Advocate Bhimarjun Acharya
Constitutional expert, Nepal
TQ1: How you have evaluated the election manifesto issues by the political parties?
Mr. Acharya: It could be seen from two to three angles. First, this poll is for the Constituent Assembly. If one looks at the election manifesto issued by the political parties, one finds that the manifesto appears as if it were for the parliamentary election. The patterns of the manifesto look like this. Second, the issues which carry national importance have been taken in a light manner in order to gain cheap popularity which is very difficult to achieve. Third, looking at the inner content of the manifesto what appears to me is that the suggestions made by the previous CA body and the constitution making process thereafter may raise intense controversies. For example, among the reasons for the demise of the first CA body were the issue of federalism and that of the state restructuring and also of the electoral system. If one carefully reads the election programs of the political parties, one could discover that the differences over those stated issues remain still intact. To the extent that the issues which were taken as to have been sorted out in the past too have once again been reenergized and made their agenda this time also. Some stand for eleven and some yet others have taken the stand for seven provinces. If these issues are made the agenda then that may demand ample debate once again which may ultimately put a question mark over the draft of the new constitution from the second CA body. This situation may arise once again. The manner, with which the election manifestos have been issued, doesn't tally with the prime principles of the constitution. This may also have its impact in the issues of national development later. This is likely to bring in those issues in further and fresh debate which had been sorted out, presumably, by the previous CA body.
TQ2: So should we conclude that the parties have centered on the change of the government rather than draft of a new constitution? Is that so?
Mr. Acharya: Yes! That is abundantly clear. I for one have repeatedly been saying that through the existing CA election procedure, it is very difficult to draft a new national document. I still have some reservations over the conduct of the CA poll looking at the very inner intent and the working process of the parties. If per chance, the election is held then even with such election proposal and the working patterns of the political parties it appears difficult that a new constitution could be drafted. Even if it is drafted then chances remain fair that the constitution may not be accepted and honored by majority of the population.
TQ3: So should the people vote for parties looking at their manifesto or not?
Mr. Acharya: I presume that all concerned ones may have recalled the fresh Indian context. May be looking at such a situation, the Supreme Court of India has allowed the option of rejection of vote to the voters to either any political party or for that matter a particular poll contestant. This is the Indian Supreme Court verdict. This option is being used this time of the poll.
In our context, either you don't go to the polling booth or summarily reject the election. Or if you, willingly or unwillingly, line up in queue then you have to cast your votes to any one of the political party. But it should not mean that if one cast votes in favor of one political party amounts to the acceptance of the election manifesto of the party by the one who cast votes. To be more specific, in the context of Nepal, many people apparently do not study the election manifesto. Even if some have read and studied it yet he or she will cast his or her votes in a traditional manner having affiliation with some political party. Then comes the whim factor which forces one to cast his or her votes to a political party under compulsion. That is why election manifesto doesn't carry much meaning as such for the voters. What should have been done it that the parties concentrated their manifesto targeting the draft of the Charter.
TQ4: Does it mean that election manifesto of the political parties a ploy to befool the people? Is this what you want to say?
Mr. Acharya: Yes! In some way or the other it is a ploy only. Because you are set for the election of the constituent assembly. However, the proposals apparently look like if it were for the formation of a new government by launching new programs of action. This is out and out a fraud. The coming four years is for the CA body. None have touched on this issue. At best they should say that this particular period will be invested in the making of the Charter and the rest will be devoted to the issues of national development. That is why, I say, the election manifesto issued by the parties is a fraudulent act in order to fool the population.
TQ5: Can one take manifesto as an election policies?
Mr. Acharya: What is in a name? It could be taken as a declaration of the parties. What is most dangerous of it all is the inner content of the manifesto. The objective of the parties, it appears to me, is to revive even those issues in which there had been consensus in the past and motives are to intensify the conflict in between and among the parties once again. All these indicate that the fate is heading towards the first CA body. Things or say incidents may get repeated. Our parties have embraced failure on some issues. But since we do not have alternatives in our possession and thus we are bound to live up with the existing situation.
TQ6: Do you see the possibility of the commitments getting fulfilled that have been raised by the parties in their election manifesto?
Mr. Acharya: Given the situation there is no possibility of this. They could have stated that they could draft the Charter much ahead of the stipulated time frame. However, what the parties should tell the population at this juncture is that there are four or five elements for the draft of the constitution. The constitution draft has some important corners in it. That we will write the constitution of this structure; that the constitution has to be based on certain principles and philosophies; that the state should guarantee the fundamental rights of the common men. They should have also told the people that these would be the inner content of the new Charter. The election manifesto apparently has detached itself with the basic elements of the constitution. It is like that you have been told to write an essay on cow but you write the stories of an elephant or a rhinoceros.
TQ7: You mean the election manifesto doesn't guarantee the draft of the constitution?
Mr. Acharya: Yes! This is the fact. I think, the election manifesto would definitely emerge as a hurdle for the draft of the constitution. If the election is held in November then what is for sure that you would begin the process of writing the constitution. However, the fact is that since the election manifesto have already been issued and thus the political parties will take steps as per their respective election document. Then how the constitution could be written? There will be the prevalence of anarchy and bedlam like situation.
TQ8: That means conflict like situation will be there in the nation?
Mr. Acharya: This is a planned strategy to cultivate/benefit from the country's conflict situation. The manner the election dates have been announced by sidelining one of the largest parties has surely been done in order to intensify the conflict. The conduct of the poll is being done with the deployment of the army with the combined strategy to accelerate the conflict. In Nepal, in the recent years, a planned strategy is in vogue to harvest much from the conflict situation.
Text courtesy: The Bimarsha Weekly dated October 25, 2013. Thanks: Chief Ed.