Unresolved issues: Political conference necessary for CA

Last week witnessed certain developments on the political front that have increased uncertainties surrounding CA polls scheduled for November 22 although the Election Commission has published a detailed poll schedule. The ongoing agitation of Tarain groups and Janajatis, political party’s lethargy in educating the masses on the importance of a constituent assembly, the indifference and opposition of the Madhesis and Janajatis and the new political position taken by the CPN-Maoist are factors which need serious attention.

On August 22, the Tamang National Liberation Front declared a successful bandh against the indifference of the coalition government to Janajatis’ demands. On August 23, the MJF declared that unless their demands were fulfilled within a week it would declare a movement for the ‘liberation’ of the people. The same day a statement by the UNMIN head Ian Martin urged the political parties to go to villages to motivate the people with regard to CA election. He made it clear that most of the reports he had received concerned inactivity of political parties.

One of the gravest developments was the Maoist demand for postponement of CA election till April-May 2008 and declaration of a republic in order to curtail conspiracies against the election. The formation of the coalition government and the interim parliament had acknowledged the Maoists as one of the three major political parties. On the basis of such an acknowledgement, the Maoist stand has to be taken up seriously.

There are 84 days to go for the scheduled election. But how can any credible election be held in an atmosphere of uncertainty and violence? In order to create an atmosphere conducive to free and fair election, dissenting voices have to be listened to and talks have to be conducted with a view to arriving at consensus. However, the government team that is conducting negotiations is lethargic and biased. Even before the talks are conducted a member or two of the team makes his ideas public and spoils the atmosphere for the talks.

Dialogues with different dissenting parties should have the single objective of arriving at consensus among negotiating parties. Such consensus cannot be achieved by listening to the grievances of a particular party only, as issues involved have wide dimensions and affect multiple parties, communities and groups. So a new mechanism has to be created to promote interaction among all dissenting groups and eight party alliance.

How serious are the political parties about holding the election on time? Till date, only the CPN-UML seems serious about the need for timely election. Smaller parties like Jana Morcha and NWPP are also seen active in election campaigning. And yet other major political parties have not made any initiative to go to the people. The question of maintaining the eight party alliance is also crucial to achieving the mandate of Jana Andolan II. However, one can easily discern that the partners in the alliance are drifting apart.

The question of proportional representation has been raised by a big segment of population. The MJF as well as Dalits and Janajatis have been demanding adoption of a single system of proportional representation. CPN-UML is the only political party which took this stand from the very beginning. Now the Maoists have thrown their weight behind proportional representation. To ridicule the Maoists for shifting their position from their stand during the signing of draft interim constitution is insensitive in a democratic society. The Maoists have fathomed the popular will in favour of proportional representational system and have followed the people’s will by displaying their democratic credentials. In a democracy, it is only right that any individual, group or party change its position in honour of public opinion. It is hypocritical to assert that one has to stick with a pre-conceived opinion come what may.

The issue of proportional representation was not received well by others in the beginning because this was thought of as a CPN-UML agenda. Today the question of convening a political conference is not being considered as this is branded as CPN-Maoist agenda. Such an attitude is not good for maintaining the alliance or honouring popular will. In order to solve the numerous issues of grave importance, convening of a widely participated political conference has become inevitable. Only such a forum could address the issues before the nation and provide a sound guideline for the CA which is to be the baseline of a new Nepal.

The political conference should include all those who are willing to negotiate and even those unwilling to negotiate and create law and order problems. Thus, they can be isolated, divided and punished. Because of the constraint of time a political conference must be convened, which could, in turn, also tackle the issue of whether a new Nepal would be a federal republic.

Upadhyay is ex-foreign minister