By Dr. S. Chandrasekharan
On going through the press in Nepal of the last few days, one gets the feeling that Nepal is going through a period of “mourning” There is plenty of hand wringing. The blame game is in full swing.
Both the Nepali Congress and the UML could not come to terms with the ground reality that they have been outwitted by the Maoists. Their demonstration in Kathmandu City on the 8th was not a massive show as they expected.
There is clamour to reinstate the interim constituent assembly to complete the unfinished task of finalising the new constitution as one way of resolving the present political impasse. There have been precedents before of resurrecting the parliament- but what is the guarantee that the political parties will not go back to their old ways and do nothing to resolve the differences? The Supreme Court will also not look kindly at any attempt to bring back the assembly by “other means.”
There is no doubt that the political leaders failed to fulfill their responsibilities. They had enough time to work out at least a broad framework and yet even after the final warning of the Supreme Court the progress was slow and there appeared to be no serious intention to adhere to the time limit set by the court and the constitution!
It is unfortunate that the fundamental question of having ethnic or non ethnic provinces was not resolved till the last day. The question of having one or two Madhesi provinces was also allowed to linger on but what finally came out was something that would never have been agreed to by the Madhesis. Yet the two main political parties the Nepali Congress and the UML failed to realise the ground realities and the perception of the common man in Nepal is that the two parties were adamant till the end and thus wrecked the process of making the new constitution. They have been portrayed as ” anti federalist” though in actual fact they are not. Unless the two parties make up for their mistakes, they will face a formidable task in convincing their voters in the next elections to vote for them.
True to form, the Madhesi groups are splitting into smaller entities like the protozoa. The latest is the one led by Gachhadar which is getting split vertically with SS.Bhandari going out of the group with a sizeable number of members. One small group like that of Sadhbhavana party led by Rajendra Mahatao is now split into three groups or even more. One charitable view is that the Madhesi political groups having been empowered only recently are still “cutting their teeth” and it may take many years before they take on an ideological entity. This could be true but their current disunity should be a cause for concern as they will lose heavily in the coming elections.
It was thought at one point when the interim constitution was promulgated, that Upendra Yadav who had led an NGO to fight for the Madhesi rights would emerge as a natural leader. With the political empowerment of the Madhesi groups he did emerge as the leader of the group and was a key player in the election of both the President and the Vice President. But somewhere down the line he lost the script and could not keep the flock together.
In the new dispensation the Janajathi groups emerged as another key player and this was clear to all, though the two major political parties the Nepali Congress and the UML failed to assess their importance in any future political set up. The Maoists on the other hand played their hands well and quickly dumped the “eleven point formula” which was agreed to with the two parties earlier.
In this confused and hazy political atmosphere, the Maoists have gained the most and this appears to be the reason for declaring fresh elections to another assembly on November 22nd. It is still not clear whether it was constitutionally correct for Prime Minister ( now care taker) Bhattarai to declare elections unilaterally and it may take sometime before it is decided in the court.
Any election without the cooperation of the two main political parties the Nepali Congress and the UML would lack credibility. Had there been an agreement on the identity based federal constitution before the dead line, the Nepali Congress would have taken over the government to conduct the elections as agreed to earlier among the four groups- the NC, the UML, the Maoists and the SLMM.
It is no wonder that the Nepali Congress feels cheated.
The way forward would be for a national coalition of all the stake holders and here Prachanda and no one else holds the key. After all he has done it once before in the integration of the PLA which he did, despite objections from his own senior leadership. He has to be conciliatory and give the Nepali Congress its due either for a national unity government to conduct the elections or for resurrecting the interim assembly if feasible to finalise the new constitution.