The promulgation of the constitution and the holding of elections to all three tiers of government were meant to usher stability and peace into this land. But events have not unfolded as intended by the major parties. There is still discontent in the Madhes region, which could manifest again once provincial assemblies are formed.
In addition, it is likely that political disputes could arise in the course of the constitution’s implementation. In recent weeks, the country had taste of it when the government revealed its tentative list of temporary provincial capitals. Protests erupted in numerous towns across the country, with locals demanding that their particular area should be the capital.
The political parties have so far demonstrated that they are keen to avoid taking any controversial decisions. When the Nepali Congress (NC)-led government called a meeting of the CPN-UML and CPN-Maoist Centre to discuss the issue, the parties of the left alliance stated that they didn’t want to get involved in the issue.
In this way, they shirked their responsibility, as they were eager not to be blamed for any fallout. Subsequently, the NC stated that it will also not take any decision on the issue. Instead, the government plans to initially convene the provincial assemblies in Kathmandu and allow them to determine their own capitals.
The NC feels that since it is only a caretaker government, and it would be best for it to avoid such controversial issues. All in all, it is evident that the major parties not only do not have the appetite to take controversial decisions, but also lack confidence in their ability to mediate disputes among the population.
This is an unfortunate sign. There will be a great many disputes that will arise in the days ahead. In addition to the choice of provincial capitals, there will be conflicts over the division of responsibility between various tiers of government, such as conflicts between local governments and the central government over who has the right to collect certain taxes.
It can be expected that disputes between provincial governments and the Centre will be even more severe. Provinces may have disputes amongst themselves as well. As the constitution is implemented over the next five years, we expect heavy litigation in the country’s various courts over matters large and small.
At such a time, the parties will have a key role to play in hearing out various stakeholders and resolving their disputes in an amicable way, instead of fending off their responsibilities fearing political backlash. It is the duty of the parties and the civil service to begin thinking about the various disputes that could emerge and start formulating ways to resolve them.
The Kathmandu Post, January 10, 2018