Take in right spirit

The fifth plenum of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) has got under way. The meeting has generated both expectation and suspicion in the political circles. The top leadership is reported to be under heavy pressure from party leaders and rank and file to take a more militant line, even to pull out of the interim government. Those who are taking this line argue that the interim government could not play an effective role in institutionalising the gains of the decade-long Maoist ‘People’s War’ and Jana Andolan II. The leadership is said, as is also evident from senior Maoist leaders’ public comment, to doubt that the constituent assembly (CA) elections will be held even on November 22. In the political report presented to the party’s central committee last Thursday, Maoist chairman Prachanda set two preconditions — the pre-CA declaration of a republic and the adoption of a fully proportional representation system for the CA polls. The plenum will play an important role in shaping the party’s line on these matters.

Minister for peace and reconstruction and Congress general secretary Ram Chandra Poudel has criticised Prachanda for raising an issue that was settled long ago. As Poudel rightly said, the Maoists had accepted the Congress proposal for a mixed electoral system in the political agreement of November 8. As for the demand for the pre-CA republic, Poudel asked why Prachanda could not trust the public opinion, adding that the CA was the only way to establish a republic. Poudel gave reference to CPN-UML general secretary Madhav Nepal, who wrote a note of dissent in the Nov. 8 agreement in favour of the fully proportional system but who does not now agree with the two conditions. Speaking in Dhankuta, CPN-UML chief Nepal termed Prachanda’s two conditions a ‘political threat’. He also stressed an eight-party front, rather than a Left front, for republicanism.

The agitating Madhesi groups and Janajati agitators are in favour of a fully proportional representation system, and almost all the parties in the eight-party alliance (except the Congress, NC-D included) supported or had no objection to this electoral system. It was on Congress’ insistence that the mixed system was adopted. However, once agreed, the political agreement should be respected. PM GP Koirala said he would comment only after the outcome of the Maoist plenum. Stressing the eight-party unity, he also saw the need for this unity for the next several years. Taken in the right spirit, this expression of feeling is expected to do the country a lot of good. Indeed, there are so many things to be set right in the country, and the need will not just end with the CA polls. Political consultation and consensus will make the task much easier. But all parties should sincerely work towards that end. Prachanda’s two conditions, if adopted by the CPN-Maoist, are likely to create a political crisis, which will not be without its implications for the forthcoming CA polls. The Maoists and other parties should take appropriate steps to keep the road to the CA polls smooth.