State of the nation : Looking ahead to CA polls

With less than 100 days left for the Constituent Assembly (CA) polls and in view of the ongoing turmoil, genuine doubts prevail over whether the polls will be held on the stipulated time. The recent havoc caused by the floods in the Tarai, the spate of transport blockades and forced closures of businesses by multiple political, social and geographical groups demanding, among others, separate autonomous state within a federal structure; and the unabated killings of political workers, civil servants and ordinary citizens of hill origin by non-descript groups masquerading themselves as the champions of the rights of the Madhesi people have left the nation devastated.

To add fuel to fire, the Maoists’ recently concluded plenum, which among others, has demanded the declaration of republic prior to the elections and that the CA members should be elected on proportional representation rather than through the mixed system (earlier agreed upon by the eight party alliance), has further muddled the prospects for the November 22 elections. As if this were not enough, the recent raid and looting of arms by a group of seemingly disgruntled Maoists from a police post in Nuwakot has raised suspicion of Maoists intent on the polls.

Furthermore, the lawlessness and criminal activities perpetrated by the Young Communist League (YCL) has severely dented the credibility of the Maoists. While the entire nation is suffering under the deteriorating law and order situation, the present eight-party government appears unfazed and conducts itself on a “business as usual” mode. There is no sense of urgency and purpose and no serious efforts (other than empty speeches) made towards making the public feel secure. The nation is caught up in a whirlwind of violence, blockades, strikes and demonstrations conducted by diverse groups with a multiplicity of demands.

However, on introspection, even this bleak scenario has a silver lining when one thinks of the tremendous and unprecedented outburst of enthusiasm and energy emanating from so many quarters to demonstrate their unique identity and demand their rightful place in society. Unfortunately, there are negative aspects of this development and this is manifested in the ready adoption of the culture of violence as a means to redress one’s grievances. Although the government has been engaged in negotiations with various groups such as the Madhesi Janadhihkar Forum (MJF), the Chure-Bhavar group and the Federation of Indigenous Nationalities to settle their demands, it has hardly succeeded in bringing them to a successful conclusion.

What the government sorely misses is a comprehensive strategy, adequate homework and consultation among the eight parties in the alliance. However, we could indeed have the Constituent Assembly elections and bring about the much desired peace and political stability if the alliance were to focus on the following issues: a) Adherence to the mandate of Jana Andolan II — the establishment of a fully functioning democracy with or without ceremonial monarchy. b) Restructuring of Nepal into appropriate numbers of self-ruled states on a federal setup. State formation would encompass such criteria as population, ethnicity, language, geography and economic self-sufficiency.

c) As Nepal is dependent on the international community for its survival and development, it should seek their close co-operation in making CA polls a success. India must help Nepal settle the Tarai unrest through enlightened intervention and also help make Nepal’s internal security apparatus effective by blocking the entry of criminal elements across the porous border.

d) Strengthen security situation for holding free and fair elections. The eight party alliance must rethink its original strategy of keeping the Army behind the barracks and recruit temporary security personnel to boost our police and Armed Police Force. Using the army would be the most effective (costwise, too) to provide adequate security for the polls. The Maoists should be less sceptical about this since the army is now fully under the control of a democratic regime and not under the monarch. e) The Maoists must exhibit sincerity in joining mainstream politics. Towards this end, it must rein in the misdirected and unlawful activities of the Young Communist League in order to win the hearts and minds of the people.

Our country is a land of terrific people, great places and tremendous potential — all that now look for is peace and stability. Our leaders must rise to the occasion and put aside their partisan interests for the larger benefit of the nation. At this critical juncture in our history, it would be wise if we were to follow the wisdom propounded by late BP Koirala. “In a period of national crisis, national interest is best served by the coming together of all stakeholders in

society to arrive at a consensus to chart the road ahead.”

Thapa is Mahasamiti member, NC (D)