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Unsung constitution marred by shortsightedness, scramble for power

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Unsung constitution marred by shortsightedness, scramble for power
Unsung constitution marred by shortsightedness, scramble for power

Kathmandu, Sept 30: The promulgation of a new constitution is the seventh overall in the history of Nepal –a nascent democracy suffering from a fledgling political sector that feeds on people’s ignorance and power sharing deals among the political elites.
The advent of ‘Constitution of Nepal’ on September 20 comes with a new colour and added dimension as it rises on the foundation of people’s legitimate mandate in the form of the Constituent Assembly. It is the first constitution to have been drafted by a CA in Nepal.

Its promulgation was followed by celebrations across the hilly and mountainous regions and greeted with black flags and mute silence in the southern belt in Tarai/Madhes. The people of both the regions should not in any meaning be enmeshed into this tussle between the political leaders, as both the hurried celebration and the outright violent rejection are guided by the shortsightedness and long-term political greed of the leading political figures.

Nevertheless, the new constitution is the most progressive and pro-people in Nepal’s history which steadfastly upholds the spirit of inclusiveness and participatory democracy with the institutionalization of the changes introduced through the people’s uprising in 2005/06. With the republic setup, federal state modality and secularism as state’s new forms, Nepal has evolved into a modern form of civilization with a promise to guarantee equal rights and delegate and devolve power across the country. Theoretically, any democratic constitution is a landmark achievement but its scrupulous and studious practice is what counts in the end. In Nepal earlier constitutions have been restricted in name of ‘thematic and theoretical democracy’. Implementation of the new constitution by word and deed and a commitment to rid Nepal of viral corruption is what is needed for triggering an era of socio-economic prosperity and concomitantly encompassing overall development.

The history of constitutions in Nepal in relation to democracy and successive uprisings dates back to more than six decades. Mohan Shumsher Rana, the last of the Rana prime ministers to rule Nepal, introduced the 1948 Constitution which came into effect in September 1950. It was a last measure taken by the Rana PM to curb rising opposition to his rule. Following the return of King Tribhuvan Shah from exile in India, the ‘Interim Government of Nepal Act 1951’ was issued which vested executive, legislative and judicial powers on the king. The ‘Royal Constitution of 1959’ was proclaimed by Tribhuvan’s successor King Mahendra Shah which replaced the interim act on February 12, 1959. In 1960, King Mahendra dismissed the government led by Prime Minister BP Koirala suspending the 1959 constitution under emergency rule. In 1962, the king established the Panchayat system with Proclamation of Constitution of 1962 consolidating his power in governance. In 1990, after a prolonged 55 day nation-wide uprising King Birendra Shah stepped down. The ‘Constitution of Kingdom of Nepal 1990’ was promulgated in 1990 as the fruit of the people’s movement launched for restoration of multi-party democracy.

After the second uprising in 2006, King Gyanendra Shah reinstated the parliament he dissolved. Then the ‘Interim Constitution of Nepal 2007’ was promulgated by the parliament, which has now been replaced by the new constitution.

Despite successive constitutions and consistent change of governments the country has continued to remain hostage to crippling power outages, medieval road infrastructures, unreliable health facilities, water supply system and so on. The people have continued to remain at the receiving end of the relentless political quarrels and leaders’ scramble for power positions.

Corruption is at the core of stagnation of Nepal’s progress and without dealing with this issue the country can only dream of development riding on the heels of new constitutions and agreements. In 2014, Nepal fell ten places on the Corruption Perception Index (CPI) of Transparency Inter-national, a Berlin-based watchdog. Nepal fell to 126th position on the index among 176 countries. The country was ranked 116th on the index in 2013. This fact speaks for itself.

Speaking to the National News Agency (RSS), Rastriya Janamorcha Chairman Chitra Bahadur KC said, “The parties did not keep the national independence and interest at the centre but kept themselves and their parties in the centre,” KC said adding that the people will now pressure the political parties to put an end to corruption and impunity.

He argued that the earlier constitutions were designed so as to make successive heads of state and heads of governments immune to the constitutional provisions. “They were never extensively in favour of the Nepali people,” he said.

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By Sandesh Shrestha

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