Nepali Times
"Unacceptable crime"

Nepali Times: Recently you gave yourself only 60 per cent marks for performance. When will you reach 100 per cent?

Pushpa Kamal Dahal: That was two weeks ago. I believe we have now reached 80 per cent. And in two weeks we may even get 100 per cent.

Why were you scoring so low?
It was because we were finding it difficult to forge unity with the main parties, but this problem is being resolved. The issue of rehabilitating the displaced and army integration have been nearly addressed through the special committee. There is now an agreement in place with our coalition partners to give the people the perception of change and wness, to set up local units and allocate budgets to them so development can take place. All the committees of the CA are taking shape. We now have an agreement with the UML on the setting up of various commissions. These moves will take the country forward and we can exceed 80 per cent.

Where is the Congress in all this?
I think we will soon reach an agreement with the NC. There have been tripartite talks between the Congress, UML and the Maoists. We will try to lift the boycott of CA sessions by implementing past agreements.

Any chance of the Congress joining the government?
I don't see that happening at the moment. But there is a good chance that the NC will be part of the constitution-writing process and to conclude the peace process.

What do you say about the attacks on the media?
Actually I have described the attack on Himalmedia as an unacceptable crime and called for the prosecution of the guilty. There are no 'buts' and 'ifs' and the guilty should not go free. I have asked the two to be handed over to the police. Such attacks and disagreements should not be allowed and it was to resolve this that I took those steps. It's not our policy to harass the press.

"The way forward is through evolution"

How difficult has it been to lead a coalition government?

These are not normal times; this is a government in an extremely sensitive transition period. This makes a qualitative difference. There is greater fragility because we are in the midst of the peace process, constitution-making and important change.

What will happen if the government fails?
First of all, this government will not fail. It shouldn't fail. I don't want to say what will happen if we actually fail. But one thing is certain?the country will be plunged into crisis. I keep saying: everyone should have the right to criticise but everyone should also help the government to build peace and the constitution. If that isn't done knowingly or unknowingly, the nation's unity and independence will be threatened. You can see I have been involved in deep discussions with the main parties. If there is an agreement the country will move forward, it must.

How difficult has it been to manage your own party?
It was normal to have that debate during our national cadre convention. It was a party that emerged from armed struggle into a peace process, came into government through elections-a coalition government in a transitional phase. When you have to work with different parties, there is the difficulty of not fulfilling the people's hopes. And there was the expected debate within the party about the process, which wasn't driven by personality or revenge. Naturally, this debate made people curious about what would happen to the Maoists and whether there was support for the government from within the party. But after the convention, that debate is over, there are no problems within the party. We are now united to make the government successful, take the budget to the local level, to mobilise the people and launch a village development campaign.

What kind of obstacles are you still facing from within your party
We will address the debates within our party with a fresh call for a renewed unity, struggle and transformation. Usually communist parties have a slightly conservative wing, an extremist streak and you have the middle-of-the-roaders. These three approaches erode efforts towards a radical transformation, but the struggle goes on. And the transformation takes place within the framework of that struggle; a correct, united, win-win path emerges.

You recently said royalists had infiltrated your party.
I didn't say those exact words. I said the monarchy had formally ended but a monarchical mindset was still prevalent in society and the parties.

In your party, too?
There is a bit of it in every party. Because the parties reflect the debates, ideas and the class struggle within the society. As long as these ideas are not removed we can't say we have ended feudalism.

Recently you accused foreign powers, your coalition partners and bureaucracy for being obstacles.
Again, I didn't exactly use that language. I wasn't generalising about foreign powers. There are foreign friends who have assisted us in the process of peace and transformation but there also those who have never wanted the Maoist alliance with the political parties. And I wasn't singling out anyone in the civil service but it is an institution where it takes four months to do something that should take just ten days. There is a need for radical reform of bureaucracy.

In the coming days will your party be taking the revolutionary path or an evolutionary one
There is a direct relationship between evolution and revolution. There is a bit of revolution in evolution and vice-versa. We are currently in the process of radical transformation of Nepali society, and we want this to happen peacefully. The country's fate and future is linked to this process. The way forward is through evolution.

The government has been accused of not being serious about the deteriorating law and order situation in the Tarai.
We are serious, especially about the situation in the eastern Madhes. The people of the Madhes are suffering from kidnappings, murders and extortion because of the lack of the rule of law. We are now trying to talk to the political groups and tighten law and order. I told the other parties that there needs to be a popular mobilisation and we should solve the problems of the Madhesi people together. I think we should be seeing results within a few weeks.

Communal relations are deteriorating. How do you see the future of ethnic, communal and regional relations?
So far, Nepal's ethnic harmony is intact and this is a continuation of our proud tradition of tolerance. The current ethnic resurgence will actually make the country stronger. However, the banner of fragmentation and ethnic chauvinism are also being raised in the hills and the plains. These groups trying to provoke communal violence are the ones who used to be the biggest opponents of ethnic resurgence, federalism and autonomy. But I feel that Nepal's diverse groups that have collectively sacrificed so much that it will not let our unity be destroyed. The Nepali people have to be vigilant about protecting our unity and thwarting foreign interference and infiltration that could threaten our territorial integrity and sovereignty.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)