Cart before the horse

At a time when the postponed summit talks between the Maoists and the SPA (government) are still hanging in the air, the fissures in the SPA are showing up more clearly, with the CPN-UML general secretary Madhav Kumar Nepal firing the latest salvo at Nepali Congress president Girija Prasad Koirala, who heads the coalition government. Nepal has charged the Prime Minister with “continuing to function with the mindset of a majority government of a single party”. At Itahari the other day, Nepal had spoken of the possibility of his party opting out of the government if the Prime Minister did not mend matters by working in keeping with the SPA guidelines. On Saturday, at a function at the party’s headquarters, the CPN-UML chief also said Home Minister Krishna Prasad Sitaula had apologised to him on behalf of the PM for the misunderstanding. Besides calling upon the government to decide to hold the constituent assembly elections by April 2007, Nepal also stressed that the government should stop appointing “corrupt” persons.

The CPN-UML leader pointed out the status of the monarchy, the army, citizenship, interim legislature, procedure of the CA and land reforms as the issues that are hindering the progress towards the finalisation of the interim constitution. This lack of progress is mainly due to the fact that political leaders are raising contentious issues, insisting on their solution even before the CA polls. This mindset is obstructionist. On this, Nepal has offered some good advice: that contentious issues be left to the people to decide and that the verdict of the CA polls must be acceptable to all. For example, both those who want a republic straight away and those who want to give the monarchy some sort of status or role should await the people’s verdict. So should those who want to push through a controversial citizenship legislation. If this government or the political forces seek to decide every important issue right now, then what is left for the people to decide at the CA polls or a referendum?

As for the thorny issue of arms management, it needs to be resolved on the basis of the three agreements signed between the Maoists and the SPA, subject to the supreme verdict of the people at the CA polls. What the leaders of the SPA, including Koirala who was accepted by the SPA as its chief leader during the Jana Andolan II, should understand is that the SPA would lose its legitimacy in power the moment the peace talks with the Maoists break down, leading to a confrontation between the two sides. Such a situation would be a godsend for the forces of the status quo or regression who are now down but not out. Nor a state of no progress can continue for long, as the SPA will find it morally and practically difficult to hold on to power if it cannot deliver the results sought by the Nepalis through the people’s movement. Therefore, now is the time for the SPA leadership, all the more so for Koirala, to demonstrate statesmanship.