Truth about choice

Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala has made it clear that his party Nepali Congress will not join any republican front for the elections to the constituent assembly (CA). Talking to journalists and party activists in Biratnagar, he said, “We will go to the constituent assembly polls with our own party statute and programmes”, and rejected a proposal that he lead such a front. In the wake of the non-fulfilment of his pledge to unite the NC and the NC-D before Dashain, he made a new promise to unite both early enough for them to go to the CA polls as a single unit. Koirala has every right to campaign for a Nepal with or without a king. He will most probably command the support of his party’s largely rubber-stamp central working committee (CWC) for his line as half its members are his personal appointees.

His remarks may have come in response to the Maoist idea of forming a republican front even in exchange for greater Maoist flexibility on the arms issue. But the NC president’s stance before the CWC or the Mahasamiti decision may tempt the onlookers to suspect that democratic culture is yet to take root in the NC. Most of the other parties, including the CPN-UML, are clear on the issue. As for the NC, it has never decided to support a republican agenda in the first place, but it has not decided in favour of the monarchy in the present context, either. Its relatively recent deletion from its statute of its commitment to the monarchy does not appear to sit very comfortably with Koirala’s current stress on the NC “tradition”, a rejection of sorts of the republican agenda. Koirala also gives the impression of being somewhat confused whether a democratic party in Nepal should embrace the monarchy. The fact is that while a democracy in its strictest sense implies a republic with all the hallmarks of democracy, a polity in which a harmless monarchy wielding no significant power co-exists with all the features of democracy is universally considered democratic.

A question, however, arises why the NC, in contravention of its tradition, severed its statutory coupling with the monarchy. As the Congress has every right of choice, so do the other parties. Therefore, all must have complete freedom to go to the people with their own agendas. This will reflect the spirit of the Jana Andolan II. The people’s verdict must reign supreme. Similarly, both the government and the Maoists have identically dealt with the issue of arms in their requests to the UN for its help in the matter. The need is, therefore, for them to work out the detailed modalities for the CA polls and beyond. To any impartial observer, these two issues should not have been the roadblocks to a breakthrough in the first place. Nonetheless, the talks stand stalled. This means that an issue is being made of non-issues. The Maoists or the SPA or any constituent is free to support or oppose any agenda during the CA polls, but none of them has any right to hold the peace process hostage to their narrow partisan interests outside the people’s mandate for the CA polls and the three agreements the SPA and the Maoists have inked so far.