Modi plays consensus chord for Nepal constitution

  • Prashant Jha, Hindustan Times, Kathmandu
  • Updated: Nov 25, 2014 20:58 IST

In keeping with the spirit of his speech to Nepal's constituent assembly in August, but with a direct political message given Nepal's polarised climate, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said that the country must write a constitution soon - and on the basis of sahamati, consensus, taking everyone along.

Modi's message is bound to reverberate across Kathmandu's political spectrum. The ruling Nepali Congress-Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist Leninist) had sought to push a vote on contentious constitutional issues since they are close to a two-thirds majority, required to promulgate the statute. The opposition Maoists and Madhesi political forces had emphasised the need to keep alive the spirit of the peace process and adopt a constitution only through consensus. There is a debate on issues like federalism, form of government and electoral system.

Modi, speaking during the inauguration of a trauma centre, made it clear that Nepal has to make its own constitution. "You have to do it your way, it is your decision. India has no role and should not have a role." But he added that happiness in Nepal gives India satisfaction. And the sooner it writes its constitution, the sooner it will gain new strength.

He reiterated that the constitution must be like a bouquet, reflecting the fragrance of each citizen. "Madhesis should not feel there is no one for us, pahadis should not feel there is no one for us, Maoists must not feel there is no one for us." The constitution, Modi emphasised, must reflect the 'voices, dreams, aspirations of all citizens', and have opportunities for all. Modi had, during his visit in August, mentioned Tarai but refrained from mentioning Madhesis - the people of the plains who have long complained of exclusion from the power structure and have close social and cultural links with India.

Using the idiom of a shared heritage, Modi said he had come from the land of Vishwanath to Pashupatinath; and he had brought a sapling from Bodhgaya for Lumbini. And it was on this basis he was 'praying' to Nepal not to delay the constitution, and to write it consensually.

Giving the Indian example, Modi noted that every year, the constitution goes through amendments - and this requires a two thirds majority. He said Nepal can amend its constitution in future parliaments similarly. "But the first form, the original document, has to be consensual." If this did not happen, Nepal would confront 'major problems'.

Late on Tuesday, Modi met the entire spectrum of Nepal's leadership, emphasising the message of consensus. NC leader Chitralekha Yadav told HT that they had conveyed to the PM that they too sought a consensus.

After the meeting with the Maoists, party senior leader Dr Baburam Bhattarai told HT in an exclusive conversation, "Modiji told us how India missed the industrial revolution; but Nepal - at this time when India and China are developing - should not miss this bus."

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