Contentious Identity Politics in Federalism: Impasse on Constitution Writing in Nepal

By Mom Bishwakarma.

Published by The International Journal of Interdisciplinary Civic and Political Studies

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Article: Print $US10.00
Published online: March 5, 2015 $US5.00

This paper examines the contentious identity politics in the federalism debates of Nepal. I argue that that admitting identity-based federal states is an essential factor for the timely writing of a new constitution and its sustainability. The first constituent assembly (CA) was perceived as an important means for addressing the demands of ethnic minorities; however, it failed to write a new constitution. The discrepancies among political parties on the federal structure and forms of governance, including other constitutional issues, were primary factors for the CA failure. A key contested element in this discourse was the use of ethnic single identity vs. multiple identities as the primary basis to structure the federal states. The challenge of identity discourse is still surmounted for the second CA that likely has an impact on the constitution-writing process. This process requires a broader political consensus on state restructuring, particularly recognizing the identity of ethnic minorities, and redistributing state power and resources to the disadvantaged groups like the Dalit.

Keywords: Constitution, Dalit, Federalism, Identity, Social Justice, Nepal

The International Journal of Interdisciplinary Civic and Political Studies, Volume 9, Issue 2, March 2015, pp.13-23. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Published online: March 5, 2015 (Article: Electronic (PDF File; 680.020KB)).

Mom Bishwakarma

Ph.D Candidate, Department of Sociology and Social Policy, The University of Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia