While serious doubts are being raised in many quarters about the possibility of holding the general elections, Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba, addressing a programme in Parbat district on Tuesday, announced that the government would go ahead with the elections by providing “full security guarantees.” Deuba said he sees no alternative to the polls after the Maoists have rejected the government’s repeated calls for talks and argues that the country cannot be kept without parliament. On the contrary, Congress president Girija Prasad Koirala, predicting “huge bloodshed,” has warned that the government’s attempt to hold the “abortive elections” will make Nepal a failed state in the deteriorating security situation. In the CPN-UML, the row over the elections has reached such a point that general secretary Madhav Kumar Nepal has asked party leaders and CPN-UML ministers to refrain from speaking on the issue pending the party decision.

On the importance of the polls, Deuba is right, but on the government having to opt for them because of the Maoists’ refusal to talk, his priority has been misplaced and clearly runs counter to the Constitution by which he swears. Holding the elections should in no way close the option of talks. The first duty of Deuba, responsible for creating the present constitutional crisis by dissolving the House and then failing to hold the polls, is to make the Constitution fully operative again. There are no two views on the necessity of elections. The only sticking point is whether they are feasible. Deuba can be expected to have consulted the security agencies. Phasewise elections are all right as long as the phases are not too many and the elections are concluded within a reasonable time.

However, his claim to foolproof security appears greatly exaggerated against the fact that the government has been unable to guarantee even the lives of its security personnel, as their mounting casualties testify. Consensus of the political parties is one of the conditions for successful polls. If one or two major parties boycotted the polls, the legitimacy of the entire exercise would come under serious doubt. Elections are much more than security, which is essential, though. There are many hundreds of thousands of people displaced by the insurgency representing a sizable percentage of the electorate and they need to be enabled to vote in a relatively free and fair atmosphere. Mass participation and the assurance of free and fair balloting are the name of the game. The government’s task is, therefore, much easier said than done. It must at least be able to ensure polls more or less reflective of the people’s collective wish. Otherwise, those ruling the country now have no right to be ruling it.