By S. Chandrasekharan
Any political analyst visiting Nepal is confronted with two questions- Will the new coalition of the Maoists and the fragile Madhesi Morcha work? The second, of course as has always been the case as to why India chose to bring the Maoists back to power knowing fully well the strategic fallout.
My response to the first question is that it “may” work if the Maoists and the Madhesi groups are sincere. A careful reading of the Supreme Court judgement ( one of the best written land mark judgements) would show that extensions of the interim parliament cannot be done indefinitely and so there is no other alternative but to complete the constitution for both parties.
As for the second question, it looks that India had nothing to do in bringing the Maoists back to power.
There is no doubt that the Madhesi Morcha consisting of diverse groups and diverse interests will continue to be as fragile and disunited as ever and will be the weak link in the coalition. Many have doubts whether the Madhesi leaders not known for unity or in a few cases even given to personal enrichment would ever be able to forge an understanding among themselves. But this is the only opportunity they have had in two and a half centuries and the hope is that they will do it this time.
The Madhesis have a national agenda- to complete the peace process and at least finalise a broad frame work of the new constitution which will have to be federal and inclusive in nature. The second is the regional agenda to ensure inclusiveness in governance and recruitment and more importantly to finalise the long pending of problems of over 2.5 million stateless individuals in the Terai.
The Maoists should have by now realised that they have no other option left but to go along to ensure the completion of the peace process.
It was obvious from the beginning that the integration of the PLA combatants cannot be done without the cooperation of the Maoists. While they were in power with Prachanda leading, they did nothing at all to begin the process and when others were in charge they did their best to scuttle all efforts made to begin the process. The PLA combatants are also said to be restless and cannot be housed in the camps at state’s expense any longer.
Despite the pressure from the so called hard liners led by Kiran Baidya, Prachanda is still in charge and it appears that Baburam Bhattarai has his full support in consolidating the gains of the revolution rather than going for another people’s revolution as is being imagined by the other group. The goodwill and the euphoria that were generated at the time of the elections to the interim parliament have largely been dissipated.
The Maoists have also got one more chance to prove themselves that they are sincere in joining the mainstream and complete the peace process. If they miss the only chance they have now, they will have to blame only themselves and the people will not forgive them for letting them down.
The ideal situation would have been for the Nepali Congress and the UML to come to an understanding with both Maoists and the Morcha to form a national consensus government. But both the parties will have to strike out a consensus among themselves first before coming to an understanding with the groups in power. This grouping is as fragile as the one of the Madhesi groups and the only issue on which both have come together appears to be to oppose the present government!
The Nepali Congress though on paper appears to be one, is still fractured into two factions- one led by Sher Bahadur Deuba and the other by Sushil Koirala. For a while, Deuba even nursed ambitions to become the Prime Minister once again. The younger elements in the party continue to be marginalised.
The UML is also a divided house. One may recall, how strenuously and consistently the Jhalanath Khanal Group tried to undermine their own party leader Madhav Nepal who was the Prime Minister then and later Khanal went into a secret understanding with the Maoists to become the Prime Minister for a short while!
The UML and the Nepali Congress appear to be acting in a coordinated manner now after the new government took over. This coordination could at best be described as fragile.
The Nepali Congress is said to be insisting that the integration should be completed before the new constitution is adopted. The best that could be achieved within the 45 days promised or even in the next three months will be to take the preliminary but irreversible steps of integration by physically separating those to be integrated from others and at least free those who wish to leave with a “golden handshake.”
There are reports that the keys of the arms containers of the PLA have already been handed over to the special committee on integration. But this is not enough. Much more remains to be done.
There were media reports that said that the information minister from the Morcha refused to take a press conference on behalf of the government as has been the practice all along. There are also demands of non constituent assembly members from Terai seeking ministerial appointments!
As said before, the Madhesi Morcha has a golden opportunity to prove itself and do something for the Terai in addition to the national agenda and it is hoped that they would rise up to the occasion.