ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Nepal's New Constitution

Towards Progress or Chaos?

This article traces the political evolution of the new Constitution adopted by Nepal, lists its main features and explains the points of contention which have led to violent protests. It also delineates India's role in the entire process. It points out that the new Constitution of Nepal is a welcome move and provides the space for expanding rights and making it more inclusive.

Nepal has a new Constitution. Way back in 1949 the Nepali Congress (NC), in its fight against the Rana autocracy, demanded in its manifesto a Constitution written by an elected Consti­tuent Assembly. This principle was supported by India during its active involvement in ending the Rana system and initiating democratisation of Nepal in 1951. Nepal has taken 65 years to realise that dream. The first Constituent Assembly of Nepal was almost within reach of finalising a popular Constitution in 2012. The lack of determination on the part of the ruling Maoists, and the lack of support from the opposition NC and the Communist Party of Nepal—United Marxist Leninist (UML) then, did not let that happen. The NC and the UML, as also perhaps India, were not interested at that point of time in the Maoists getting credit for giving “New Nepal” a Constitution and consolidating politically on that basis.

The NC and UML combination came to power in the second Constituent Assembly in 2013. They were under pressure to deliver the Constitution as not doing so could be political hara-kiri. They had seen the cost of failure suffered by the Maoists who experienced a humiliating downsizing of their strength. In the 2013 elections, in a house of 600, the NC emerged as the strongest party with 196 seats, the UML secured 175 positions, leaving the Maoists a poor third with only 80 seats. The severe earthquake of April–May 2015 injected a sense of urgency for completing the constitutional process to restore the credibility of the government and the post-monarchy ­political system as a whole.

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