The Jinx of a ‘within one-year’ deadline in Nepal

(By Manoj Karki)

Kathmandu : After falling out in meeting the first two-year and then another two more years deadline to promulgate a new constitution through the first Constituent Assembly in 2012, the political parties went to polls for a second CA with a pledge to promulgate the elusive new constitution “within one year”.
Every political party and political leaders promised before their voters to give them the new constitution within a year’s time. Sensing the negative popular sentiment over the parties’ wasting four good years and millions of rupees in the name of the new constitution, the parties and leaders were vying against each other with a better pledge to give the people the main law of the land in 12 months.
Some leaders even went on record saying that they would come up with a draft within the first six months and then deliver the constitution within one year. This was also mentioned in the parties’ election manifestos that were distributed to the people before the elections. Furthermore, another promise the parties and leaders had made before the second CA elections in November 2013 was to hold local elections within 6 months of the announcement of the results of the second CA elections.
Elections were thus held and voters turned up in record numbers to exercise their franchise with a sincere hope that the leaders would live up to their promises this time around. As per the results of the second CA elections, the helm of power at the centre went to newer political parties, thereby changing the equation in the new Constituent Assembly.
However, leaders did not stop their election slogan of new constitution within a year’s time. Even though many months had now passed by with a very slow progress over the constitution making process, leaders were still stuck to the ‘within one year’ pledge.
As it seemed that the one-year pledge was hard to meet, debate arose over when the countdown to the one-year period would start i.e. immediately after the election results were announced, the day of the first meeting of the new CA or when the real work of the constitution making process started after fulfilling the regulation formalities. In the midst of all these, the pledge to hold local elections within 6 months faded away, as the ruling and opposition parties could not agree to it, with the latter doubtful about going back to the voters in such a short span of time following the CA elections.
Such was the ‘within one year’ pledge taken to effect that the main opposition party and warring factions within the ruling parties itself asked the then NC-led government to step down for failing to give the country a new constitution in one year’s time.
As expected the leaders and their parties failed to meet the one-year deadline and the constitution was actually promulgated in late September 2015 i.e. only two months before the one-year deadline in fact doubled.
Though the transition to a new government following the promulgation of the new constitution was not smooth as one would have liked based on the purported gentle man’s agreement between the two major political forces, Nepal finally getting out of the long and arduous process of drafting the new constitution in almost 7 years’ time came as a huge sigh of relief to many at home and abroad. The new constitution still mired in controversies almost four months after its promulgation is however a different matter for deliberations.
In the meantime, the newly elected Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli continued the ‘within one-year’ pledge by announcing impromptu that the nation would be free of power outage within one year.
The proclamation in the backdrop of power cuts reaching as high as 12 hours in a day and news report of under-construction mega hydropower projects hampered by the border blockade took everyone by surprise. As it may be noted that the Energy Minister from the same party as that of PM Oli in the previous government had announced getting the country rid of power cuts in 3 years. The Energy Minister had a lot of defending to do then to assure people that it was actually possible in three years’ time.
Prime Minister Oli has however floated the idea of wind and solar energy to back up his claim to keeping the promise of ‘in one year’. The Prime Minister’s announcement has generated a lot of debate with many people opining that it was almost impossible to realize this in practice, unless he has something up his sleeves that energy experts have yet to notice of.
With many deadlines breached including the this time seriously ‘in one year’s time’ for the new constitution, only time will tell if Prime Minister KP Oli will in fact be able to break the jinx of the one-year deadline or he will too end up continuing the tradition of Nepali leaders actually proving that promises are meant to be broken and not kept.
To make matters worse for himself as far as general perception is concerned at the moment, Prime Minister Oli has made another tall promise of supplying the now available to only the ‘rich and influential’ LPG or cooking gas directly to Nepali bhanchhaghars.He has, however, improved this time around with not promising any timeline, not even “within one year” deadline set by himself to give the Nepalis round-the-clock uninterrupted power supply.rss