Political stalemate : Where are we heading for?

Last week’s statements by several leaders of the seven-party alliance (SPA) have led to doubts that a consensus will be reached between the SPA and the Maoists. Not only did they reveal disenchantment with the other side but also brought to fore the mounting differences among the SPA parties. The civil society and the public have taken this development seriously and want an understanding among the SPA components as well as between the SPA and the Maoists until the results of the Constituent Assembly (CA) polls are declared.

However, the PM’s statement in favour of maintaining cordial relationship between the SPA and the Maoists till the CA polls is reassuring. The PM has to carefully review what led to the success of the people’s movement, what was his role, promises and who were the actual forces behind mass participation. He has to distinguish between the allies and opponents. The apparent submission of the forces opposed to the popular uprising should not be interpreted as a sincere show of allegiance.

First of all, the reason the NC president was raised to the glorious heights was the convergence of his family and party interests with national interest. But as soon as the House assembled to deliver the change to the people, even those MPs who had stayed away from their constituencies started acting as if they were the bearers of the people’s burdens.

At present, two agendas of arms management and monarchy have assumed supremacy. Unless these issues are properly dealt with, the prospect of lasting peace will remain elusive. So long as the threat of intimidation remains, expression of free will remain curtailed. Until the masses are fully assured that they will not be threatened by any armed group in the exercise of their free will, any election under such circumstances will become a farce. So arms management has to be given top priority.

On June 16, in separate letters but with the same content addressed to the UN Secretary General, the SPA and the Maoists forwarded their five-point agenda aimed at seeking UN assistance in “the management of arms and armed personal of both the sides,” deployment of qualified civilians to monitor and verify the confinement of CPN-M combatants and their weapons within designated cantonments and monitoring the Nepali Army to ensure that it remains in its barracks, among other issues. The two letters are taken as commitments by the SPA and the Maoists. It is bewildering to find the differences being perceived by either. The main purpose of arms management is well pronounced in the letters stressing, “that they (the armed forces) remain in the barracks and their weapons are not used for or against any side”. The need is to stick to this understanding.

The issue is becoming more complicated for lack of constant touch and exchange of information between the two sides. The movement of vehicles and arms perhaps from the Terai to the Valley created an uproar. Had the movement and its reason been made known to the other side, the ugly development could have been avoided. This gives a lesson that the other side should be informed of the movement of arms and armed personnel. Let the PM and Maoist supremo, chief negotiators home minister Sitaula and Mahara, as well as the Chief of Nepal Army and the militia keep regular communication to avoid mistrust.

On the issue of monarchy, too, one should avoid creating unnecessary controversy. There are a number of people who still favour the institution of monarchy. But the nation is not unanimous. If the chance to plead in favour of any case is denied it only suppresses the views of some people which could ferment into another bout of unrest. So, every faction of the population must be given a chance to test their own belief.

In a democracy the opinion of the majority has to be respected. Let there be a test of public opinion in favour of monarchy or a republic. The overwhelming majority of even those who favour retention of the institution of monarchy are not for an absolute, active or creative monarch. The PM’s designation of the monarch as ceremonial has amused many but he has the right to opinion. Five months is not a very long time. There have been some achievements in the last five months but the main issues of arms and the Crown have not been dealt with properly. The SPA and the Maoists must realise that they cannot settle all disputes alone. Larger sections must have a voice in establishing a new order.

For the last one decade the Maoists have been asking for a political conference. The civil society had hailed it as a realistic and democratic approach. However, this proposal has been shelved for other considerations. People would have reason to be satisfied with any other means, which might lead to a national consensus on a multitude of issues. Every stakeholder should be given a chance to voice its opinion. An agreement among a few has always deluded Nepalis. History of the last six decades is a witness.

Upadhyay is a former foreign minister