By S. Chandrasekharan
This Sunday on 28th August, the Interim Constituent Assembly of Nepal elected the Maoist leader Baburam Bhattarai as the 4th republican Prime Minister defeating the rival Nepali Congress leader Ramchandra Paudel by 340 votes to 235.
Bhattarai could emerge as the winner only after his party entered into a four-point deal with the Madhesi parties whose votes were crucial when the UML decided to support the Nepali Congress.
The four point deal included a promise from the Maoists to let the Special Committee decide on all issues relating to integration, return of seized lands by the Maoists during the insurgency, all court cases during insurgencies and subsequent movements like the Madhesi Andolan, Janajathi movement etc. to be withdrawn, uphold universal fundamental rights, rule of a law, press freedom, accountable judiciary, right of self determination to the autonomous states etc.and above all and perhaps the most crucial from the Madhesi point of view is the inclusiveness in governance that will take care of the Madhesis in the current recruitment to the army.
It looks that the party has agreed to the demand of the Madhesi Groups for one “Madhesi State” though it is likely to be opposed bitterly by other Taruhat and janajathi groups.
On the question of integration, the deal is silent on tricky issues relating to integration like bulk entry, rank harmonisation, role of combatants after integration etc.
For this, one has to go back to the detailed road map unveiled by the Maoists on the 25th of the month. This is perhaps the most comprehensive and detailed offer committed by the party so far though one is not sure whether they are really serious about it. The road map showed
- By August 31st of this month, the combatants in the PLA Camps will be categorised into those selected for integration, those who need rehabilitation and those who want to leave.
- The Party is ready to hand over the weapons and the containers to the Special Committee.
- The Party expects 8000 of the combatants to be integrated but the figure is flexible and open to discussion.
- A rehabilitation package should be between 700,000 and 1,000,000 NC to each combatant.
- All senior commanders could be brought into politics and the party is open to discussion with the Nepal Army on rank harmonisation.
- Those opting for integration will have to meet the physical fitness criteria of the Army.
- On the Constitution making, the Party seeks an extension of the Constituent Assembly by six months.
- A high power political mechanism will be formed to guide the government.
- Within a month commissions will be formed on “disappearances” and for truth and reconciliation.
- Return seized land to the owners and the government to make alternate arrangements for the land tenants and the landless.
- The party is prepared to end PLA security for senior leaders of the party.
The road map given appears to be both reasonable and doable. It should be welcomed on this score alone.
It was inevitable that Prachanda whose authority within his party was shrinking had to find a way to complete the integration process and so had no choice but to choose Bhattarai who at one point was accused of being pro India!. The support of the Maoists became a crucial factor.
It does not matter in the Maoist’s scheme of things whether an individual is pro India or not. What is important is to notice that the party has finally realised that its anti India rhetoric had taken them no where and had to take a course correction.
Bhattarai has promised to get going and complete the constitution making and the integration within a month and a half. He has set his priorities already and has said that he has four priorities namely, complete the peace process, make concerted efforts to draft a forward-looking constitution, good governance and social economic development.
It all depends on whether the Maoists are really serious this time. We will have to wait and see.