Dr. S. Chandrasekharan
Till the end of February and even in the first two days of March there was no inkling that the Maoists would join the government. They were insisting on getting the the “Home” portfolio and the implementation of the secret seven point understanding entered into by Prime Minister Khanal and the Maoist Chief Dahal.
The Maoists made it known to the press and the people that the UML had “failed to create a basis” on which they could join the government and that they would sit in the “opposition.”
Yet on 4th March, the standing committee of the UCPN (M)- the Maoists decided to join the ministry and there was no mention of the home portfolio or of the disputed issues of the seven point agreement relating to integration and the ‘rotation formula’ for leading the government.
Four members were inducted immediately on the same day and seven more are likely to join soon. The UML will also induct another eight. Talks are still going on over the allocation and distribution of portfolios.
Of the Madhesi factions, Upendra Yadav is being tempted with the portfolio of foreign affairs. Other Madhesi Groups have declared that they will not join the government.
The Maoist members so far inducted include, Krishna Bahadur Mahara as Deputy Prime Minister and as Minister for Information and Communications- a post which he held earlier, Top Bahadur Raymajhi as Minister for Physical Planning and Works, Barshaman Pun as Minister for Peace and Reconstruction and Khadga Bahadur Biswokarma as Minister for Tourism.
Next to Home, the most important portfolio would be that of Peace and Reconstruction which the Maoists have already bagged. Pun will be the one to see to the completion of the peace process that includes, integration and rehabilitation of the Maoist combatants.
The Special Committee for supervision of arms and armies has been reactivated and Khanal the PM will head this committee.
These developments could not have taken place unless Khanal has given in on something or there has again been a secret deal. From what is known, the Maoists are still desperate to have the Home portfolio and not the Defence. There is a media report to say that Khanal has promised to hand over the Home portfolio after “some time” once “regrouping of the Maoist combatants” is begun and significant progress made towards integration.
There are also reports to indicate that even if Khanal retains the Home portfolio, he will have the assistance of a minister from the Maoist ranks to help him in looking into the nitty gritty details of integration. Thus, one way or other, the Maoists are seen to have achieved their objective of having a decisive say in the integration and rehabilitation of the PLA combatants.
Regrouping is being planned on lines of those who are willing to be integrated, those who are willing to be rehabilitated into the society and finally those wanting to join politics. Pun who is in charge of peace process and reconstruction has himself suggested that the segregation of the combatants will be done in four steps- the first for those to be integrated, the second, a voluntary discharge with a golden handshake, a third- a lucrative option for rehabilitation and finally a package for those having physical disabilities.
The important point that has to be tackled is the number to be integrated unless there is a deal again between the Maoists and the Prime Minister Khanal already.
One other suggestion of creating a special force for security of border, public parks, forests industries and highways is likely to be opposed vigorously by the Nepali Congress and thus may not go through.
The Army on the other hand has made it clear as late as 27th February that the time honoured practice of honesty, impartiality and integrity of Nepal Army could be compromised by the induction of politically motivated individuals. On the other hand they would prefer to have a separate directorate with four mandates namely 1. Disaster preparedness. 2. Construction of and development infrastructure 3. Industrial security and 4. Nature conservation but not wild life protection, In effect it would mean that they would not like to take any individual from the PLA and this will not be acceptable to anyone including the Nepali Congress.
Some induction into the army has to take place and question is only “how many?”.
Surprisingly, Dahal has also agreed to revive and coordinate the special task force to reconcile over 83 contentious issues that are still pending in connection with the drafting of the new statute. Of these the parties have already agreed on 33 issues and only a formal clearance is to be done. This is good progress indeed.
Veteran Nepali Congress Leader K.P. Bhattarai Passed away on 4th night.
K.P. Bhattarai, one of the founding members of the Nepali Congress and the first Prime Minister after the 1990 revolution passed away on 4th night at Kathmandu. He was born in 1924 in Banaras and had his education in India. He was one of the few leaders who participated in the “Quit India ” movement and was jailed by the British authorities.
As the Speaker of the first ever democratically elected government led by the Nepali Congress, he was imprisoned after the royal coup of King Mahendra in 1960. In all, he had spent over 14 years in jail.
Much has been written about “Krishunji” in the media after his death. In the last few years he had distanced himself from the Nepali Congress he founded and his health had also deteriorated. The last time I met him a few years ago, he could not even recognise me.
Bhattarai had himself told me how he was cruelly treated by the monarchy during the initial stages of his imprisonment. The efforts to break him psychologically failed and till the last, Bhattarai continued to be a person of great personal integrity- a quality which very few had.
Yet I suspect Bhattarai had a great “weakness” for monarchy and this he continued till his death. He was against Nepal being declared a republic. He was too conciliatory and gave in too much when the 1990 constitution was being drafted. He trusted the King despite suffering at the hands of the monarchy for 14 long years.
Somehow and for some reason, Bhattarai could not get on well with G.P. Koirala and this affected the party. Dissensions within the party ensued and a good majority the party had in the beginning of 1990 was squandered away. Sacrifices made by the party elders were soon forgotten. Hunger for power, corruption and absence of good governance all contributed to the split and the inevitable decline in the party. This in one sense contributed to the rise of Maoists as we see today.