By another yardstick

The Nepali Congress, at the conclusion of its protracted Central Working Committee (CWC) meeting on Monday, hardly showed signs that it could learn from its mistakes. This has been reflected in its failure to search its soul for its electoral rout as it put the main part of the blame at the Maoists’ door, as well as in its seven-point list of preconditions for its participation in the next government. Its seven demands are constitutional amendment to enable just 51 per cent (instead of the existing two-thirds) majority to form or bring down a government; immediate handover of the Maoist combatants’ arms to the state or their destruction; dissolution of the Maoist army, people’s courts and people’s governments; immediate dissolution of the ‘paramilitary’ structure of the YCL and a halt to its ‘anarchic’ activities; formation of a consensual mechanism for adjustment and rehabilitation of the Maoist combatants; immediate return of seized property; and non-politicisation of the judiciary, constitutional organs, the state media, the police, the army, and the administration.

The demands by and large look innocuous and reasonable, but the timing and circumstance give them an ominous ring. The Congress would have earned credit for some of these demands if it had put them into practice when it had been at the head of government. For instance, it did not want the provision of 51 per cent majority during the pre-election period because it feared Leftist ganging-up. If the NC had, only before the poll, publicly announced support for 51 per cent provision whatever the election outcome, its position would be strong now. Similar is the case with the question of non-politicisation of certain sectors. As for the question of Maoist arms and army, they have been taken care of in the agreements and the Interim Constitution, and in due process, that must be addressed fully — the sooner the better. Their immediate dissolution or the destruction or handover of their arms go against the letter and spirit of the relevant agreements and understanding, and the UN mission has been stationed in Nepal for monitoring the arms and armed personnel of both sides.

To the task of expediting this process, all the parties must contribute fully and in all sincerity. The Congress had not laid down these preconditions for cohabitation with the Maoists before the April 10 election because it had counted on its benefiting hugely from the split Left vote and winning more seats than any other party. While pre-poll understanding between the major political parties was that whatever the poll outcome, the next government would be a coalition one. The NC’s election assessment has conveyed the impression that the party is finding it difficult to accept the people’s verdict in the democratic spirit, and its preconditions may well be interpreted as an attempt to invite confrontation, or as bargaining chips in new power sharing negotiation. It is just a question of process and time for addressing most of its concerns, and there is still a silver lining. But the demand for 51 per cent provision at this juncture involves high risks for smooth transition and constitution making because it contains the seeds of unholy alliances Nepal has seen before.