By Dr. S. Chandrasekharan.
In my last update, I made mention of a possible secret deal between Jhalanath Khanal and the Maoists and expressed my hope that it may not relate to possible bulk integration of Maoist combatants. I said as follows:
Khanal has also not become a prime minister without cutting a deal both within his own party and the Maoists. While the deal with the group led by Madhav Nepal and K.P.Oli is not important, one will be interested to know what he has conceded to the Maoists as a price for supporting his candidature. It is hoped that he has not given in over the modality of integration where the Maoists are still insisting on bulk integration and if not, a special force of all the four representative groups of the army, police, armed special force and the Maoist combatants.
This is precisely what seems to have happened. It is now learnt that Khanal had signed a secret seven point agreement with Maoist chairman Prachanda before being assured of support for election to the post of prime minister. This deal is likely to have far reaching implications and the UML in the long term may be the ultimate losers.
A translated version of the agreement is given below.
1. The two parties vow to strengthen inclusive democracy and establish political and social system geared towards socialism while adhering to the pillars of national independence, indivisibility and sovereignty to create an independent economy through socio-economic transformation.
2. Agree to write a new constitution to institutionalise republic federalism uprooting all forms of feudalism, thus strengthening inclusive democracy and national independence.
3. Pledge to take the peace process to a logical end by executing all tasks related to integration, rehabilitation and voluntary retirement of Maoist combatants. We also agree to form a separate force for Maoist combatants or an alternative force combining the PLA and other security forces.
4. Agree to constitute a joint government. A high-level mechanism will be formed to assist in the governance. The mechanism will be led by the chiefs of the signatory parties on a rotational basis. A new government will be formed by including as many parties as possible. The sharing of important ministries, including home and defence, will be done in an appropriate and respectable manner. Top leaders of the two parties will take the responsibility for the same.
5. Minimum Common Programme of the new government and code of conduct will be formulated and enforced.
6. The two parties will lead the future governments on a rotational basis based on mutual understanding and long term cooperation.
7. It is hereby agreed that the UCPN (Maoist) will vote for the UML candidate in the prime ministerial election.
The Nepali Congress Spokes person Arjun Narsingh KC expressed his party’s disappointment over the agreement and said that this poses a serious challenge to the peace process itself.
It now appears that Khanal did not take the other senior leaders of his party into confidence in arriving at this agreement. The faction led by K.P.Oli is aghast over points3, 4 and 6. Rotation of prime minister envisaged under point 6 was never discussed within the party.
There are rumours that Khanal has privately agreed to hand over the prime ministership to Prachanda after May 28 even if the new constitution is not ready.
The agreement on “bulk integration” that has been opposed tooth and nail by both the Nepali Congress and the UML is seen to have been conceded surreptiously. What is more, it neutralises the high-level committee that has been specially formed to supervise and monitor the Maoists combatants, their arms and the camps. The Nepali Congress representative in the committee Ram Sharan Mahat must be wondering how his efforts have been quietly sabotaged by his coalition partner- the UML
The agreement formalises the consolidation of leftist forces in the political arena. The UML may not realise that the formal embrace by the Maoists will only lead to its destruction in the long run.
The Maoists on the other hand are seen to be fine tuning their “united front” tactics. First it joined with other mainstream parties and India to oust the monarchy by the 2005 twelve-point agreement. In the next step they were and are still in a dilemma whether it should use united front tactics against India for which the present moment does not appear to be appropriate. So now for the present it has teamed up with the UML to isolate the Nepali Congress who do not seem to have learnt their lessons yet.
In the long run, it is the UML which is in the danger of losing its identity though in the short term it may be good for constitution making and the peace process.