In a day dominated by hectic discussions, the Constituent Assembly (CA) extended its own tenure by a year.
The Unified Communist Party of Nepal-Maoits (UCPN-M) supported the government’s proposal for a year’s extension after Prime Minister Madhav Nepal declared that he would quit as soon as possible to pave the way for a national unity government. However, he made it clear that Maoists must honour their commitment to return property confiscated during the years of insurgency to rightful owners, and transform Young Communist League into a civilian structure.
The proposal for extension of the House tenure was approved with a overwhelming majority after chiefs of three major political parties — The UCPN-M, Nepali Congress and the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (CPN-UML) — endorsed an agreement extending the deadline of the CA.
The Rastriya Prajatantra Party-Nepal (RPP-N), with four members in the House was the only dissenting party. Its leader C B Gurung said the House has lost its mandate, and “we have failed to deliver Constiutution within the stipulated time. The only course left is to go for a fresh poll.”
The House assembled at 11. 42 pm exactly 18 minutes before the House was to cease to exist. Maoist leader Prachanda had specified that his party would only support the Bill for the extension of the CA’s term if the Prime Minister resigned. However, Baburam Bhattarai, deputy leader of the UCPN-M managed to rally his party members to support the Bill even after the party chief whip had issued directive for members to oppose the Bill.
Prime Minister Madhav Nepal, when he called on the President around 9 pm, asserted that he was not going to resign under pressure from the Maoists, but added that he would not come in the way of the formation of a national unity governmnt. Within an hour, however, he changed his mind under pressure from his own party heavy weights including Party chief Jhalnath Khanal who asked him to quit or pave the way for the return of a “dictatorial regime”.
The extension of the House has triggered sharp response from the legal community which says it is uncontitutional. “How can the tenure be extended by the CA itself,” said lawyer Sambhu Thapa. Television channels have said that from the time of the creation of the Constituent Assembly to the preparation of a partial draft of the Constitution, a whopping Rs 13. 5 billion has been spent.