On the face of it

This week the Nepali Congress and the CPN-UML organised their annual Dashain tea parties. The Congress top leader B P Koirala was the first to start this annual gathering in the 1970s after his return from self-exile in India, to stress his policy of ‘national reconciliation’ and as an occasion for exchanges of greetings. National reconciliation, in Congress definition, meant that the monarchy, which was then all-powerful, and the Congress, which was then banned along with all the other political parties, should mend fences and run the country together. It was, however, not aimed at Congress collaboration with other political parties. Later, the CPN-UML followed suit, holding an annual Dashain event of its own. Prime Minister Prachanda, at the CPN-UML event on Wednesday, said that he had hinted at the possible launching of the CPN-Maoist’s own version. These tea parties have generated some interest, as they fall off when the Dashain hangover has not worn off yet, after days of political lull. Besides, it provides harmless public entertainment, amid occasional show of bonhomie between political leaders, as well as news for the media.

At both the tea parties, the Prime Minister gave fodder for the media, saying that the government’s priorities were bringing the peace process to a logical conclusion, completing the drafting of the constitution within time, and speeding up economic development. The Prime Minister also urged the Congress to join the government and help draft the constitution on the basis of consensus. On his part, Congress president and former prime minister Girija Prasad Koirala ruled out the possibility of joining the government, but said that the Congress would fully help in constitution-making. These are mere reiterations of the existing lines of the two leaders, and of their parties. Prachanda also said that the chill in the relationship between the NC and the CPN-M, felt particularly since the presidential election, had thawed after the Congress-organised event. No doubt, good wishes and expressions of cooperation were exchanged between top leaders, and on such occasions such good feelings are often demonstrated on the surface, whatever rivalries or enmities may be smouldering just underneath.

Koirala has been claiming that the Maoists had derailed the politics of consensus. The lack of Maoist support for Koirala’s presidential ambition is generally considered to have chilled the Congress-Maoist relationship. The Maoists have also accused Koirala of violating the pre-poll understanding and the politics of consensus practised since Jana Andolan II after the CPN-Maoist emerged as the single largest party in the Constituent assembly. Anger has also streaked across CPN-UML leader Madhav Nepal’s various recent public statements since the CPN-UML and the CPN-Maoist could not bring off an electoral alliance for presidential election, blowing up Nepal’s chances. Now it is no use harping on old ‘betrayals’ and ‘violations’ of political understandings and agreements. Prachanda said at the Congress tea party that from that day on he would initiate fresh talks with the Congress for mutual cooperation. If good things emerged, it would be all the better.