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  Next PM? Got to be Dahal or Poudel  


The four prime ministerial aspirants are set to continue to hit a dead-end if they continue along the route they have taken so far.

Ram Chandra Poudel is traveling to prime ministerial destination on a vehicle with its left tires punctured. Pushpa Kamal Dahal wouldn’t mind any route – a short cut, a left turn or even the complicated right turn – to the prime minister’s chair, whatever the costs involved.

There are two “outsiders” who won’t give up either. CPN-UML Chairman Jhala Nath Khanal still fancies his chances despite the humiliation of having his name withdrawn by none other than party colleague and prime minister, Madhav Kumar Nepal, whose government he destabilized with the help of the Maoists. Khanal is taking a detour to Baluwatar and wouldn’t mind the time needed for it even though the countrymen have lost patience. Then there is Dr Baburam Bhattarai who has conveyed the image of PM-in-waiting.

The four aspirants have repeated what they have been doing so far: Poudel vows to exercise his democratic right and wants the UML to reciprocate its support for a government led by him; Dahal has given all sorts of reasons as to why he should be the prime minister and my sentence is already too long to mention these here; comrade Khanal suddenly has developed love for “consensus”. After the second round of election on July 23, Khanal had proudly told reporters: “People have accused the UML of being indecisive. This time we are going to prove that we are capable of taking a decision – we will not vote.”

Khanal has succeeded in reinforcing the perception about his party: Neither here nor there. Bhattarai – who has become a darling of a section of the commentariat, which seems to give him a free pass for no compelling reason other than his finely-cultivated media image – has tried to scuttle the chances of his party chairman Dahal behind closed doors. Without organizational clout, he is merely reducing himself to a nuisance value and hurting himself.

The two outsiders in the PM race – Jhalanath Khanal and Baburam Bhattarai – must stop creating any more hurdles. It is time to elect either Pushpa Kamal Dahal or Ram Chandra Poudel. No more the silly neutrality, please.
To expect the four PM-aspirants to rise above their petty interests is a tall order. It is also not difficult to see who is on which side of the debate between “majoritarian” government and “consensual” one. Understandably, Dahal and Poudel do not want to withdraw, hoping that somehow they can wait the other one out of the race for PM. Khanal and Bhattarai wish to see the two candidates leave the race and parliamentary rules on electing the prime minister changed. Both have been harping heavily on elusive, and time-wasting, mantra of “consensus”.

One can always aspire for consensus, even after a majoritarian government is formed which is what should be the priority now given the turn of the events. We need consensus – or at least the meeting of minds of two-thirds of the members in the Constituent Assembly – to write the constitution; not to form a government. For the latter purpose, merely a simple majority of the members of the parliament will do. Khanal and Bhattarai are thus obvious hurdles to forming a government to replace the Nepal-led cabinet, which had resigned on June 30. While Khanal should be reined in by other UML leaders (he has already caused enough of a drama and damage to the process), Bhattarai who has proved absolutely incapable of challenging Dahal within the party should wait for his time. This is not it. If Khanal gives up his not-so-secret ambition, the process to elect the new executive head will be faster and easier.

Therefore, the next prime minister has to be one of the two candidates in the race.

Dahal seems to be better off of the two. He has more numbers at his command and more money, if needed, to buy a few votes. With party colleague Bhattarai officially sidelined from the race, the Maoist chairman can breathe easy. This is thus an opportunity for him to act like a leader of the whole of Nepal and not just a manipulative Machiavellian of an unreformed and unrepentant party. He should not be allowed to become the prime minister without him and his party honoring the pledges related to the peace process. It is rather a simple yardstick but something which the Maoists, a majority of European diplomats in Kathmandu and a section of commentariat refuse to acknowledge: The former guerilla party has breached nearly all the significant commitments regarding the peace process. Just pick any of the multiple agreements signed since the 12-pointer in New Delhi in November 2005 and see it through the lens of implementation and it would be obvious how much this party has come up short.

The Maoists have refused to be a “civilian” party. Despite goading by a commentator not to be civilian, they have to. It is difficult to see how the UML and United Democratic Madhesi Front (UDMF) of four Madhes-based political parties can vote for the Maoist chairman to lead the government when he is still commanding the two armies – the Maoist combatants in the UN-monitored cantonments and the ex-combatants in the Young Communist League (YCL). While the control of the Maoist combatants should have been relinquished at least two years ago – yes you read it right; the villainy of the YCL – seemingly under control these days is all too apparent to ignore any longer.

Dahal has to come up with an acceptable time-table on the integration and rehabilitation of Maoist combatants and de-barracking of the YCL. On return of the property seized by them during insurgency and even after its formal end, other parties, especially the Nepali Congress (NC), can make it easier for the Maoists by agreeing to land reforms (by paying due compensation to the owners) and distributing the excess land to the needy farmers. But the Maoists cannot continue to seize and benefit from private property under any excuse.

If Dahal delivers on these fronts, then the NC should not only withdraw its candidate but also send members to the Dahal-led cabinet. One of the qualities of a true leader is to make personal sacrifice for the larger good. Poudel has an opportunity here. Dahal should, in fact, test the NC’s oft-repeated remarks of accepting the leadership of Maoist for the new government if he keeps his promises vis-à-vis the peace process. The UML and the UDMF too should lend their support to him.

If Dahal and his party continue to act irresponsible as they been so far, then the UML and the UDMF should act: Support Poudel as prime minister. But no more the façade of remaining neutral in the voting. This is being highly irresponsible.

The UCPN (Maoist), the NC, the UML and the UDMF have until Sept 5 to make up their mind.
Published on 2010-08-26 01:58:56
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Next PM? Got To Be Dahal Or Poudel
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  - Ritesh
The two alternatives proposed by the scribe makes a lot of pragmatic sense. The continued political fiasco ("nautanki") is good neither for the country nor for the political parties. The world is watching the incompetence of Nepal´s political leadership-- your action is devaluing the very ´new values´ you have been trying to establish. The first proposed candidate must show commitment to the Interim Constitution of Nepal. Immediately abolish all "extra-constitutional" activiti [more]
  - Anonymous
I have been reading Mr. Jayshi´s articles in Rebulica. He speaks candidly on the subjects he chooses. Here too, he has depicted the reality candidly. Particularly, his assessment about Mr. Khanal´s ambition and his role in high-jacking the democratic process in the name of "Panchayati Gaonpharke" style "consensus" is absolutely counterproductive and antidemocratic. I do not have any positive evaluation of either of the candidates - Prachanda and Poudel, but my democratic spirit asks [more]
  - Divash Sharma
We don´t need any one of above mentioned jerk as our PM. [more]
  - Nepal
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