Deadline And Lifelines, Again


By Maila Baje

Our leaders are so carried away by their confidence in bringing out the new constitution by their self-imposed January 22 deadline that they have been going off on tangents.

Realizing it or not, Prime Minister Sushil Koirala threw his cousins under the bus. “I will not be remembered as a Koirala who sold our rivers cheap,” the premier affirmed the other day.Maila Baje Photo

Granted, he was assuring a group of citizens demanding the scrapping of the project development agreement for the Upper Karnali hydro project. Yet, it’s hard to consider those comments outside Koirala’s general contortions about the inevitability of meeting the deadline.

At the root of this perhaps lies the man’s sincere belief that he is a different prime minister working in different times. Just because his three Koirala predecessors as premier were associated with giving up Kosi, Karnali and Mahakali rivers respectively, Karnali – and Sushil – should not be automatically placed in that league, no matter how fluid our times.

Rhetorical ebullience has also bitten Koirala’s deputy quite hard. Bam Dev Gautam, the senior deputy prime minister, told a gathering the other day that he admired Prithvi Narayan Shah and Mahendra among our monarchs. On the first, it is fashionable to pay homage to the founder of modern Nepal, since even diehard republicans, separatists, or Lhendups know they need a country first.

However, Mahendra still remains the king our pols – and their patrons across the southern border – love to hate the most. Gautam, to be sure, lauded Mahendra’s genuine and tangible contributions to Nepali nationhood. Video snippets and photographic scraps circulating on social media have begun introducing his indelible legacy to an entire new generation of Nepalis.

But the deputy PM did so to shore up his own credentials as a reasonable person. As such, when he says the constitution will be delivered on schedule, we are not supposed to sneer and jeer.

Lest we forget, Gautam not too long ago denigrated Mahendra as having sold Kalapani to preserve his throne. Remember the march on Kalapani he directed his lads and lasses on while whipping the reservists into a frenzy demanding that King Birendra strip Prince Paras Shah of his royal title and privileges?

On the legislative side, Speaker Subash Nembang prompted much ridicule when he asked the squabbling parties to give him the right to draft the constitution. The fact that he gave his plea some religious-altruistic cover did not fool many. In fact, people like Krishna Prasad Sitaula of the Nepali Congress, who initially appeared to laud Nembang’s breakthrough gambit, did a quick 180 and began describing it as part of – yes you got it – a ‘grand design’.

Former prime minister Madhav Kumar Nepal of the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist has gone on a now-or-never mode, without explaining why. But look at his dilemma. Failure to deliver would further sink the credibility of the political class. But meeting the January 22 deadline would also elevate party president Khadga Prasad Sharma Oli to the premiership.

The lower you go on the political ladder, the more you hear ifs and buts emerging, but not much nail-biting. So are we doomed? Not exactly. Prime Minister Koirala himself has asserted that failure is not an option. The corollary? Succeed we must. A partial draft or a pleasant excuse is still possible by that date.

In the first case, not too many people would like what they find in the text, draft or not. Members have begun speculating about the fieriness of the opposition within the constituent assembly premises.

As for a credible excuse, it better go beyond the constitution and help maintain the myth that the 12-Point Agreement is alive and well.



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