National politics Can the Maoists steer the nation?
Instead of engaging in national tasks, the government is muddling through less important work.
Three years ago, the Maoists, exhausted and weakened by a long and protracted 10-year-old conflict that did not promise them a military victory, agreed to negotiate a peace deal with the then governing Seven Party Alliance (SPA) headed by the Nepali Congress and signed a Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) pledging to join mainstream politics and adopt, inter alia, multi-party democracy, abide by the rule of law, guarantee press freedom and fundamental human rights.
Subsequently, in the Constituent Assembly election that was held about a year ago, the Maoists garnered the highest number of assembly seats and have, since the last six months, led a coalition government. During this period, the government’s performance record is pathetic and it has not lived anywhere near the expectations of the people for stable peace, a sense of security and well-being, genuine democracy and prospects for development and prosperity.
The priorities for the Government must be clear: finalizing a New Constitution that embraces inclusive democracy within a Federal Republican framework, integration and rehabilitation of the Maoist combatants in security organs and other civic bodies; to provide relief and support to the thousands of displaced persons to return home; to constitute a truth and reconciliation commission to provide justice to the victims and mete out punishment to the culprits; to provide a sense of security and well-being to the citizens; to uphold democratic values and the rule of law; and to provide a much needed boost to the economy by rebuilding infrastructure, increasing production and productivity, generating new employment, increasing export and encouraging investments, both local and foreign.
Unfortunately, instead of engaging itself in these national tasks, the Government seems to be muddling through and has burnt its fingers in such small-time acts as the curtailment of expenses of traditional festivals such as the Kumari Jatra, the forceful replacement of the main priest of the Pashupati temple, the dilly-dallying over the formation of the Special Committee to oversee the management of men and arms of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and the lack of enthusiasm to get the Committee functioning.
The belated intervention by the Defence ministry on the issue of recruitment of some 3000 soldiers and auxiliary support personnel by the Nepal Army has resulted in a strained relationship between the Nepal Army and the Defence Ministry.
While the Maoists and other coalition partners are pre-occupied in grinding their own axes, the nation is subjected to a grinding deprivation that worsens with each passing day. Lawlessness, violence and impunity, strikes, traffic blockades and forced closures of business are the order of the day causing immense hardships for the people and costing the nation billions worth of output daily. The inability of the government to bring to book the murderers of such bold journalists like Uma Singh have cast grave doubt on its sincerity to protect press freedom.
The Maoist have turned a deaf ear to the repeated demands by all other political parties for the disbanding of the Young Communist league (YCL), a paramilitary wing known for engaging
in extortions and frequent bullying of other political workers.
In contrast to a culture of consultation and consensus, major decisions seem to be made by the Maoist party on an ad-hoc basis without due consultations with coalition partners resulting
in such unpopular decisions as the declaration of some seven thousand casualties of the conflict (mostly Maoist combatants) as martyrs and the inclusion of the Tharus, other Janajatis
and Dalits in the list with Madhesis for the purpose of allocation of posts in government jobs through a Bill. This last act infuriated the Tharus and Janajatis and they launched days of nationwide protests.
In a democracy, the party in power seeks to govern through the consent of the people and takes immense care to satisfy the needs of its voters through good governance and delivery so that it is voted back to power again. But the Maoists —even while heading the Government
— repeatedly threaten to capture power by launching one more revolution like the 1917 Bolshevik. It is now clear as crystal that the Maoists have adopted the democratic polity model only as an interim strategic tool and still cherish the ultimate dream of unleashing a totalitarian dictatorship of the proletariat.
The Nepali people ousted the monarch and established a democratic republic and also partially supported the Maoists to have peace and prosperity but will by no means tolerate yet another dictatorship. Should the Maoists not mend their ways, other democratic parties should not hesitate to unite and provide a viable alternative even at the risk of precipitating a possible civil war, an oft-repeated Maoist war cry.
Thapa is Mahasamiti member, NC