Had CPN-UML’s Pradip Gyawali and Bishnu Poudel not chickened out at the eleventh hour on May 28, the day when the Constituent Assembly was extended, the road ahead would have been less bumpy. But these two Central Committee leaders of the UML panicked at the blustering of the UCPN (Maoist) – that they would not vote for extension of the CA unless Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal resigned – forced their leader KP Oli to concede something that was unnecessary.
The Maoist party had already agreed on a 3-point text which had no mention of the word “resignation”. That was around 9 p.m., three hours before the CA term expired. But a signature campaign by the CPN-UML Chairman Jhala Nath Khanal – subsequently cut short by a counter signature campaign against the party chief by Nepal-Oli camp – and the panic among the Oli loyalists gave the Maoists a breather and they took full advantage of it.
Oli, who is usually not the one to be swayed so easily himself was taken aback by the fear and anger from his trusted lieutenants – Gyawali and Poudel – and entered into a “gentleman’s agreement” with UCPN (Maoist) Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal. Dahal had boasted of reaching agreement on contentious issues surrounding the peace process, notably the settlement of the future of cantoned Maoists combatants, removing the barracking of the YCL and the returning the property seized by the Maoists, within two days. He insisted on the PM’s resignation in front of Oli. The latter’s response was thus: If you can do that, the PM’s resignation will follow suit; the sooner you implement the promise, the faster the PM will sign on the dotted lines. When Dahal insisted on some kind of guarantee, the UML leader then assured the main opposition leader of securing the resignation in five days, provided he lived up to his promise. This version has now been corroborated by multiple sources, including those by Maoist leaders.
An integral part of the “gentlemen’s agreement” was that the deal would be kept secret, at least the resignation deadline, as that would only humiliate PM Nepal who had expressed his willingness to resign if the parties reached agreement on peace and constitution. The Maoists did not even wait until the sunrise to breach this part of the pact. They leaked to the media that the PM would resign in two days, without mentioning their part of the bargain. A party chairman desperate for some kind of “victory” after a series of huge setbacks acted irresponsibly, yet again, to merely score some brownie points, thus himself rendering the 3-point agreement meaningless. Had Dahal really acted like a gentleman, a tall order given his nature, he might have secured the NC’s and UML’s support for a national consensus government under his leadership. Of course, Dahal has blamed the NC and the UML for the coming apart of the agreement.
Now, certain that he won’t be able to get the PM’s chair, he has suggested his politburo colleagues that the Maoists should rather sit on the opposition. Translation: Since I cannot be the prime minister, I won’t allow anyone else from the party to get the position. Obviously, Dahal was referring to his colleague party vice-chairman Baburam Bhattarai who has been unable thus far to prevent the outrageous flip-flopping by Dahal on the question of government leadership. Maoist chief’s cover is same old stale excuse: Unless the PM resigned, there is no scope for any agreement. He should think of some credible excuse, if at all. The PM’s resignation, if the Maoists live up to their past commitments, is a foregone conclusion. Why keep harping on something that is decided? Rather, the Maoists need to act on the time-bound integration/rehabilitation of the Maoist combatants, YCL’s de-barracking and believable process of the return of the seized property for which they made promises on numerous occasions. (I tried counting how many times Dahal and his party had made promise on these issues. I stopped after I reached 10 on each of these subjects.)
For the Maoist party, this is understandably difficult. They cannot blame anyone but themselves. Until recently their tactic worked fine. A fine mixture of promises, cajoling, threats and violence brought them and other parties to where we are today. With NC and a section of the UML as well as many other smaller parties in no mood to trust the Maoists, and even willing to confront the threat of resumption of “war”, the Maoists’ brahmastra (the ultimate weapon) lies ineffective. The Maoists also know that their threat of “war” and “state capture” hardly works these days. This will also stop altogether if an amicable solution to the Maoist combatants and the YCL – their biggest source of strength besides institutionalized extortion – is reached. This naturally will lead to thinning of flow of funds which is absolutely essential to maintain command over party whole-timers and other cadres. It is a question of existence, and the Maoist reluctance to honor their past commitments is thus understandable. Understandable yes, but not acceptable, not anymore.
With the Maoist politburo likely to endorse the party chairman’s sudden love for opposition bench after a year of multi-phase protest to get the premiership – unless Bhattarai stands up to Dahal – we can expect another series of protests. The most immediate of these will be obstruction of the parliament. The budget session in offing, the Maoists will have another handle against their political rivals.
This brings us to recap Speaker Subas Nembang’s role. He made a big mistake by allowing the parliament to remain hostage to Maoists for four months last year. Nembang’s obsession of having an opposition take part in parliamentary proceedings is misguided. While the majority in parliament does need to accommodate an opposition’s concern, you cannot allow the House to remain hostage for eternity. A minority party or a coalition cannot be allowed to render the parliament dysfunctional. The Maoists had obstructed budget session last year with wrong cause and wrong motive and got away with it simply because Nembang refused to run the House.
Speaker Nembang should be held equally responsible if he allows the opposition to repeat the obstruction of the parliament and the passage of the budget yet again this year. I am sure the Speaker is abreast of the examples I am about to mention but here they are.
In February 2007, the Japan government of Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) pushed through the budget despite a boycott led by the Democratic Party of Japan. Similarly, South Korea’s ruling party, Grand National Party, went ahead with the passage of the budget in December 2008 despite a boycott by its opposition, Democratic Party. Closer home, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in India had boycotted the proceedings in Indian Parliament, including passage of the Finance Bill in 2004. The parliament did not stop functioning. Put simply, you ought to do what you ought to do.
However, we can still prevent this scenario if the Maoists do what is needed instead of cooking up fresh excuses: Honor past agreements
I find Damakant Jyashi´s opinion page always bold, thought provoking that brings reader back to the core issue - Pushpa Kamal is a power hungry, flip-flopping, dangerous person that needs to be checkmated with all the vigor that is needed. It was interesting to read Damakant describe the Maoist main revenue source to be extortion, a word that has literally been replaced iby the Nepali media by words such as donation, forced donation, political contribution, gift, and tax..