By Dr. S. Chandrasekharan
In a recent seminar held in Delhi on the developments in Nepal where politicians from Nepal were also invited, the general tenor of the discussions gave the impression that the President of Nepal being the only constitutional representative in place, should get more active.
It is not clear whether this would mean that he should dismiss the current care taker prime minister Dr. Baburam Bhattarai and invite the Nepali Congress to take over the government to complete the unfinished agenda of finalising the new constitution and conduct the elections? I presume they are not aware of the consequences that would follow on this unilateral action.
President Ram Baran Yadav has repeatedly asked the political parties, particularly the three main groups- the Maoists, the Nepali Congress and the UML to come to a consensus on the future course. He had also asked them to decide whether they would prefer a revival of the interim constitutional assembly to complete the task or go for elections directly.
He had made it clear right from the beginning that the care taker government cannot go on indefinitely and it is for the political parties to decide on the best course of action. He has also pointedly returned two ordinances relating to the elections and despite the personal meeting the two deputy Prime ministers had with him, he refused to budge from his position.
The government is now being run on ordinances and a quick solution is required. Important issues like appointment of office bearers to the constitutional bodies, formation of the commission of disappearance, truth and reconciliation commission, civil service acts and Health Acts are pending. The government is being run on a partial budget which would get exhausted soon!
Let us see the latest position of the two confronting political parties.
Nepali Congress: 1. The political deadlock is not going to end unless there is an NC led government. Bhattarai’s resignation is a pre requisite for creating an atmosphere of consensus. 2. The government ( led by Dr. Bhattarai) that has no constitutional and moral grounds to stick to power must step down unconditionally for forming a national unity government-
UCPN (M): 1.Withdrawal from power is contingent on the resolution of the issues concerning federalism and election for a new constituent assembly all in a package. 2. The government will continue for years unless the political parties reached a consensus.
It should be clear by now that the Maoists are not going to vacate the seat until the next elections that cannot take place before April next year.
On 15th of August, the UCPN-M formed a new entity called Federal Democratic Republican Alliance (FDRA) of twenty odd parties. According to Dahal the idea is to “orchestrate and consolidate the articulation in favour of identity-based federalism and mobilse popular and elite opinion to that end.” He also indicated that this conceptualisation is to contest the forthcoming elections through adjustments, shared strength and collaboration.
The Maoists appear to have completely outwitted both the Nepali Congress and the UML. Whatever may be the internal dynamics, the perception outside is that the Nepali Congress could not even to come to a final decision as to who should lead the government- Sushil, Deuba or Paudel ( the last has been desperately trying for quite some time now).
The UML is still to completely arrest the exodus of the janajathi leaders.
Thus the Maoists have succeeded in polarising the political landscape into those who believe in identity-based federalism and those opposed to it, though in reality it is not the position!
One can understand the frustration of sincere and genuine leaders like Ram Sharan Mahat of Nepali Congress who feel that their seniors have let the party down. The party will get isolated further unless the top triumvirate of the NC get out of their entrenched positions and show some flexibility.
The UCPN (Maoist) has suggested anew a plan that is worth looking into. Promulgate the constitution incorporating the agreed upon issues, while the remaining contentious issues will be resolved through a new parliament or referendum. The party said it came up with a flexible stance considering that both CA revival and fresh elections are impossible without political agreement. The party further stated that if all parties stuck to their respective stances, the country would plunge into a grave political crisis. The party also said if the constitution is promulgated including the issues already resolved, it will pave the way for holding parliamentary elections. If the parliament also fails to settle the disputed issues on federalism, according to the Maoist proposal, they could be resolved through a Referendum.
This appears to be one way out that is workable. The Nepali Congress and the UML should seriously consider the pros and cons of the proposal. A referendum ultimately may still have to be held to decide on the ethnic-based provinces. But then the two parties will not be blamed for the current impasse.
One commentator has described the current situation as one of a “fragile state moving into a failed state.” This is not true as of now and is unlikely to go that way so long as President R.B.Yadav is fully in charge of the situation.