Maoist chairman Prachanda’s 22-point appeal on Monday was in fact a threat to go ahead with the CPN (Maoist)’s new policy of “intensifying its movement” on three fronts — Parliament, government and the streets. He served an ultimatum to the interim government, of which the CPN-M is a part, and the seven-party alliance (SPA) “to fulfil the minimum conditions” for ensuring the CA polls and hold them “in a free and fair manner”. Under the Maoists’ strategy, the current Nepali month (i.e. the period up to Sept. 17) will be both a period for preparing for the movement as well as for discussing the issues with the government and the seven parties. In the Maoist scheme of things, non-fulfilment of these “poll conditions” will lead to a movement “aimed at declaring the republic and then holding the CA polls”. The 22-point “pre-conditions” are the 18 points in the proposal the Maoists had put forward at the last eight-party summit, plus the four added later on.

The Maoist threat has sown suspicion in the minds of other EPA members whether their fresh protests, which might include political strikes, will not affect the CA polls now that the Election Commission has even published the poll schedule. Their doubts are not wholly without basis. Prachanda has reiterated his party’s “commitment” to the polls and that EPA will not break because of the Maoists. His second-in-command Dr Baburam Bhattarai has spoken of the need for keeping the alliance intact for the next eight to ten years — something PM Girija Prasad Koirala had recently stressed. While the concern of other political parties, such as the Nepali Congress and the CPN-UML, is well placed, the burden of proof that Maoist protests will not hit the CA polls or the peace process falls squarely on the Maoists’ shoulders.

Prachanda says he is seeking a new basis for political unity, arguing that the agreement to decide the monarchy’s fate through the first meeting of the CA was based on the understanding that the polls would be held in June. To justify his position further, he says the pact was between the SPA and the Maoists, not with the palace. The Maoists’ major argument is that the CA polls are impossible without the abolition of the monarchy. If, even now, EPA reaches a new consensus on this contentious issue, and also on the

demand for fully proportional representation electoral system, the nation will go along. But if this consensus cannot happen, it becomes the duty of the Maoists to abide by their existing commitments. On the other hand, some of the alliance partners are yet to make clear whether they will side with the monarchical or the republican agenda. This lack

of clarity has raised doubts in the Maoists’ minds. Therefore, as Prachanda said in an interview published in a vernacular daily on Tuesday, his party is unlikely to compromise short of a commitment from all constituents of EPA, particularly the NC, on the republican agenda. And it is highly likely that this commitment will serve as a compromise formula, defusing the looming crisis.