For the first time in many years, Madhav Kumar Nepal made an honest political statement and not the usual rhetorical nonsense for which he has been flagged too often. Speaking with BBC Nepali Service on Wednesday he admitted that decades of Kathmandu centric politics and democratic deficit at the grassroots were the main reasons why people were demanding federalism, and not because one party had set the agenda.
The renewed confidence building among the parties has sent positive signals and although the dispute resolution sub-committee extended the deadline to resolve contentious issues by another five days, people are happy to wait because they finally see serious engagement. To be sure, there is not a shred of doubt that the parties had been prisoners of their own dilemma and would not have arrived at this point had there been no incentives to cooperate. So the good news for the public is: in all likelihood, there will be a statute by May 27. But the bad news is: not everybody will be happy.
At a time when ethnic caucus and Madhesi parties are already standing together on issues of identity, a cross party caucus of Madhesi lawmakers from the NC, UML, UCPN-M and MJF-Nepal led by Upendra Yadav has given further impetus to the demand for identity based federalism. Minister for Communication, Rajkishor Yadav who also leads a faction in the Madhesi front says the parties should look around and assess the overriding sentiments instead of shying away, but was quick to add that room for forward looking alternative proposals still exists. Says Yadav, "The reality today is there are grievances among the Madhesis, Dalits and Janajatis, but it is also true that the goodwill which exists in Nepali society will not let the country disintegrate."
He says current grievances are like wounds, which if left unattended will infect the entire system but once treated, will heal and remove all traces of ethnic or regional resentments in the future. While Yadav's words are reassuring, it is becoming increasingly clear that agreement among the top brass of three parties alone is not sufficient to ensure a constitution by May 27. Although the protagonists in the ongoing talks are all Brahmin male leaders of three major parties, Yadav believes the final negotiation will be between those who stand for change and those who resist it.
The identity issue, although well founded, is a tricky one which is sure to test even the cleverest of the lot. A member engaged in the negotiation told us there is already an informal agreement on 6 to 8 federal units, but parties can't seem to agree on names for future states which in turn will decide the basis of federalism.
On forms of governance, things look much clearer because the parties have almost agreed on a directly elected executive prime minister with special prerogative powers given to the constitutional president. And even if the agreement cannot be reached, proposals will be voted upon. The question of constitutional court is also a mere technical issue and it might not be an entirely bad idea to mull on the possibility of having a constitutional court for a limited period, especially to address legal anomalies that the new constitution is sure to pose in the short run.
I have often argued in this space that the final days of Nepal's transition are not being driven by issues at hand, but by those that will follow once the constitution is declared. You don't have to be a genius to find out why Sushil Koirala, Madhav Nepal or Pushpa Kamal Dahal are dashing off to districts in the far east and far west every week between their marathon meetings. Notwithstanding the deadlines, people are actually getting to know what the leaders are up to first hand and in return, the leaders will be more confident when they go back to the people during elections.
There is nothing wrong with weekend visits as long as the leaders make the most of their weekdays, and while they are advised to mind what they speak publicly, they would also do well to speak their minds at the negotiation table.
Give and take
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