Government formation Where will the UML find itself?

Those who see them in the act are more ashamed than those who defecate in public, goes a Nepali saying, perfectly illustrating the plight of Nepali politics.

The drama of consensus building was enacted in the last minute of the stipulated ten days to fool the people. It was a foregone conclusion that such an approach would never reach a happy conclusion because the ‘don’ of present-day Nepali politics, Girija Prasad Koirala, had already opened a parallel dialogue for creating a so-called democratic alliance. It was bound to fail because Nepali Congress (NC) was determined to spoil the broth.

Several unwise conditions were put forward at the last moment by the NC to obstruct negotiations, but surprisingly, when they were accepted by the CPN-Maoist, NC had no card left to play. Therefore, the last minute Hanuman gear was employed: How could the ministry of defence and home be given to the hitherto rebels? Prime-ministership can be given to them but not portfolios like defence and home.

Even a child knows that NC will be the last to make room for a Maoist government. The last minute conditions are simply ploys to obstruct the process and accuse the Maoists of incapacity to forge consensus, thereby freeing Koirala to manoeuvre for a government under his own leadership. But in this process, the NC’s facade of commitment to consensus has been exposed. If it were serious to forge consensus, Koirala would not have exposed his trusted lieutenants as well as himself in the four-party negotiations in a move aimed at continuation of one’s prime-ministership through the formation of a partisan government.

The million-dollar question is, what went wrong with the hitherto nicely nurtured peace process? Why such artless drama by a self-acclaimed democratic outfit like NC? In my opinion, it is the fault of the Nepali people who voted for the Maoists. During the signing of Comprehensive Peace Agreement, Koirala had boldly claimed that if a democrat like him would not try to bring the terrorists in the mainstream then who would dare? But the irony was that after the election of the Constituent Assembly (CA) the same ‘terrorists’ were voted to lead a democrat like him.

Not only that, the Maoists won such a number of seats that if they are allowed to form a government, it could not be voted down. At the same time, without the concurrence of the Maoists, the CA will not be able to write a single line of the new constitution, for if they disagree the combination of the rest of the political parties would not be enough to muster two-third majority.

The first casualty of CA poll result was the practice of consensus and the provision of two-third majority for government formation. The Maoists succumbed to the charges that their party was authoritarian, so two-third majority was against such universally acclaimed democratic practice of simple majority. The moment two separate rules of the political game, one for the formation of the government and other for the making of the constitution, were incorporated through the Fifth Amendment, the present mess was inevitable. Although this constitutional amendment was devised to raise the level of confidence between the Maoists and erstwhile big parties, it could not do the same, the reason being that the Maoists were not ready to allow a leader holding the executive post of a party to become the President. It was a serious jolt to Koirala’s ambition to become the first President of republican Nepal.

Right now, Dr Ram Baran Yadav of NC has that coveted job. But Koirala and his henchmen are still fuming and hell-bent on punishing the Maoists for their crime. In order to execute their one-point programme of preventing the Maoists from leading the government, no stone has been left unturned.

Koirala has come out of his ‘den’. Breaking with his tradition of meeting leaders in his Baluwatar residence, he has even visited former CPN-UML general secretary Madhav Nepal at the latter’s residence twice. The reason is crystal clear. Because like him, Nepal too has been ‘ditched’ by the Maoists. NC’s seven conditions and the bottom line of ministry of defence for themselves are but ploys to hinder the process of government formation under the leadership of Prachanda. NC has not shared ministries of home, finance and defence with other coalition partners in erstwhile cabinet headed by it. But why such a double standard now? It is purely a personal vendetta against Prachanda.

If the endangered peace process is to be kept alive, CPN-UML has to play a decisive role. It can work as a hyphen joining the two extremes. At present the key is with the UML. If it sides with the Maoists, the coalition will have a comfortable majority to form a government. On the other hand, in the absence of UML support, NC’s dream will be dashed. What will UML do? Will it support the forces of status quo or help the forces of change take their course?

Pokharel is professor at Central Department of PA, TU