Correct gesture

Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ has offered Madhav Kumar Nepal, former general secretary of the CPN-UML, the post of either chairman of the constitution drafting committee of the Constituent Assembly or chief of the high-level coordinating mechanism of the ruling coalition. This offer would boost the dwindling political fortunes of a leader who headed one of the major political parties, once the largest, for nearly one and a half decades. His considerable experience at the highest level of national politics, including drafting of the 1990 constitution, makes him a fit candidate for either job. Besides, his contribution to making common cause with the Maoists, to launching a joint Jana Andolan II with the Maoists,

and overall to moving forward the peace process, has been significant. So Prime Minister Prachanda’s seeking Nepal’s active role in the rest of the peace process has been the correct gesture.

The CPN-UML leader is also known for his coordinating abilities, which both the posts on offer require in a high degree. However, it should be left to Nepal and his party to decide which of the two roles Nepal would choose, as either is highly important - one is concerned with drafting a new constitution, and the other, with ensuring the harmonious working of the ruling coalition, which is vital to bringing the peace process to its logical conclusion. Nepal, judging by his TV footage after the Prachanda offer, appeared cheerful. Now, in hindsight, he should realise that either of these posts is much more suitable for him under the present circumstances than the role of a ceremonial president. Undoubtedly, the post of President is the highest and most prestigious, though with nominal powers. Holding the highest post would also mean that it would be extremely hard for the holder to accept other lesser posts in future. And Nepal has years ahead of him in politics.

Therefore, in trying to make him the first President of Nepal, his comrades in his party, knowingly or unknowingly, had run the high risk of cutting short Nepal’s political career. Secondly, it would not have sent out the right message to the people by trying to elect somebody as President who had just lost the CA election in two constituencies and had resigned as party general secretary on moral grounds. It is another matter that Nepal felt a sense of personal responsibility for the defeat of his party in the election, something the leadership of the Nepali Congress did not feel. The Prachanda gesture implies that the CPN-Maoist appears to be taking the coalition in the right direction. It was, however, sad that the Nepali Congress chose to stay out of the government, when it fared poorly in the CA election and saw no chance of leading the government. However, the pre-election political understanding and agreement had been in favour of a coalition government, including the Big Three — the CPN-Maoist, the Congress, and the CPN-UML — irrespective of which party might emerge as the largest. During the transition, all major parties should work harmoniously together. It would be highly desirable that Nepal was holding one and Congress president Girija Prasad Koirala, the other of the two posts on offer.