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Report of the seminar on Building Modern State through Constitutional Process

Organised by Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES)

18-19 September, Nijghad

Prepared by Lal Babu Yadav, Associate Professor of Political Science, TU.

Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES), Nepal office organized a two-day seminar on "Building Modern state through constitutional Process" at Nijgadh, Bara district on September 18-19, 2010. Altogether 147 participants representing government officials, civil society, women's organization, political parties, media and teaching community took part in the meeting. Among the participants 27 were women.

Welcoming the participant head of FES Nepal office Dev Raj Dahal briefed about the ideals of FES, its works worldwide in general and Nepal in particular. He also said that "active citizenship" is a prerequisite to effective state and argued that citizens should not lapse into silence after they vote in every five years. Such a tendency in Nepal has made Nepalese democratic constitutional and peace process fragile. He also said that citizenship can also help override other subsidiary identities, such as class, caste, gender, ethnicity, age and religion and contribute to both social integration and political integration with the national system.

Another speaker Kashi Raj Dahal, constitutional expert, viewed that the "decadence of democratic values, ethics and morality" in polities has caused protracted deadlock in Nepali society undergoing multiple transitions. One can see political process veering towards both the uncertainly of constitution and peace process. This condition reflects the fragility of state and inability of political parties to govern and resolve many critical impediments, such as defining the forms of federalism, election system, integration of Moist combatants, establishment of institutional pillars of peace, power-sharing arrangements etc. Public apathy is eroding the public sphere's capability and effect peaceful change without friction. Without national consensus on major issues neither constitution nor peace process can proceed ahead. The constitutional requirement to pass each and every article of new constitution demands cooperation of parties to their commitments and agreements. Beyond doubt constitution provides a roadmap to trudge in a coherent direction, not knowledge and wisdom to leaders. Therefore, political leaders must be able to understand peoples' aspiration and convert these aspirations into implementable public policies.


After the presentation by Dev Raj Dahal on building modern state through constitutional process floor was opened for discussion. One senior participants asked : Who takes action against powerful leaders at top when they systematically commit one after another mistake? To this K. Dahal replied: Since sovereignty lies with the people they have right to punish deviant leaders. Another speaker Binod Raj Laudari inquired: Since the mandate of CA was only for two years Constituent Assembly members increased their tenure to three years. Is it not a corruption to be punished by law? Is not 601-members a burden for poor people of Nepal? To these K. Dahal said both donor community and people in general accepted this for a fear of "authority vacuum". This should not happen frequently otherwise they lose their legitimacy.

Ram Prasad Mishra observed that group rights have established the tyranny of minority. It does not create political system and constitution stable. The basis of federalism should be territorial and the number should be around five. Ms. Durga Koirala too expressed concern over 14 federal states due to weak economic base of Nepal. She also asked to add three elements in Nepal's political process: increase the number of women leadership at the higher echelons of political parties, incentives to encourage youth to stay in Nepal, and establish a system of encouraging society to take care of old people within their own society rather than sending back to orphanage.

Another speaker Ms. Bishnu Nepal feared that carving Nepal into 14 states makes it vulnerable to neighborhood's politics. Similarly, she added, since women constitutes 50 percent of population the national budget should be allocated 50% to them. Women need both protection and capacity building. Sudarshan Koirala observed if we have to adopt federalism then may be India's model is suitable because of a strong stranger with the ability to dissolve the federal government. In this model right to self-determination does not destabilize society and makes weak people strong in politics. Similarly, reservation for certain groups and affirmative action should also be limited to certain years. Nepali language should serve as lingua franca as it is spoken all over the country. The system of proportional representation should be applied to only federal states. Citizenship should be given to only Nepalese, not foreigners like the past government did.

Prof. Lal Babu Yadav argued that Nepal should adopt either inclusive or proportional or reservation, not all at the same time otherwise the state cannot afford. Nepal's national identity is more important than other identifies for nation building. Nepalese should not forget their history of independence & coexistence while carrying out federalism. We cannot create a state without history and forget our forefathers' contribution. Similar needs were aired by Bidur Lal Shrestha, a businessman. He said that even Prithvi Narayan Shah had carved out five regions. We should stick to that. Nepal has only party leaders not statespersons, more bourgeoise than people-oriented and lack the capacity to lead the nation in difficult times. We have to utilize foreign aid within the realm of national priorities and, therefore, plans have to be formulated with the appropriateness of national need rather than what donors say. Shanker Ghimire asked: how can we make a national constitution with global standards when popular consciousness is pathetically low. We have example of the constitution of 2015 B.S drafted by Sir Ivor Jennings which completely failed.

Ms. Sabirti Shrestha inquired whether there is limit to the extension of tenure of CA ? How long can it go ? K. Dahal said that unless it is stopped by the people themselves. Ms. Nirmala Devkota, human rights activist, asked for the rights of single women and increase women's representation at higher level. She said that reservation for Dalits, indigenous and ethnic should be replaced by conflict victim women. She said that without welfare state it is not possible to reduce the level of conflict in society. Narayan Gautam believed that economic viability is crucial for democratic sustainability. There is a correlation between taxation and accountable governance. Tax base of the country can be expanded if base of productive sector of economy is diversified. Another participant Man B. Shrestha believed that consultation of politicians will people had declined causing the growth of authoritarian political culture. Politicians did not consult the people before declaring secularism and federalism. Such a tendency is harmful for democratic practice.

Bodh N. Chaudhary argued that what is essential for Nepal is a "Culture of constitutional behavior". Law enforcement is a major problem for establishing rule of law. Political purification is essential to foster democratic political culture. This requires character building. Bhav Nath Rana Magar said that unless leaders mollify the fear of people that "Federalism does not disintegrate the nation" it is very difficult is create public opinion for it, the same applies with secularism.

Ganesh Bhandari viewed that as democracy exists within nation protection of nation is a precondition for democratic guarantee. The territorial integrity of the country must be ensured. We have to see the problems of border encroachment and control girl trafficking arising out of the open border in the south. The National Interest Committee of the parliament must be activated to protect interest of nature in nature. Binod Raj questioned the utility of clientalist political culture that is plaguing the nation and weakening the concept of citizenship. Party oriented expenditure of development has to be discouraged, agriculture and cooperatives should be subsidized to stem the growing food crisis Nepal is now facing. Access of poor to the public fund should be increased to enlist their support in the political system. One participant argued that democrats are unsettling the base of democracy and others mainly conservatives are trying to uproot them.

The second day session discussed the principles of democracy. Lal Babu Yadav explained about the handouts of democracy and Kasha Raj Dahal initiated debates among the participants with cases and examples within the country to simplify the concepts. Shanker Chimoriya inquired as to whether presidential system is suitable for Nepal given its authoritarian political culture. But direct election might serve as a brake. Same participants asked about the possibility of inner parties' democracy" Narayan Shrestha asked for the philosophical justification of civil society in Nepal within democracy. He asked why civil society is not acting to rectify the anomalies of democracy? The answer was enlightenment and the struggle of civil society to create "open access order" that is an impersonal state.

Shambhu Pd. Giri asked Prithvi Narayan Shah said that "Nepal is a yarn between two stones." Is there a possibility to convert it into a dynamite given Nepal's militant culture? Lal Babu Yadav responded that it is possible if leadership is smart, visionary and capable. Shankar Chimoria asked about the possibility to bridge a gap between rhetoric and reality. Obviously, if there is an internal party democracy. Inter-party women's network has been working in the country but what are their core functions," asked Menka Devkota.


On the whole the participants viewed that Nepalese political parties should think in term of national perspective for all national initiatives and resolve the contested 18 issues that is plaguing the politics with deadlock and immobility. Building care national identity is a care to both socialize and mobilize the loyalties of diversity. There is no escape from caususes polities both to draft a new constitution and push for logical conclusion of peace process. Active citizenship is a key of create welfare state-give justice of all, give fear security, provide welfare and create public order. Citizens have not just rights but also duties.

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