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The Post-CA Poll Political Scenario

C. D . Bhatta

It was always a privi lege to write a column for this daily, but this scribe was unable to continue for some time due to occult reasons. With a fresh commitment to continue, allow me to express my feelings on the current political affairs. During the period, sea changes have taken place in the Nepali political landscape. The much-awaited election to the Constituent Assembly (CA) has been held, and new political forces have emerged in the Nepali political arena. Moreover, as is the case in the past movement(s), public expectations have shot up with the successful completion of the CA election. The people in general are of the view that peace will prevail and restructuring of the state will address grievances of the critical masses and open further opportunities.

Political shape

The victory of the CPN (Maoist) in the CA elections has raised hopes for the subaltern classes and the general people, who are of the view that the hitherto class struggles and societal gap will be bridged. Now, the political parties are exercising to form a new government, and the date for the first sitting of the CA has been announced. Having said this, however, it is still not clear how and what type of political shape the country will take at a time when the normative challenges facing the Nepali state are enormous even in terms of putting the state on 'track' let alone the 'right track'.
Allow me to jot down some of the facts as to how the substantive new politics will be and to what extent it can deliver the public expectations under the current circumstances vis-à-vis the political parties, political culture, pervasive geopolitical influence and the like. Let me begin by putting down some of the empirical political thoughts on the current state of affairs, which came into limelight during the recent political discourse that took place in Nuwakot district as part of the state-building programme.

The programme was organised by Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES), a Germany-based political foundation in Kathmandu. The political discourses that take place outside of Kathmandu are particularly important, as I have always written in the past that what makes a difference in Nepali politics is not the discourse that takes place in the palatial hotels of Kathmandu but in the wretched huts of the rural areas.

The overarching aim of this programme was to train and educate the local people on contemporary political issues such as civic rights, democracy, constitution-making process and current state affairs and trickle down the knowledge to the grass-roots level. The programme was attended by members of all the political parties, journalists, schoolteachers, college lecturers, members of civil society, members of interests groups and many more. Newly elected members of the CA from the Nepal Communist Party (Maoist) also attended the programme.

The feeling that came out of the seminar was that mere holding of the CA election and writing a (democratic) constitution will not serve the interest of the Nepali state if the political leadership emerging from the recent political process does not address the underlying problems of the Nepali state. For example, we find a lot of emphasis being laid on land reform, employment, education, health, food security and inclusion of those communities/groups that have been historically left behind by the state into the national mainstream.

Some of the groups are ready to wage war against the Nepali state if these problems are not duly addressed. Another interesting point that we found is that the new political forces have already subdued the mainstream political parties of the yesteryears vis-à-vis the Nepali Congress, UML and RPP as they are nowhere to be seen. In the same vein, the other interesting finding was that no political party talks about American imperialism and Indian expansionism; political parties only talk about getting into the helm of power.

Addressing all internal and external issues will not be easy sailing, however. A single issue of land reform or food crisis could easily derail the government or create political instability for that matter. What we need is people-oriented politics, which is yet to be ushered in. Perhaps, Dev Raj Dahal, head of FES Nepal, is right to argue that a modern state is based on civic political culture, which is people-oriented, transcends particular petty interests and is able to reconstruct the Nepali state and society.

Democratic peace

That said, however, even to establish a civic political culture, what is needed is some sort of mechanism/formula and foundation. In this regard, well-known constitutional expert of the country, Kashi Raj Dahal, provides a four-point recipe, which could play a crucial role in establishing democratic peace in the country. For him, election is a pre-condition to spearheading the peace-process in the country as it provides legitimacy both to the peace process and major stakeholders of the conflict. In the context of Nepal, the CPN (Maoist) has established legitimacy through the CA election. Secondly, the constitution (democratic) has to be written according to the will of the people and should address the incumbent diversity of the nation. Thirdly, re-integration and reconciliation are equally important, and, finally, explicit commitment from the political leadership to translate the political roadmap into reality. If we can incorporate these points sincerely, the political process, for sure, can achieve the desired objectives. Otherwise, merely holding an election will not serve the interests of the nation.

(Bhatta is a political scientist by training.)

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