Seven topsy-turvy yearsThe constitution is by and large progressive. Only if our political parties adhered to it.
It has been seven years since the promulgation of the Constitution of Nepal 2015, discarding an archaic set of laws and making way for the new. The division of governance into federal, provincial and local levels was meant to usher in the economic and social change that people have always yearned for. But the expectations they had of the politicians to bring about desired change have long dissipated. Despite some of its more contentious provisions, the constitution has largely been seen as a progressive document. But our politicians have done little to remove its shortcomings–or to abide by its progressive provisions for that matter.
It is one thing to have a progressive rule-book, but it means little if the rule of law cannot be upheld, especially by those who contributed to its writing. Nepal’s three key state organs have been in disarray. The executive, legislative and judicial branches have been ineffectual in safeguarding and upholding the constitution. Instead, what we have seen in the past few years from our top politicians is a constant struggle to be in power or its vicinity, not for any broader good but purely for self-enrichment.
It is not just the current Sher Bahadur Deuba government that has issued ordinances to make and break alliances. His predecessor, KP Sharma Oli, was worse still in this aspect. At the helm right now is a colourful patchwork of political parties with conflicting ideologies, but with the common lust for power and perks. And to maintain the status quo, the political parties have sought to give continuity to this alliance by fielding common candidates. The politics of alliance has done little to restore political parties’ credibility, their ineptitude instead reflected in constant squabbling. People’s expectations of politicians have been betrayed.
The Nepali executive has nearly always been in controversy. But the judiciary, which acts as the custodian of the rule of law and has for long been reputed for being free from political corruption, has also been rather weak and ineffective. Instead of being a pathfinder, over the past few months, the judiciary is being seen as a toothless organ firmly in the clutches of the powerful. The recent controversies surrounding the now suspended Chief Justice Cholendra Shumsher Rana have exposed the state of decay in Nepal’s important institutions.
It’s not all gloom and doom though. The three-tier federal structure is slowly being institutionalised. The functioning of the local bodies has been encouraging. Slowly but surely, power is trickling down to the grassroots, albeit not at the desired pace. Yet with a little more sagacity on the part of the country’s top politicians, a lot more could have been achieved.
As we celebrate the seventh anniversary of the promulgation of the constitution, we need to keep in mind that the constitution and the current set-up have come with the sacrifices of many. These are hard-earned gains of the Nepali people. If the constitution’s purpose is to ensure the prosperity of the Nepali people, especially the oppressed and the downtrodden, the onus is on the parties that helped draft it to ensure they honour its sanctity. An assault on the constitution is the highest form of political and moral betrayal, and those who indulge in it must pay.