Consensus to confrontation: Stepping into the marshland

The United Nepal Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (UCPN-M) has come up with its second phase of agitation from November 1, 2009 if consensus is not reached as per its terms. The first phase of the agitation of showing black flags to political dignitaries and boycotting their meetings has belied its hopes. Now, it expects that the next phase of the agitation will pave the way for restoring civilian supremacy, reaching logical end of the peace process, drafting of the new constitution and forming a national unity government under its leadership.

With regard to the Maoist’s expectations and methods, analysts find inner contradictions in them. Can these aspirations be met without reaching consensus among the major political parties? Can coercive and confrontist methods succeed in bringing about consensus among the parties? Definitely not. The issue of civilian supremacy is viewed differently like by the seven blind men conceiving the shape of the elephant by touching its different parts. To some, it reflects the controversy of superiority of position of Prime Minister over President in the constitution. Is the Prime Minster entitled to impose his views on the President against the wishes of the majority of the ministers in the cabinet? Has he any right to execute his decisions transgressing the constitutional provision to channel them through the President, who is constitutionally elected and made custodian of the constitution as well. To some yet, constitution reigns supreme as it enshrines the rights of the people in whom the real sovereignty is vested.

With regard to the implications of the agitation, one can visualize four alternatives: either it will succeed or fail or linger on or will be postponed. If it succeeds, the Maoists will have to form the government as per the interim constitution for which they require majority in the House. If they can prove their majority, they can form the government right now.

Alternately, they have to go over the constitution and have direct rule like the last king or to issue another constitution authorizing one party rule treating all other parties as recommending parties like in China. In this way, they can attain their goal of civilian supremacy. But, to succeed, they have to dislodge the duly formed government by force with the help of their YCL. They may use their combatants after breaking the peace accord. For this, again they may have to conquer the Nepal Army. Secondly, if the agitation fails, they have to negotiate with other political parties and reach consensus-seeking solution to the problems that they are reluctant to do. Thirdly, the agitation will continue indefinitely to engage their cadres as is being done. Lastly, the agitation may be postponed for a later date.

Looking back at the armed conflict, as per an official report submitted by the second task force on the losses of lives and property during the period, 16,278 people lost their lives, hundreds of people got injured, 70,425 persons and 18,707 families were displaced and 1,221 are still missing. Property and infrastructures worth millions of rupees were destroyed and hundreds of factories were closed down.

One is tempted to compare the conditions of present day Nepal to the first half of the nineteenth century of Europe. The condition of Europe was hardly better than that of Nepal as Will Durant describes, “All Europe lay prostrate... The passage of the Napoleonic and counter-Napoleonic armies had left scars of ravage on the face of every country. Moscow was in ashes. In England, proud victor in the strife, the farmers were ruined by the fall in the price of wheat; and the industrial workers were tasting all the horrors of the nascent and uncontrolled factory-system.

Demobilization added to unemployment…Yes, the revolution was dead; and with it the life seemed to have gone out of the soul of Europe…Only the young can live in the future, and only the old can live in the past; men were most of them forced to live in the present, and the present was a ruin…. How many had fought even then for the great hope, and had believed, with passionate uncertainty, to the very end? And now here was the very end: Waterloo, and St. Helena, and Vienna; and on the throne of prostrate France a Bourbon who had learned nothing and forgotten nothing. This was the glorious denouncement of a generation of such hope and effort, as human history had never known before. What a comedy this tragedy was-for those whose laughter was yet bitter with tears!”

If Europe could be lifted up with a group of pessimist poets-Byron in England, De Musset in France, Heine in Germany, Leoprdi in Italy, Puskin and Lermontof in Russia and a pessimist philosopher-Arther Schopenhouer with his philosophy of will, why not Nepal with our political

will to lead the nation which political leaders are lacking. Political parties are divided on issues, which are not vital. Instead of concretizing the achievements, they are running after their political gains and partisan ends. They must evolve consensusurgently as our laughter may be bitter with tears.

Prof. Mishra is former Election Commissioner