Nepal's public sphere is so politically top-heavy, the media narrative so dominated by minute-to-minute coverage of day-to-day politics, the public debate so obsessed with hush-hush give-and-take between rulers, that it overshadows everything else.
Politics gets reduced to its lowest common denominator of power and greed. Clever party spokesmen spin the media for advantage in negotiations. Reporters readily fall into the trap, such is the urge for the scoop or pithy soundbite. Politicians who shout the loudest and have the most extreme slogans grab the headlines. This polarizes positions and makes negotiations more difficult.
The real story in the coming weeks is not whether a new draft constitution is written or not, but whether in the process of give-and-take in Hatiban or Dhulikhel or some other resort, it will preserve national unity and democracy. Will our new federal structure lay the groundwork to reduce poverty, or will the citizens of future provinces be even more marginalised and discriminated against? Will it help nurture sustainable peace, or lead to inter-ethnic strife over territory? Will the kind of government lead to representative democracy from the grassroots up, or pave the way for an authoritarian president-for-life?
It is perilous that the most critical and sensitive elements of the new constitution are being left for the last four weeks of political bartering. They had four years to examine the reports of demographers, resource economists, political scientists and geographers about the political and economic viability of future federal units, we had a representative assembly of 601 elected members to do the job, but in the end it looks like 22 men behind closed doors are going to carve up the country into little pieces.
In a country that is already the poorest in Asia, politics must be about finding the shortest path to the largest public good: raising income and equalising opportunity. But clauses in the new constitution have become bargaining chips for future power sharing between the main parties.
The only silver lining is that our country has already hit rock bottom, so there is nowhere to go but up. It has been six years since we stopped killing each other and the peace process is somewhat on track and the finality of the 27 May deadline seems to have sunk in.
From what we hear from selective leaks, the parties are about to trade Maoist flexibility on ethnic federalism for UML-NC flexibility on a directly-elected presidential system. Maoist Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal has not tried to hide that he wants to be an all-powerful president, for which he is ready to trade anything: his former guerrillas, identity-based federalism, future judicial system, or citizenship norms. Politicians, by definition, want to get to power and stay there. But can we afford, at this late date, to let two dozen men sit in a dark room and tailor-make a take-it-or-leave-it constitution suited for just one man's ambition?
The bottom line should be a constitution that can best guarantee stability and lay the foundation for a democratic state that can ensure long-term development. The new provinces should be designed to ensure viable economies, and a balanced distribution of natural resources. We shouldn't get bogged down in haggling over the names and territorial boundaries of future federal units. This is not just our point of view, but the considered opinions of independent experts we have carried in these pages over the last three years of the constitution debate.
The goal of the new constitution is to make everyone better off, not to keep us mired in poverty and authoritarianism.
Mind what you speak, but speak your mind, ANURAG ACHARYA
Nepal's transition is not being driven by issues at hand, but by those that will follow once the constitution is declared
Journalism of deception, RUBEENA MAHATO
The power that comes with being a journalist in this city has led most to think that they can get away with anything