Political imbroglio Is House restoration the ultimate solution?

Shailendra Kumar Upadhyay:

There seems to be a general agreement that the Maoists cannot be suppressed by means of arms but a political solution has to be found. This has been expressed by the civil society, the donor agencies and the friendly nations. The government has repeatedly asked the Maoists to come to the negotiations and the Maoists have insisted on creation of a favourable atmosphere for the talks. Even the hardliners who advocated the expansion of the armed forces in order to control the Maoist activities have expressed that dialogue is the ultimate solution. Still there is no sign of any possibility of peace talks.

The reason is obvious. Except the civil society, all other stakeholders have their own agendas that are not in agreement with the agenda of the others. The civil society is only a moral force; it is a sufferer from both the warring factions but those who have guns and political power are reluctant to listen to its voice. This is evident from the gross rights violations by both the warring sides who have ignored the appeal of the National Human Rights Commission to sign the “Human Rights Accord.”

Though from time to time people are made to be impressed about the strength of one side by gains made in the battle, both the sides have come to realise that neither of them is going to win. In a terrain like Nepal, a guerrilla warfare based upon political principles cannot be stopped by means of strengthening the armed forces alone; the political side has to be resolved politically. In order to resolve the political issue there is the need of meetings of different political forces at one place such that the national needs could be identified and a common stand to address them could evolve.

The Nepali Congress (NC) has been insisting on restoration of the dissolved House of Representatives as a legitimate forum in which the process of resolution of the political problems could be adopted. The NC has found three other allies in support of its stand — the Jana Morcha, the Nepal Workers and Peasants Party and Nepal Sadbhawana Party (Anandidevi). Restoration of the House could become a good start but looking at the past practices of the House it is not fully reassuring. There are grave doubts that many complications could arise, thus making the situation worse. One can very well understand Girija P Koirala’s strategy in reviving the House. This would force the NC (Democratic) to merge with the NC as in absence of 40 per cent Members of Parliament, the split of the party would not be recognised. Unless there is an understanding in good faith between the two NCs, the NC (D) would not support any move for the restoration of the House.

Many things have changed in last six years. The overwhelming majority of the members of the dissolved House have not been able to visit their constituencies or communicate with the constituents who voted for them. Their claim of carrying people’s mandate does not stand on any sound ground. Moreover, a House without Maoist representation will prove hollow in today’s context. The Maoists have to be given the role of one of the chief negotiators on behalf of the people. Be it victory or no victory, the Maoists have proved that they have emerged as a force which has to be reckoned with.

Though there has been representation of ethnic groups, Dalits and women in all the parties, these groups have emerged as separate identity and devoted to their own principles to enjoy opportunities denied to them till now. All the parties run on certain principles and devotion to such principles are the primary requirements from a party member. But issues like equal or equitable participation in all sectors transcend loyalty to the party and are based upon the need of one’s community. So the question again veers round how to achieve consensus on issues vexing the people. What type of forum could be used for the purpose? Regarding this issue, the Maoists have been very clear from the very beginning. Having recognised that the monarchy, the parties abiding by the Constitution and the Maoists demanding a new constitution are three important political forces, a round table conference representing the forces was demanded.

The other day the NC Supremo gave a rude surprise when he said that a political conference called by the King was a “conspiracy.” He should have elaborated what he meant to say for the sake of the people and democracy. Like his earlier conviction of “grand design” this new notion of conspiracy does not hold ground in the absence of elaboration. Doesn’t it go against his own theory that he had elaborated when he was the PM that the King and the democratic forces together had to forge an alliance for strengthening democracy and nationalism?

One may or may not like the use of the phrase “round table conference” because this has been introduced by the Maoists. But can it be denied that a widely participated political conference including the Maoists is the only possible forum to negotiate for a lasting peace? One has no reason to oppose the NC position on the need for the House restoration, however, this has to be recognised that ultimate political solution could be achieved only through a political conference. Democracy demands appreciation of others’ point of view and also rational disagreement with that view. Koirala’s conspiracy theory has no logic behind it. In a widely participated political conference the NC would also have a chance to put its theory and plead for it.

Upadhyay is a former foreign minister