Pall of uncertainty

Last Thursday’s 22-point agreement between the Madhesi Janaadhikar Forum (MJF) and the

government was hailed “historic” by the signatories. Both MJF and the group of Janajatis with

whom the government recently signed a similar agreement have expressed the commitment to make the constituent assembly (CA) elections a success.

These may provide some reason for believing that

the CA polls may now be held on schedule. But things do not appear that easy. The accord signed with

the MJF chairman, Upendra Yadav, has caused discord in the MJF. Kishor Biswas, a central leader of MJF, has accused Yadav of “selling out to the Congress”, branding the accord “unacceptable” and threatening to launch agitation. On the contrary, Yadav has dismissed Biswas and other critics of the agreement as a “negligible minority playing into the hands of elements out to foil the CA polls”.

It will take some time to form an accurate picture of the fissure in MJF. But the accord will not, probably, convince other armed or unarmed Tarai groups, which number about a dozen. So, it is hard to say how the Tarai would respond to the CA polls. Similarly, the accord with one Janajati group has not resolved problems with several other Janajati outfits. The Federal Democratic National Front (FDNF), an umbrella organisation of the Limbuwan, Tamangsaling, and Khambuwan groups, on Saturday announced unilateral suspension of the talks with the government planned for today, terming further talks “irrelevant” on the ground that the government did not meet its three central demands — autonomy with self-determination, full proportional representation, and pre-CA declaration of a federal democratic republic. Even more important, the Maoists’ 22-point pre-conditions for “creating a conducive atmosphere for free and fair polls” cannot be ignored. It is quite possible that these other groups might ally themselves with the Maoists on common agendas like full proportionality to start agitation.

Yadav’s hand may well have been forced by the events, including the expression of a desire by the countries wielding tremendous influence in Nepal to see the CA polls held on November 22. Whatever it may be, the accord has led critics to raise the question: What singular achievements did the MJF agitation, which cost so much to the country, achieve that had not been addressed in one way or the other by the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and the Interim Constitution? Or why did it drop its central demands like “full proportionality”? Though Maoist chairman Prachanda has lambasted the agreement as “extremely objectionable, flawed, deceptive and conspiratorial”, Ram Chandra Poudel, minister and coordinator of the government’s dialogue team, does not see any point in the Maoists’ strong reaction. The Maoists are insisting on a round table conference to find an “integrated solution to the demands” of the various agitating groups. As the CA polls are only 79 days away, time is running out for the eight parties to sort out the remaining issues and remove the pall of uncertainty that still hangs over the polls.