties crossed swords over what kind of governance system the country should go for. After years of haggling in the dissolved Constituent Assembly (CA), they compromised on the parliamentary form of government as Nepali Congress, the second largest party in the erstwhile Constituent Assembly, dig its heels and refused to accept the presidential system, citing that it could prompt the would-be executive president to be authoritarian.

Though this logic hardly held water, the first and third largest parties, the erstwhile CPN – UML and CPN- Maoist Centre respectively, agreed on the parliamentary system with significant changes to its structural functioning so as to make the government stable and workable. As per this, the government should not face no-confidence motion for two years once it wins the confidence of the majority members of the House of Representatives. This is for stable government, policy consistency and predictability, and unhindered pace of development.

The erstwhile UML was calling for structural reforms in the governance system and demanded that the prime minister should be directly elected, an idea the NC abhorred despite the fact that a sizable number of NC lawmakers and leaders were in favor of UML’s proposal. Meanwhile, the then Maoist Centre stood for the presidential system. The new Constitution has effectively sorted out the dispute related to the form of governance. It appears that we are experimenting with the mixed governance system expected to check and balance powers among Executive, Legislature and Judiciary.

Moreover, this should ensure democratic order, stability and inclusive growth. In the past, the chronic instability, fuelled by frequent changes of the guard, held back the country’s development pace for decades. Now, the government with two-third backing will complete its full term in office and be able to implement its economic and social programs and policies without any hindrance.

The political system is only a means to an end of power dispensation, separation of powers, decentralization and legitimate use in the interest of public. It is not an end in itself.

Therefore, current governance system is expected to be more democratic, responsive to people’s needs and representative of social diversity. Principally, the whole objective of modern political system is to provide services to the people in the best possible way.

Democracy can distribute public goods only if Nepali state stands above the various interest groups of society, acts impartially and serves the citizens. Such a state should be free from external dominance and heavy influence. The form of democracy, governance, political parties and civil societies is based on the nature of state system including the political system itself.

If Nepali political parties only wrangles on polity without addressing the legitimate needs, rights and issues of Nepali citizens they will become desperate and constitution cannot help social, economic and political integration. The constitution must offer collective vision of a shared future whatever political system it is. Any system can be viable in Nepal if it is democratic, people oriented, captures the heritage of the nation, able to manage social, economic, cultural and political diversity. Democracy and its culture must capture the spirit of Nepali people and changing values, institutions and spirit of the time.

Federal Ball Keeps Rolling:

In a bid to strengthen grassroots democracy, the country has adopted federal system. It ensures shared and self-rule at three layers of government- federal, province and local. There are seven provinces and 761 local body units. Under the new setup, there are a total of 884 lawmakers representing federal and provincial parliaments, 133 ministers and 761 local governments. This shows federal structure is complex and demands huge resources to operatinalise it.

For us, federalism has come as the sophisticated form of decentralization. It is the direct outcome of series of Madhes movements. It is now being experimented amidst the growing suspicion that the country economy is unlikely to afford the expensive federal system. So the new administration has to cough up necessary budget to implement the federal system. In the absence of enabling laws, the centre and provinces had come into conflict but now situation is getting normal after the first the Inter-Provincial Council Meeting.

The PM and CMs of seven provinces have forged between understanding and agreed to work in tandem so as to avoid any potential deadlock between the two-tier of government.

Inter-Provincial Coordination Taskforce, formed during first Inter-Provincial Council meeting, had submitted its report to the PM. It presented an action plan to solve the shortage of employees in provinces. As per it, the government will adjust employees in all provinces by mid-January of 2019.

The provinces will be provided necessary land, infrastructure and building to run ministries and other institutions. The report underlined the need to constitute the National Natural Resources and Fiscal Commission within Nepali month of Paush.

The three-tier governments- federal, provincial and local- faced trouble in the distribution of natural resources in the absence of Commission. This is very positive development in the direction of institutionalizing federalism that new for the country. We should not forget that the Constitution has envisaged cooperative federalism with the sweeping rights granted to local units.

One may question the ability of local representatives to exercise around two dozen rights their governments are entitled to. The local units are tasked with framing laws to settle the local disputes. As the local units are required to perform all three roles- executive, judiciary and legislative,- the elected representatives should hone legal, administration and democratic skills to smoothly run the local affairs.

Moreover, the local units and provinces should develop higher understanding to resolve disputes regarding their jurisdiction and distribution of natural resources and budget disbursed by the centre. With the effective implementation of federalism, perception and resource gap between the Terai and centre can be bridged, which in turn enables to strengthen local autonomy, national sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence of new republic.

Building Common National Identity:

Nepal is multilingual, multicultural, multiethnic and multi-religious nation. Nepal’s unifier Prithvi Narayan Shah had defined the demographic composition of Nepal as ‘four castes and thirty-six colors.’ This amply suggests that the country’s founding father had well recognized the ethnic diversity and stressed peaceful and harmonious coexistence among all social, cultural and ethnic groups. There were diabolic efforts to destroy social fabric by instigating strident ethno-centric politics but now this has died down to great extent.

 

New Constitution had comprehensively addressed the grievances of Madhesis, Dalits, women, indigenous and marginalized communities and regions. The Madhesi people should take pride in the history of Nepal. They were the earliest rulers of the Kathmandu Valley. Mahispals and Gopalas, who came from the plains, ruled over for centuries before they were replaced by Kirat rulers.

Maithali was the official language of Malla kings. This is a matter of glory for the Terai people, who felt that they were meted out structural injustice in the past. Based on the ancient historical fact and present constitutional parameters, all major ethnic groups forge better social contract and coexist with peace, harmony and prosperity.

This is time to implement the progressive provisions Constitution aimed at the improving and uplifting disadvantageous classes. The national charter has stipulated 31 fundamental rights to the citizens. These rights include right to food, education, health, job, residence, reproductive health, privacy and social security, among others.

The statute spelt out oodles of clauses to evolve the nation as egalitarian society by defining it ‘socialist-oriented’ one. Plus, it has provisions of forming a number of commissions to lift the status of marginalised social groups. All citizens are entitled to the fundamental rights. Once the economic conditions are created to implement these ambitious agenda of statute, Nepal will be bound by constitutional tenets and socio-economic fault lines are buried. This will largely reduce the ethnic tension that disrupts the political process time and again.

The present regime has onus to work for the upliftment of marginalised classes and groups in line with the Constitution’s spirit. It must not squander the opportunity of creating common identity of Nepal. In the past, the nation plunged into conflicts and agitations as many social and political groups came to the streets, demanding that the state recognise their mini and subsidiary identities.

Such demands would undercut the national identity. Now we have the most democratic and inclusive Constitution to resolve the identity crisis of many ethnic groups. Building a common national vision is the need of time. As we are in peace era, this task is not difficult.

We simply need consensus among the vital players and extend support to realising the constitutional project. The government, political parties, civil society, media and other democratic associations should come together to build common national identity essential to usher in advanced, prosperous and democratic society.

There is an urgent need to generate the feeling of national formation with “we Nepali” feeling which alone would remove fundamentalist identities and usher in the concept of politics based on Bashudhaiva Kutumbakam.

Promoting the Constitutional Culture: 

The life of the political systems depends on the political culture it adopts. And, this political culture should be aligned with the constitutional values as well. The tragedy of Nepal’s political journey over the years, somehow, does upheld the required political culture. This has badly affected the political systems as well.

No system is bad on its own – as long as it has democratic ideals inculcated on it.

What makes difference, however, is the how we put it into practice – whether the constitutional vision is upheld or not, whether people at the margin or the last man, for that reason, have been taken into board or not is most important factor. We somehow missed on this party. Perhaps time has come for us to be abided by our own political culture rooted in Sanatan Dharma. We are one of 17 oldest nations in the world – but democracy for us always become new. This does not really fit for a country like us who has the treasure of knowledge and civilization values. This should be reflected in our political system as well as in the behavior of the political actors.
Our values are inspired by three distinct traditions of knowledge and wisdom – Veda, Buddhism and philosopher king Janak’s critical discourse. These three streams of enlightenment form the basis for the generation of civic virtues and conduct in the society.

It is necessary to imbibe the critical and historical consciousness to dramatically improve the present plight exacerbated by entrenched penury, political infighting and foreign meddling. A society can achieve positive growth only it is aware of historical sense and collective consciousness. Our youths need to be informed and taught about the nation’s rich intellectual tradition to rid them of inferior complex that they develop with their exposure to misguided education and selfish politics.

Only free and conscious citizens have ability to transform the society and contribute to democratic peace-building.

End text.
# The article perhaps was written when K. P. Oli was the Prime Minister of Nepal: Ed.

Thanks Senior Political scientist LalbabuYadav: Upadhyaya. 
Our contact email address is: [email protected]

References:

Annand Aditya, Chandra D Bhatta, 2016 Role of Political Parties in Deepening Democracy in Nepal, FES Nepal: Kathmandu.
Beethan, David, 1998. ” Demcoracy and Human rights: Civil Political, Economic, Social and Cultural rights”, in Human Rights : New Dimensions and Challenges: Janus Symonides, ed., Brookfiled: Ashgate.
Dev Raj Dahl, 2006. Civil Society Groups in Nepal: Their Roles in Conflict and Peace-building: Kathmandu: UNDP
Dahl, Robrt, 1998. On Democracy, New Delhi: East-West Press
Fukuyama, F . 2004. Statebilding, Govenance and World Order in 21st Centuary, Cornell University Press.

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