Smoke on the water

The alleged eight-party rift that Saturday’s summit of the alliance, held in two months, is reported to have brought to the fore is, for starters, not a new thing. It has been there at least since the formation of the seven-party government following the April uprising. The proposals put forward by the CPN-Maoist and the Koirala-led Nepali Congress were different if not surprising. The Maoists insisted on pre-CA republican declaration and full proportional representation for the constituent assembly polls. The NC and its breakaway NC-D, on the contrary, held on to the original agreement to decide the monarchy’s fate through a simple majority vote at the first meeting of the CA elected on the basis of mixed electoral system. The Maoists’ 18-point proposal is supposed to create a conducive electoral atmosphere, as also to build trust for the full implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. The meeting was postponed for August 23 to give the eight-party High-level Inter-party Coordination Committee (HICC) “more time to discuss and sort out political and technical issues”.

The Maoists’ ‘demands’, going by the decisions of the recently concluded fifth plenum, are not pre-conditions, as had initially been feared, but only meant to clarify their positions. What they said, however, was that they would try to get the other alliance partners round to their positions, but that disagreement on these issues would not affect the CA polls. Therefore, it is not necessarily wrong for them to push this line. On the other hand, it is but natural for the NC to stick to the already agreed points. Nevertheless, all political parties, particularly the alliance partners, are expected to make their official line public on the vital issues, the monarchy v republic being the most vital of them. On several other matters on which formal commitment has been made, however, implementation need not await the CA.

Therefore, any alliance partner insisting on others making their positions clear, say, on the monarchy, should not be misconstrued. At Saturday’s meeting, the eight parties also discussed the possibility of organising a national-level joint mass meeting in the capital soon. But what purpose would such a mass meeting serve without the alliance agreeing on a minimum common approach to the most vital issues, or without at least each party making its stand clear, whatever it may be? Mere reiteration of “we are committed to the CA polls” would be just a waste of time at this juncture. Instead, what they need to do now is to demonstrate it in action. The alliance partners owe it to the people to come clear. None of them can get away by evasive statements such as “the people’s verdict is acceptable to us”. Not only is it necessary for each party to make public what it wants before the sovereign people but also that it must take the same stand in the constituent assembly. Otherwise, the outcome of the CA might be a travesty of the popular will being represented.