Where you’re at

After weeks of a virtual lack of contact between Prime Minister Koirala and Maoist supremo Prachanda, they have broken the ice, in the words of deputy prime minister Amik Sherchan. They are reported to have agreed to direct their dialogue teams to work towards finalising the interim constitution and resolving other key issues to make the constituent assembly (CA) elections possible by April next year. According to Maoist second-in-command Dr Baburam Bhattarai, who also attended the meeting, the two leaders also agreed on arms management, an interim constitution, interim legislature and interim government. Dr Bhattarai hoped that the SPA and his party would soon hold “decisive” talks. Also present at the meeting were coordinator of the government talks team Krishna Prasad Sitaula, Congress CWC member and PM’s nephew Dr Shekhar Koirala, and PM’s foreign affairs adviser Dr Suresh Chalise.

The SPA and the Maoists will have to decide such things as the composition of the interim legislature, mode of the promulgation of the interim statute, and the modalities for the CA polls. Given the commitment to hold the polls in line with the popular mandate and the three agreements signed between the two sides, they should be able to resolve any differences to mutual satisfaction. One thing that makes this relatively easy is that the existing disputes are only temporary, as the CA polls will give the ultimate verdict. Therefore, neither the Maoists nor the SPA constituents should insist on pushing their pet agendas, if contentious — be it the status of the monarchy or the shape of the army — for inclusion in the interim statute outside the scope of the agreements. If they can agree on broad issues, it will be fine; if not, they should await the people’s verdict. It will just be a matter of months. Such insistence is likely to overshadow and even jeopardise the principal goal.

All contentious issues are better left hanging in the balance. Making an entirely new constitution through the elections and then, probably, putting the constitution thus drawn up once again for the Nepalis’ final approval mean that the existing order — be it the legislature, the executive, the judiciary, the security forces, and so on — can be fashioned anew. What even the CA cannot change, however, is the people’s sovereign right to decide issues vital to the nation, their own destiny, and to elect their representatives, periodically or whenever it is necessary, to govern on their behalf for a specified period. This is the only constant of the CA polls, all other things are subject to change. Nobody should therefore try to disturb the course of events by delaying the CA polls or raising issues that are neither the mandate of the Jana Andolan II nor the provisions of the three agreements. If these are understood, the “decisive” summit between the two sides, likely to take place before Dashain or latest by Tihar, will produce a positive outcome, heralding a new era of peace and democracy in Nepal.