CA disruption Elite mindset still holds sway
There is an acute crisis of trust and confidence among Nepali politicians. The successful Constituent Assembly (CA) elections are now under the shadow of regular obstruction of CA sessions, so much so the election of Chairman of the assembly has not been possible due to the psychology of zero-sum game among political parties. Each coalition partner believes advantage to a particular party means the loss of another. The activities of the Young Communist League (YCL) and conflicting speeches made by Maoist leaders contributed to such mistrust and fear psychology.
Such mutual threat perceptions and shadow boxing have delayed the formation of government. Moreover, unending wrangling over power sharing and distribution of posts is so blatant that the people who so enthusiastically participated in the elections feel themselves betrayed by the politicians. Other political parties like the Nepali Congress and the CPN-UML seem to be jittery after the emergence of CPN-Maoist as the largest party in CA. The Maoists too, in their jubilation, forgot the message of the mandate CPN-Maoist was given by the voters. (Though it emerged the largest party, people had denied it a clear majority.) Such jubilation, however, was natural in light of pre-poll underestimation of Maoist electoral gains by other parties.
Maoist over-enthusiasm for formation of a new government on their own, along with the control of the presidency by themselves, belied significance of sahakarya or mutual cooperation. The Maoists fear the presidency of GP Koirala, who is still a strong personality and a rallying figure, at a time when the Prime Minister would have to survive on the support of major parties in NC and CPN-UML. In a country where no institutional norms and values have ever worked, the continuity of a strong leadership even in a different role is perceived as the emergence of a new power centre. But the Maoists should not have blown up this issue out of proportion as no president under the present circumstances can overlook the new power equation and public psyche.
The Maoists should have agreed with Koirala to expedite the making of a new constitution and holding of general election as soon as possible. People expect minimum governance and if the Maoist leadership can provide that, its chances of coming back to power after the election would be very bright. People want performance as they are fed up with the slogans and speeches of political leaders.
Two other areas of tensions have stalled the working of the CA. The question of power sharing among old and new contenders — CPN-Maoist, NC and CPN-UML — though the other two Tarai parties in Madhesi Janadhikar Forum and Tarai-Madhesh Loktantrik Party (TMLP) can stake their claims proportionate to their strength in the CA. The two Tarai parties have
come into sharp focus due to their demand for turning the entire Tarai (Madhesh) into
a single autonomous unit of federal system and en bloc recruitment of the Madhesis into the Nepal Army.
The first demand has met with strong resistance from other Tarai groups such as the Tharus and the people of Far Eastern Part and of the inner-Tarai regions (Bhawar Pradesh). It seems that the Tarai is not
a homogenous entity as the Madhesi leaders want to project. What is more pertinent is that because of the unique geographical features of the country and changed
demographic structure of the Tarai, Madhesh as the single entity is not likely to be a workable solution to Nepal’s woes.
The Tarai leaders feel betrayed by the SPA, particularly the Prime Minister, as the eight-point demand agreed earlier are not being addressed while amending the Interim Constitution. That is why they have followed the coercive tactic of stalling the proceedings of the CA, despite the negative consequences of such an action. Such tactics are absurd as the
CA itself is the most competent body to address all the outstanding issues raised by the concerned parties.
Why this sudden pouring of demands, and why did not the same Madhesi leaders fail to raise these issues before? Many leaders were in government but kept quiet until recently. It could be assumed that time was not ripe for raising the fundamental demands, which have been labelled by the hill dominant groups as elements of secession. Change in old mindset also takes time; Nepali rulers including party elites lacked knowledge of governance of a psychologically, socially, culturally, geographically and economically fragmented state.
As many myths of homogeneity have been busted, the demand of inclusive and substantive, not procedural, democracy have swept away the old mantras of statecraft. But it is absurd to assume that new demands being advanced by the Tarai and by other groups would disintegrate the country. On the contrary, the real integration of the country has just begun with the rise in level of consciousness of Nepalis.
Prof Baral is executive chairman, NCCS