Finally, in the chilly month of December, the seven parties have decided to hold the election to the constituent assembly by mid-April. In reality, the three major political parties, the Nepali Congress, the CPN-UML and the CPN-Maoist respectively, out of the so-called “alliance” of seven parties, have come to the crucial conclusion with other smaller parties following suit. The 23-point agreement they have arrived at appears to embrace all the political concerns and electoral questions that have been drawing a great deal of attention of the leading politicians and common people alike.

Still, people remain doubtful if this seemingly hard-earned decision is indeed a panacea to all the political problems or yet another political delusion to continue the political wrangling that have unnecessarily tortured common Nepalis for the last 20 months. Naturally, Nepalis tend to take current politics with a fair amount of suspicion in view of postponement of two earlier dates for holding the constituent assembly election, owing mainly to the highhandedness of Nepali Congress and CPN-Maoist.

It is believed that each of the two political parties strived hard to get their political agenda to the forefront in order to gain an upper hand during negotiations. Ironically, the political manoeuvring between Nepali Congress and CPN-Maoist has also led to decline in their credibility and popularity. Moreover, their insensitivity to the aspirations of the masses has cost them a huge loss of affection and appreciation they had won in the immediate aftermath of the people’s movement in April, 2006.

The major concern now on the political front is certainly people’s trust deficit in the ability of the political leadership to deliver on its commitments made in the past. To the disappointment of the conscious citizenry, the promise of Constituent Assembly polls have not materialised on two earlier occasions despite the political leaders being high on rhetoric about the prompt holding of CA polls. This time too, with the same political players in the fray, people cannot accept any genuine political change to take place. Undoubtedly, the political leadership has not found a new mantra or magic wand to usher in an optimal situation to hold the much talked about free and fair constituent assembly election in a credible manner.

The deteriorating law and order situation appears out of government control, its administrative machinery rendered directionless. Coupled with this unfortunate

situation is the fragile political cohesiveness within the big political parties that have emerged of late. Still more telling is the decision of Madhesi politicians of various political parties to quit their mother political organisations to form bigger political parties for what they claim would help them to a bigger share in national government and economy. All these developments point to the declining influence of major political parties that had heretofore been ruling the roost in Nepali political scene, hence preventing them from moving ahead towards greater democratisation and social harmony.

Added to this woeful situation is the discontent and disaffection among the smaller political parties with the arrogance shown by their bigger counterparts. But the worst of all is the uncompromising political stance of hardcore Maoist leadership that refuses to budge from its political position arrived at during the CPN-Maoist convention held in August. The highly complicated political conundrum in the Tarai belt is no less worrying. There is a whole gamut of political troubles and concomitant problems concerned with political transition. There are more challenges ahead than can possibly be handled at a time.

Obviously, the worsening crisis is not to be taken light, nor is it a concern to be taken as normal - as is witnessed during normal times. The situation demands much insight and ingenuity. Is our political leadership enriched with such qualities? The past performances of the current leadership certainly cannot assure Nepalis of sunnier days ahead.

However, the positive manner in which the Indian and Chinese governments reacted to the signing of 23-point agreement promising constituent assembly election by coming April represents the earnest wish of our two contiguous neighbours to see Nepal on the path of democracy and stability. Observers note that the political provisions crafted by the seven party alliance to hold the election have gone half way towards meeting the suggestions of former United States President Jimmy Cater offered during his Nepal visit this November. The masses achieved a thumping victory when they came out in full support of the April 2006 people’s movement. Rather disconcertedly, the political leaders lie in wait to get a word from their foreign friends to resolve what are clearly domestic problems.

Shrestha is ex-foreign ministry official