Thursday, July 18, 2019

Federalism: Unfinished Business In Nepal

The republic has been established, a basic democracy has been established, but the federalism in Nepal is in name only. Federalism in Nepal today feels like democracy in 1988. It is unfinished business. A cosmetic federalism has been enshrined in the constitution, but even that limited federalism is thwarted by the state in practice every step of the way.

The Nepali Congress that held sway over the country from 1990 to 2005 and the Nepal Communist Party that has become the new status quo both are inherently anti-federalist forces. Their commitment to federalism can be compared to the commitment of the royalist party RPP to democracy. It is in name only. They never wanted it, and so worked in tandem to dilute it as much as possible. The fascist suppression of the Madhesi uprising after the unfair constitution was promulgated is a wound in history that is still gaping. The NC and the NCP are the very reason Nepal has been denied genuine federalism. Only when they are downsized into oblivion will Nepal see federalism the way it was meant to be.

The party that is in the best position to lead Nepal to that promised federalism right now is the Samajwadi Party that was formed when Upendra Yadav and Baburam Bhattarai joined forces. It also has illustrious leaders like Ashok Rai and Rajendra Shrestha. Other parties with similar commitments to social justice have to do the math and realize it is in unification with the Samajwadi Party that victory lies. The immediate candidates for unification are the Mahanth Thakur led Rashtriya Janata Party, the CK Raut led Janmat Party and the independent political group led by Hridayesh Tripathy. They all are mass-based. There are also smaller parties, many of them Janajati, that are ripe candidates for unification. If this unification can be brought about over the next two years, the party that emerges will be in a good position to sweep the 22 districts in the Terai. The magic of doing that is that then you force the NC and the NCP to compete with each other in the Pahad. The Samajwadi Party's 10 state proposal, explained well, will see it do well also in the Pahad among the Janajati groups.

It would be unrealistic to think the NC and the NCP might get wiped out. But if they are only sufficiently downsized that will force them to change tack. They might then support the constitutional amendments that will give Nepal genuine federalism.

Before the leaders ask the people for sacrifice, they should be willing to do their own internal homework. For the federalists in Nepal, that homework is the work of party unification.

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