Strange interlude

CPN-UML general secretary Madhav Kumar Nepal, presenting his 27-page political report at the ninth central committee meeting on Monday, admitted that participation in the Sher Bahadur Deuba government was a mistake. He catalogued the “conspiracy of the palace, Deuba’s lack of political will, the Maoists’ refusal to hold peace talks, and the four-party street protests” as the causes of the miserable failure of the coalition government. So many factors “tied down our hands” that we could not deliver despite our “good intentions,” Nepal said, adding that the palace never allowed the coalition to work independently. He now sees no alternative to a forceful movement for the restoration of democracy. But this realisation came only after February 1. Until then, the government’s utter failure and helplessness had been evident to everybody except the CPN-UML. And its ministers had given the impression of being the spokespersons for the palace. It was the CPN-UML which had declared the regression “corrected” and decided to join the Deuba cabinet as a junior partner. After October 4, 2002, it had submitted an application to the palace for the job of the prime minister under Article 127 (not envisaged by the Constitution). More than a year ago, it broke away from the five-party ‘anti-regression’ alliance because the other constituents refused to endorse the idea of submitting an application for the post.

These are only some of the blunders the CPN-UML committed before and after Deuba’s first dismissal as the elected prime minister. Obviously, acceptance of ministerial portfolios under Article 127 presupposed going along with the royal agenda. Deuba’s lack of will (to resist the palace) was common knowledge beforehand. So was the Maoists’ declaration that they would not talk with any “puppet” government. The four parties’ split with the CPN-UML was just because they wanted to continue with their street protests. Indeed, as Nepal said, nobody would have done better under the circumstances. Why, then, did the CPN-UML flounder all the way? It was a combination of opportunism and the lack of political foresight of its leaders. A serious question arises: Can such leadership steer the party through more turbulent times ahead successfully?