During his tenure as the Chairperson of the Constituent Assembly, Subas Chandra Nembang frequently emphasised the importance of having a consensus. His reiterated stance that “consensus is necessary and there is no alternative to consensus” at times appeared to some as a sign of the speaker’s cautious approach. However, he always wanted to bring people together and conducted house proceedings with poise and grace.
The outcome of the initial Constituent Assembly election instilled a sense of ascendance for the Maoists. The traditionally dominant Nepali Congress and UML parties found themselves taking the back seat. This sparked significant apprehension among the entrenched bureaucracy often referred to as the ‘permanent government’. Among this group, adept at taking advantage, both minor and major figures from the Maoist faction had already begun to emerge.
The Maoist forces openly projected an attitude of triumph, despite the armed rebellion concluding through an agreement. On numerous occasions, be they of significant or minor importance, it was evident that leaders and members of the Maoist faction were positioning themselves as the foremost power within the nation. This gradual shift in perception underscored a growing sense of diminishing influence in the old guard of the Nepali Congress and UML alliance.
The world was watching Nepal during the peace process and how the country would manage the combatants and the weapons. The United Nations played a growing role, hosting power centres discreetly. The conduct of Maoist leaders and activists, marked by the lingering scars of war, along with the vigilant monitoring by security agencies, including the army, hinted at an impending event in the country. In hindsight, we can only feel grateful that the country has arrived at this state.
Subas Chandra Nembang assumed the role of Chair of the Constituent Assembly during a time of considerable political and social instability. The country was inching towards another form of conflict, driven by the assertiveness of the victorious-minded Maoists and the defeated mindset of the old regime.
During this period, international allies were actively involved in aiding the constitution-making process under the guise of assistance. Conducting the Constituent Assembly under such circumstances was an inherently challenging task for Subas Chandra Nembang.
From the initial stages leading up to the establishment of the second Constituent Assembly, there were numerous changes in the events. As the Maoists gained prominence and new political parties joined the Constituent Assembly, this shift in dynamics sparked new conflicts. Despite the changing landscape, Subas Chandra Nembang continued to emphasise the same message, persisting in his calls for coordination and cooperation, even in circumstances where they might have appeared unnecessary.
Voice of reason
This was a time when the country needed to address two crucial issues: defining the core content of the constitution and deciding the fate of the Maoist army. Given the challenges faced in conducting the Constituent Assembly meeting, it was a weighty responsibility to forge consensus on these matters. Looking back, Subas Chandra Nembang shouldered this task with relative ease.
Inside the Constituent Assembly, there were intense debates about the justice system and citizenship. They also had to decide on important issues like the type of government, how to divide constituencies, the ratio of population to representatives, the structure of the legislature, and how parties would be represented.
These issues were so contentious and polarising that convening a discussion seemed a daunting prospect. Yet, Subas Chandra Nembang took on this formidable task.
Topics like pluralism, people’s war, the right to self-determination, the national flag, and the debate between amendable and non-amendable issues were highly contentious. Another crucial aspect of the peace process was the integration and adaptation of the Maoist guerrillas and the democratisation of the Nepali Army, which had the potential to cause significant disruptions in the House. Subas Chandra Nembang adeptly managed these sensitive matters.
Believer in dialogue
Examining other South Asian countries besides Nepal provides a clear illustration of the significance of coordination and cooperation in politics and within a nation’s political system. The tensions between the government and opposition in India, the adversarial dynamic between parties in Bangladesh, and the divide between the government, opposition and the military in Pakistan all underscore the impact of consensus and cooperation, emphasising Subas Chandra Nembang’s crucial role within Nepal’s political landscape.
Subas Chandra Nembang, a distinguished scholar in the field of criminology and an authority on the application of constitutional and legal principles in politics, was characterised by his measured demeanour, avoiding excessive enthusiasm and flashy reactions. His approach often involved nuanced responses to various situations. He emerged as a staunch advocate for consensus and cooperation, assuming the role of their spokesperson.
While it is true that many issues remained unresolved, Nepali politics did not descend to the level of intolerance seen in some other South Asian nations. Regardless of the nature of disputes and disagreements, the tradition of leaders coming together for discussions still persists in Nepali politics. Subas Chandra Nembang played an integral role in establishing and preserving this positive political culture. This is what he will be remembered for.