Conflict resolution Political conference need of the hour

Shailendra Kumar Upadhyay

When the long awaited resignation of Surya Bahadur Thapa was announced, the mood of the general public was upbeat with the expectation that it would open a new direction in the political situation in Nepal. Even those who did not appreciate the Thapa government’s conduct appreciated his move as a step in the right direction, though delayed. It was hoped that it would facilitate a peaceful transition to a new government, a coalition of political parties and representatives of the ethnic, Dalits and women, other minority groups and intellectuals from civil society with a view to form a government of consensus, which would deal with the Maoists and lay down the foundation for a fair and free election as directed by the King in order to establish a smooth constitutional process.

However, the mood of relief and optimism did not last long because of the insistence of the agitating parties to be assured of fulfilment of the conditions set by them. The fact that the agitation had been going on for quite sometime and been gaining gradual momentum was totally ignored by the Thapa government, which remained insensitive to people’s harassment due to interruption of their normal movement because of the continued demonstrations, brick-throwing, tear-gas charges and lathi-charges.

This ongoing process had to be stopped and the only way to do so was to engage in dialogue with political leaders. The King took note of the miseries faced by the public and so, to find a solution, he invited political leaders to discuss the situation and to find a way out. However, the leaders, except Deuba and Rana, chose not to meet the King individually and insisted on fulfilment of conditions set by them. One was bewildered by Girija Babu’s decision to back out from his previous position in which he had stated that he was not afraid of meeting the King and during such a meeting he would put his opinion clearly and forcefully. Those who have been watching the developments very objectively would not ignore his change of stance and would dissect the reason behind it. This leads to the lack of confidence and trust in each other among the parties unified in agitation. Perhaps the goals are different though the means adopted is the same.

It became obvious when Koirala issued a statement asking Madhav Nepal to reconsider his candidature for premiership which Koirala himself had proposed a few months back. He also stated that the situation had undergone a change though he never explained the change in the situation. Thus the main target of the agitation was above all the position of prime minister. It is clear that behind the façade of democratic movement a lust for position was lurking.

The parties have two major demands: resurrection of the dissolved House of Representatives and the formation of an all-party government. Suppose the House is reinstated a scenario that would develop where CPN (UML) would emerge as the largest party. Constitutionally, it would have the claim of leadership in it. Nepal in his capacity as the leader of CPN (UML) would have a constitutional right to claim prime minister’s position. Koirala’s party would emerge as number two as NC (D) had almost equal members in the dissolved House. Even without a constitutional provision, if, on the basis of political understanding and expediency, an all party government is formed, then Koirala and his party may only claim berths in the Council of Ministers. This only shows that constitutional provisions are being interpreted according to one’s interest.

Long before the political parties decided to launch agitation they had demanded the formation of the government with the participation of all the parties represented in the dissolved House.

Deuba ‘s NC (D) was the third largest in number after CPN(UML) and NC. They are also in agitation though separately. RPP was the fourth largest party and Sadhbhawana (Mandal) the sixth largest after Jana Morcha Nepal, but larger in number than Sadhbhawana (Anandi Devi) and NWPP. So, inevitably the coalition, if formed, has to be of eight parties in the dissolved House. How can this fact be ignored? There is no provision of national coalition in the constitution, yet for political expediency this could be tolerated. However, the claim of NC(D) irrespective of Koirala’s hostility towards it would have a valid claim and so would be the claim of RPP and Sadbhawana (Mandal).

Only adhering to the constitutional provisions cannot resolve the political problem; it has to be tackled on the basis of the political understanding and expediency. The Maoists are against the restoration of the dissolved House and a coalition government without their participation. So the need of the hour is neither restoration of the dissolved House of Representatives nor the formation of the government of the parties in the said House but to convene a political conference, widely participated by important segments of the society with the participation of the CPN (Maoist). Any government to be formed must have two primary and immediate tasks: one, to declare ceasefire and invite the Maoists to the negotiating table, and two, prepare for a reliable national coalition government and build a foundation to hold a fair and free general election for any institution that could be agreed upon through consensus in round table conferences. Upadhyay is a former foreign minister