And therein lies the problem. The Maoists no longer are in a position to force an agenda on other political parties. But despite clear signs of change in position of the Nepali Congress (NC) and a section of CPN-UML – and a much welcome one – the Maoists are unable to acknowledge it. The sooner they give up their gung-ho attitude, the better for them as well as for the country.
This is as much necessary as trying to put together a national consensus government and writing of the constitution. Else, we will remain where we are.
Right since giving up violence as means of political change in 2006 (it is now clear that that was just in writing, and not in practice), the Maoists have displayed an attitude that is seeped deep in arrogance. This attitude got a boost after it became the single largest party in the Constituent Assembly (CA) which even the Maoists had not expected. The party, especially its chairman, Pushpa Kamal Dahal, got so pumped up that it felt it could do away with all written and verbal agreements and understandings. So, Dahal, by his own admission, felt they could deny the late Girija Prasad Koirala the presidency despite their pledge. Koirala, miffed and betrayed, refused to step down as prime minister (PM) and delayed the formation of government under the Maoist party leadership.
Despite warning from the media and other political parties, Dahal thought he could dismiss the army chief during post-conflict transition period and replace him with someone who had promised an easier and quicker path to integrating of Maoist combatants into the national army.
Now, the chairman – who never tires out trying one scheme after another despite repeated setbacks – is at it again. This time the goal is to split the CPN-UML, and if the script does not follow as he desires, then to wedge a deep divide within the party. Not only you keep a party – that appeals to the same left constituency – perpetually weak, but the uncertainty that emanates from such a scenario will not allow anti-Maoist parties to strike an understanding. Hence the maneuver. The result, Maoists believe, is continuing instability which would serve their agenda.
The Maoists need to accept that their days of dictating agenda unilaterally are over. Sincere acceptance of this fact as well as desisting from trying to drive a wedge within other parties would help them as well as others.
Dahal’s task has been made easier by UML’s Bam Dev Gautam’s grudge and its chairman Jhalanath Khanal’s ambition to become PM. For Khanal, the choice is stark: A premiership, if at all, at the cost of split or deep division in the party while he was its chief, or hope for a better performance in the party’s next national convention. Even if he becomes the PM, that is, if Dahal honors his promise of support (a tall order given the man’s track record), it would be for a short period.
Had Khanal been a natural choice, his party colleague Madhav Kumar Nepal would not have become the PM last year. Khanal is the chairman of the party and had won the CA election to boot; in contrast, Nepal lost elections from two constituencies and had to let go of the party’s top post thereafter. But no one even mentioned Khanal. There has not been any fundamental change in national politics in Khanal’s favor. He should not forget that Dahal is nursing a very strong grudge against him in the army chief’s dismissal fiasco.
If Dahal decides to extract his revenge now itself, Khanal could face an avalanche of protest against his leadership within the party. In that case, I doubt whether he will face the next convention as party chairman.
Dahal has been trying the same game with the NC but with little success. There’s a deep, and justified, distrust of the man who has failed to honor most of his promises. Despite NC’s Ram Chandra Poudel and Sher Bahadur Deuba trying all overt and covert means to get the top executive post in the country, the Maoists are unlikely to make much headway in their effort to create fissures in the party.
The Maoist chairman need not play manipulative games, no matter how tempting they are. King Gyanendra Shah ignored all warnings only to get the rudest shock of his life. Dahal will meet the fate of Shah if he continues his present-day maneuvers. Perhaps he and his coterie within the party will treat the warning signs as storm in a teacup. Shah did the same.
If only Dahal comes out with tangible and time-bound proposal on integration and rehabilitation of Maoist combatants, agree on an unambiguous plan on return of property and sincere promise that the party would create no more hurdles in the writing of the constitution, the peace process would get the much-needed shot in the arm.
This will not only help dissipate the atmosphere of distrust, but also make his return to Baluwatar all the more likely. A powerful section in the NC still is open to a government under his leadership if he comes true on his promises. With his party colleague, Baburam Bhattarai, not having the courage to mount a challenge at this juncture (though he did try covert maneuvers), Dahal should breath easy for now. Thus the stage is set for the party chairman to honor commitments with confidence. His rank has also swelled with defections from the Bhattarai camp.
But the response from Dahal has been poor.
The party’s latest plan on integration and rehabilitation of combatants is not acceptable because it would only drag the peace process. The plan smacks more of dilly-dallying tactic and less of sincere approach to resolve a problem that had been deliberately dragged on.
What has not helped matters is the remark by some of the party leaders on implementing point number one of the three-point agreement signed on May 28 which paved the way for extension of the CA for a year. They are now interpreting it as some kind of preamble. The interpretation got the flak it thoroughly deserved. Comrades, for once, at least be true to what you agree on. How long will you try to fool others? I have absolutely no doubt that the Maoists will have to deliver on their promises. There is simply NO alternative.
Despite the political parties failing to forge consensus, I would still say all is not lost. What we need is the largest party in the parliament and its chairman to come up with a believable plan to break the political deadlock.
It is not the Maoists but people like Damakanta who do not get it. He had and it seems, he still has been incapable of discerning tactical ploys successfully used by the Maoists to get them so far.
K. K. Sharma
Agree 100% with the author........nice write-up.keep it up!!!
Our real priorities should be "Order first, Reform Second". It looks like the debate on reforms will never let us have the order at all. It doesn´t require army integration or even the whole CA to establish order in the country, or improve the economy, or let the children continue their education. Establishing order will boost the businesses, tourism and the industry. Will changing the flag or integrating the soldiers first improve anything at all? No. Maoists have no priorities for N