The so-called agreement between the parties last month to go for fresh CA elections had effectively put the ghost of the dissolved CA to rest. It is a sign of the unpredictability of Nepali politics that a born-again CA is haunting Nepali politics once more.
Constitutional experts and media pundits may be divided over the legitimacy of a revived CA, the president may be urging the parties for elections, but that won't stop them from bringing back the house if there is a deal at the top level. And it does look like a deal is on the table and will be discussed over mutton curry and rice this Dasain.
To understand why the parties may ultimately strike a deal, we must not get distracted by what few leaders in each camp do or say, but look at the larger political reality through the lens of each party.
To begin with, the parties are well aware that elections cannot take place in the present situation. The NC and UML leadership, as many believe, are nervous about an electoral backlash for their alleged anti-federal position. But more importantly, the feeling has sunk in that the Maoists and Madhesis are calling the shots and with a compromised position on federalism, they do not have sufficient public support to put the government under political and moral pressure by resorting to street protests.
Does this mean the deadlock will be resolved and the nation will get the constitution through a revived house? Yes and no. The ruling coalition may succeed in getting the NC and UML to agree on a CA revival, but unlike what we had hoped for, the parties may not have a pre-agreement on all the sticking issues and the constitution may be declared without going into specificities of federalism.
To put it bluntly, the parties are not in a position to negotiate their respective positions, and are only trying to avoid radicalising the streets. The Maoists and Madhesis have already taken a firm stance on identity-based federalism without sufficiently making it clear to their constituency that there are four more categories of identity besides ethnic identity. So they are now scared to explain it, lest they would be seen as selling out.
Similarly, the Madhesi Front is anxious about making a deal on size and number of Madhes Pradesh fearing backlash from the Upendra Yadav-led morcha which is looking to undermine their influence.
The confusion within the NC and UML about identity remains. They know they will have to address the issue at some point, but there is a strong section in both the parties that sees any flexibility on the issue as succumbing to Maoist pressure.
Pushpa Kamal Dahal left for Brussels after throwing a deal on CA revival into the pot to see how it cooks. On his return this weekend he will launch another charm offensive on the NC and UML to accept his compromise to shelve discussions on identity-based federalism and pass a constitution on agreed points.
But a CA revival will not necessarily untangle the deadlock. The most it will do is pave way for a NC-led electoral government and the declaration of a half-way constitution that will satisfy few. The parties are hoping that if they agree on tentative number of federal units, the Janajatis and Madhesis will buy it.
But there is still a lack of a clear understanding as to how the names and numbers will be decided and whether the agreement on forms of governance and judiciary which was compromised upon in the final days of the CA is still valid.
Besides, the NC and UML may be wary that once the CA is revived, there will be increased pressure on the parties to table the State Restructuring Commission's report and go for voting because of which the last CA was dissolved without even convening.
The parties are once again trying to take an easier way around by postponing the difficult bits. Very few ideas are emerging that attempt to address the root of the problem. NC leader Gagan Thapa proposes 'one person three votes' solution whereby the country can simultaneously have local, parliamentary. and CA elections. "To avoid unnecessary politicking, we can ensure that members don't share CA and parliamentary seats and give a definite mandate," he told me on Wednesday.
Having a pre-agreement and declaring the constitution without postponing the federalism issue may still be the quickest and surest way to resolve the deadlock. But if the CA is revived only to pave way for power-sharing and postponing of key issues, the danger of polarised elections will remain.
Private wish for the public good
The only thing keeping Nepal afloat is individual resilience and the capacity of Nepalis to endure pain and hunger