Nepali Times
Plain Speaking
Vacuum ahead


Normatively, the withdrawal of Ram Chandra Poudel's candidature offers one final opportunity to break the political impasse and re-engineer the consensus needed to finish the peace and constitutional process. This would mean politicians limiting their personal ambitions, broadly agreeing on the rules of the game, stepping down from their maximalist positions, and addressing each other's mutual insecurities and vulnerabilities.

So Pushpa Kamal Dahal and Jhalanath Khanal should be doing all they can to get the Nepali Congress on board in any power-sharing arrangement; NC, Madhav Nepal and KP Oli should undergo a change in heart and make way for the Maoists; all forces should arrive at a common conception of Nepal's future political system; and India should become a benign and supportive force.

But normative thinking is meaningless while analysing political processes. Empirically, there is no reason to believe this will happen Ė for the fundamental personal and ideological factors that led to the impasse in the first place have not changed but only deepened in the past seven months.

Dahal may first make a half-hearted bid at power, but since he has already realised that his prospects are weak, there is a good chance he will live up to his word and back Khanal as PM. The calculation is that this will constitute a snub to India, enable the Maoists to re-enter the power structure, and sharpen the divisions within UML Ė eventually benefiting the Maoists. It will also leave the Maoists in a relatively more advantageous position to deal with what happens on 28 May and its aftermath.

Even though this is Khanal's best chance, five forces Ė for different reasons Ė will seek to block him. Within UML, Nepal and Oli will deploy the argument they used in July to impose a two-thirds majority criteria on Khanal, and ask, "Why should we replace one majority government with another and break the democratic alliance in the process?" NC withdrew on the request of its allies in UML to strengthen precisely this position, and will do its bit to galvanise opinion against Khanal.

Within the Maoists, Baburam Bhattarai will argue that it is futile to back a candidate from another party in a majority government set-up. His question will be, "Can a government that excludes NC, and sections of the Madhesi parties, create a conducive atmosphere for constitution-writing? Is integration really possible in such a set-up?" Mohan Baidya and company are already questioning the logic of backing a UML candidate for government leadership when the roadmap is revolt. And India, which sees Khanal as a Maoist rubber stamp, will like the last time encourage its friends across party lines to undermine his prospects.

So, forming a UML-Maoist alliance will be an enormous challenge. If Khanal and Dahal succeed, the country may get a new government.

But it will isolate NC, which will not cooperate on constitution writing; alienate some Madhesi outfits, which will raise the rhetoric in the Tarai; strengthen the NA stance on integration; and anger India, which will destabilise the government almost immediately.

A repeat of the UML-NC 'democratic alliance', unlikely as it is, would be an exercise in futility too. The past year and a half has already shown how isolating the Maoists is not a solution. Dahal is also encouraging Sher Bahadur Deuba, who is disenchanted with both his party and India, to think that the Maoists may back him as PM. But the Maoists are probably trying to deepen the divisions within NC rather than back the man who unleashed the army against them. Even if it happens, it will not be a broad-based NC-Maoist but a Deuba-Maoist understanding.

The point of highlighting these various permutations and combinations, and the challenges inherent in each, is to underline the fact that we are operating in a context where forming the government, which requires only a simple majority, is complex and enmeshed with personal interests. Determining Nepal's political system and security structure, which is what the peace and constitutional process are about, requires an even broader consensus.

Opportunistic and personality-centred alliances, either between NC and UML or between UML and the Maoists, will not work beyond a point. Only a broad political-ideological deal between the two principal actors that conceptualised the process in the first place Ė Nepali Congress and the Maoists Ė can lead to a breakthrough. Given the current trust deficit between the two, any such understanding is unlikely.

This means that Nepal, irrespective of whether a government is formed, should expect a political and constitutional vacuum this coming May.

Seizing the moment, DAMAKANT JAYSHI
Diagnosis of death, INDU NEPAL
Ignorant crusaders, ASHUTOSH TIWARI

1. who cares
"o Pushpa Kamal Dahal and Jhalanath Khanal should be doing all they can to get the Nepali Congress on board" 

"Madhav Nepal and KP Oli should undergo a change in heart and make way for the Maoists;"

what do you see in above lines? 
i see jha's loyalty, his propaganda -------- how his is trying to portrait puspa and jhallu ram as good guys and others unfriendly. ..........

trust me, division in uml will adversely affect maoist, cause ......... jhallu ram will only be seen as a pet, and no society, powers will take pet as a partner/power.

jhallu ram as a pm will be nothing but status quo. 

i do not think, isolating NC will create any major problem.

i take the isolation of maosit has brought better result. 

jhallu ram as a pm is status quo ---- but will expose lots of things.
puspa as maosit boss is status quo.
uml - maoist team is status quo but will bring a lot of changes in uml.

your master puspa was saying "maoist going for peace and constitution means agents taking over maost gang". but he does not get that it is the only way out and opposing it today means loosing their grip over the gang.


2. Arthur
It does seem unlikely that the old parties will accept that the Maoists are now the largest party and allow a constitution to be drafted with a consensus government under their leadership.

No other "permutation" looks viable so things may remain stuck.

But how will that produce a "vacuum" after May?

Those parties were elected on promises to cooperate with the Maoists on completing the peace agreement and build a new republican, secular, federal and democrat Nepal.

Breaking their promises simply means that they will have less support and will therefore end up with less power to obstruct. It is not possible in the 21st century to govern Nepal without elections, relying only on the NA and India.

There has been a vacuum in government for quite a while.

Attempting to continue without elections after May would not result in a "vacuum" but an uprising.

3. arty
Thank goodness Prashant redeemed this article by using 'normative' as opposed to 'normal'.  I feel more informed already.

4. S. Onta
Dear Prashant,
Its always a pleasure to read your analysis. True, only a broader political understanding between the Maoists and NC will bring lasting peace in Nepal. However, the reality of that happening is very very slim, mainly because, we as a society, have not been able to convince the Mohan Baidyas of Nepal that their dogmatic view of the world is not acceptable to majority of Nepali. Even though Maoists are the largest group in CA, they aren't the majority. Hence, if they go ahead with their "people's revolt" and try to force their view of the world into the mind of rest of the Nepal, they will fail. Unless and until they realize this fact, we will continue to have a volatile political situation, ready to explode anytime. So, instead of dragging this scenario any further and kill our country piece by piece, bleeding us to death, let it explode once and for all, and let the chips fall where it may. 

5. Atul Kumar Thakur
Blockade of Nepal

Quite intriguing reading this piece of Prashant Jha,which is more based on potential wish-list of political faction rather than the imperative need for nation.Such intellectual assertion could be merely seen as prolongations of impending inferences that consistently have been defying the fate of Nepal.
The Constituent Assembly√Į¬Ņ¬Ĺs failure to deliver a Constitution on stipulated time-line and even after and Parliament√Į¬Ņ¬Ĺs failure to elect a Prime Minister despite prolonging the exercise for double digit rounds raising serious concern over the accountability of political parties in Nepal. Following perplex state of action in absence of any outcome makes an observers side completely drudgery and concomitant despair for all concerned components.
With unkempt promises, political class especially Maoists are now being seen as hellion with their brusque attitude towards the ground realities and needs of nation. No denying the fact, that Maoists are not alone accountable for the quivering domestic political scenario though with putting upon theirs ostensible demand after putsching the Monarchies quintessentially makes them a catalyst in entire persisting deadlock.

Signing twelve point understanding in November2005 in New Delhi with the Indian mediation for anti-Monarchy movement was a hurried step that couldn√Į¬Ņ¬Ĺt be adequately sensed by the Maoist or other seven pro-democracy parties from Nepal. Instant reason for Indian involvement in anti-Monarchy movement was shaped through the aberration created by King Gyanendra during the 2005 SAARC Summit where he laid the proposal for China as an observer which was unanimously accepted by the member nations-without any mediation, indeed it was a sort of unofficial breach that caused deep insecurity in Indian diplomatic side.
Given the historically trusted and entwining relationship between India and Nepal, it was unbearable for India to see China√Į¬Ņ¬Ĺs unnatural involvement with its very dear Himalayan state. China has been so far played feeble and inconsistent role in Nepal but the Maoists emergence at Centre-stage suddenly given them a level playing field against India which now fuelling the rivalry of engagement.

As a very close entity in varied terms, Nepal must understand the growing insecurities of India from its strategic point of views and instead of pushing both superpower for negative engagement at the domestic turf; it would be quite better to engage with both of them without forgetting its natural akinness for India. It would leverage Indian role in forming conducive environment both at domestic arena in Nepal as well as at international juncture-positive involvement would give India too a chance to strengthen its diplomatic ties with Nepal by giving its actual due to the Himalayan state. Energized co-operation with spillover of goodwill would forge better environment of concord and prospects of democracy.
Nepal here must have to prefigure the China√Į¬Ņ¬Ĺs dual playing at its every crucial juncture; from1950 to 1989{during trade blockade by India which lasted for twenty months that badly affected its economy}-at both the crucial occasion, China checked them with realistic visualization and kept reiterating India√Į¬Ņ¬Ĺs natural closeness to Nepal. Even in 2006, when India along with the Nepalese democratic forces was poised for heading-on with Monarchy, China was feeding the King with arms and ammunition to crackdown on Maoists and other demonstrating political parties-thanks laudable collective efforts, China√Į¬Ņ¬Ĺs plan of bloodshed didn√Į¬Ņ¬Ĺt worked out in Nepal. Nepal must be reckon with its strategic standing without too much reshuffling some of its conventional basic lesson of diplomacy-otherwise, contemplation of experiments wouldn√Į¬Ņ¬Ĺt be ended more than deadpan per se following the ambitious dualism.

The most inevitable thing that Nepal has to do the figuring out of its people√Į¬Ņ¬Ĺs aspiration as now Maoists too sounds pragmatic about the prospective merger of Armies and noticeably on the role of Monarchy. Without deviating under any forcible ideological compulsions, it would be prudent for Nepalese political parties to delve with the best possible options suitable for theirs quest for democratic establishment and supremacy of Constitution.
This would be true healing touch from democratic political forces who have been disappointing the mass Citizens since 1920-if Maoist Supremo √Į¬Ņ¬ĹPrachanda√Į¬Ņ¬Ĺ sensing the blunder of abrupt abolition of Monarchy without giving them even a minimum Constitutional prerogative, that remorseness must be seen in true light and without contentious convictions. Prolongingness of deadlock in Nepal is neither feasible not ideal for the sake of peoples genuine aspirations√Į¬Ņ¬Ĺthere is need of rebuilding the confidence among the mass Nepalese for a brighter prospect of this beautiful nation.
                          I have taken few more words to express myself,but as an enthusiast and a well wisher of Nepal,I only wish to see the nation out of flux.Role of Press is very vital in sincere thanks for Himal South Asia and Nepali Times for keep aliving the debate.

6. Nirmal
It's true so often it's "useless" to have a descriptive analysis, weighing through normative pattern(even less when policies is synonymous to marketing). But that should not neccessarily negate the reference either. The working characteristic of any functioning democracy do manifest its strong presence in political sphere. Without good refernce Prashant, everyone is lost to discover, it is then when calculations are mismatched and the time is waste.

Let's get to the current "dynamic" of our politics, the recent agreement between the Maoists and the caretaker govt. Just at first look, it seems that finally they had a agreement for something -continue running all the physical equipments of UNMIN without unmin(with lower case)-. seems a good idea but not enough to get full of vitality to stimulate the peace process to its pacifist end. Madhav Nepal is doing exactly what the anti-peace process were insisting (UNMIN out of country)and the Maoists are doing exactly what they are saying the peace process has entered to THE TRUCE. Do you see any difference my friend? Well, I don't. They want to complete the revolution in their way and the current status quoists want to continue with their loots. Both are impossible! The revolution happens when there is poverty but what we have is a misery(although our mainstream media paints the blue the other way). Had the misery been the main engine of any revolution comrades, many countries would have seen the light of modernity with the same speed and would have left impressive touch in current global politics. That's not the case but whosoever governs in future(not less than 2 years) If things are not done how it should be, a kind of revolt like the one happened in Tunisia will occur for sure, so it is meaningless to take into account who the govt or the political party and/or parties in turn will be the target of youth's fraustration. The problem with the status quoists is that they are sort of rotten lots and with rotten lots one cannot pretend to govern a country. Both the Maoists and non-Maoists are old and not only they are old but have also lost the vitality that is what counts in realpoltick.

P.S. From Maobadi one should expect obvious now not the bloody stale "TRUCE":the definitive quit of armed struggle. Then it will be an "ICEBREAKING" situation in true sense.

7. rishav
Reply #5

Mr Thakur, Nepal-India relations hasn't really changed. India's policy on Nepal hasn't changed from the Nehru doctirine, and is stll continued till this day.

Nepal is one of the oldest Countries is South Asia, whilst India was under one empire or the other Nepal was holding it's own diplomatically with the Moguls, British India, and China. So this big brother and little brother concept really has to chnage in the minds of the Indian establishmnet. we are older than you and have more experience of being a state.

The unequal peace treaties of the past, the unequal deals on hydroelectric power, the land encroachment in the terai belts, the active support of the Maoists during the Insurgency to destabilise the state,  the blockade of Nepal for 20 months, the missed placed view of this older/younger sibling relationship are all things us Nepali people are aware about and is something your Indian Goverment really needs to make efforts to ammend.

8. Slarti
May I be brave enough to ask a simple question. 

What is the relation between the government making process and the constitution writing process?

Why is it that the CC had not met for over six months? If the task force could resolve 127 issues in about 10 sittings of a few hours each, could the sittings of CC not resolve more?

It is understandable that the government is lame-duck, but what did the two-legged ducks of the Maoist party do during their time in government? They had nine months, and the opposition was the lame-duck, they had members of this same party as ministers, what prevented them from setting up the base of work to be done?

On another matter, despite Prashant's cynicism about the entire process, I will predict that nothing of consequence would happen one way or another. 

Nepal will most likely have a PM some time this month, and then some other crisis would be initiated by some faction or some group which will function as an excuse for the Maoists to start getting violent before May 28. 

The objective would be to assess the potential of what action can be taken post May 28.

The problem with Nepal is that the interim, or the 1990, constitution is not what is written, that way the CA would not have been extended, not for one year, and not after midnight on that day. The constitution is what the leaders do at their own whim, for their won convenience. Since they are all failures, they will do whatever it takes to survive another day, to fight another crisis, that they themselves would create to serve their own short-term interests.

Good luck to the "people". There is nothing they can do, other than to grin and bear it. And, I am not being a cynic.

9. Vija Srestha
The article by Prashant Jha is the description of reality.It is ,it was and it will be the next round of boxing games by the parties.That's the pesimistic view ,acceptance and giving up mode and I don't want to even waste my breath on such discussions,even if one is interested in sincere wish to help,the only words I agree with in this article are' it is one more chance to break the political impasse to finish the peace process agreements signed and fulfill all the conditions accepted  and complete constitution writing process,no matter how expensive it becomes to the Government of Nepal.The Government, it is us and therefore it is us who needs to accept the price as there is not better option than peace in country and a way to progress.

We have let flow down the drain so much money already,isn't it worth spending even Rs.2 billions?

Is there anyone out there who thinks for the people, but no dictatorships.

'Addressing individual ambitions,insecurities,vulnerabilities.'

If we have people like that who lead our government,we don't need anyone of them.We are in the trouble and the best way out is to accepted the reality,which means continue to fulfil the signed agreements,don't improvise and distort through the process,understand it is not Indian government,it is our Nepal and yes ,with all do respect we can not deny the reality,we are not alone in the world, we have neighbours,however this peace process can only be concluded by us.

Don't look for reasons and excuses now!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Balance,acceptance of differences,writing a constitution based on human rights in it's highest respect to every individual,accepting rights of everyone,is that so hard to understand,first put it on the paper,don't think that you need to limit,just because you can not afford it yet.That would be the next step for all of us,to make other systems in process to succeed,and again it is giving first and only then expecting results,and I mean selflessly .

10. Atul Kumar Thakur
Reply#7-Glad to see your historic put in India-Nepal relations,indeed there is no denying that Nepal has maintained a sovereign presence in South Asia throughout the history that gives the Himalayan nation a stout edge to dwell as closely woven nation.Yes,it's truly unfortunate that Indian establishment has failed to form a new dimension to look on the neighbors, particularly with Nepal,this is real contention of all swiftly burgeoning misconception in the mind of peoples regarding the Indian role.One thing you missed to stuff in your message that these two nation has failed to live up the symmetrical diplomatic relationship-no Prime Ministerial visit so far from India,it's sort of pragmatic hammering over the soft historically shaped ties.Only once ever,Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh,had shown courtesy to receive veteran politician Girija Prasad Koirala at Airport besides conferring him the verbal honour of being South Asia's most remarkable living politician. I emphatically think,India has to show more level playing exercise to bridge the trust deficit developed in the recent years,and yes,treaties must be subject to changes as time and circumstances allows.My personnel views regarding the Nepal have never emerged out of any stereotypical and theoretical school of Nehruvian principles...better,if you can read my last dozen of pieces over Nepal,you would sense the kind of basic I have been following on international relations.And if possible,please nail the relative observations on the kind of state we are living today,instead we shall move up for an universal abode out of disgustingly bounded cunning political convictions.
Atul Kumar Thakur

11. Anonymous

The commentator (ref. to reply #7) is right-- the "Indian establishment has failed to form a new dimension to  look on the neighbors, particularly with Nepal..."  Sadly, the 'master-slave' mind-set inherited from their colonial past still seems to rule the behaviours of the Indian establishment today. Had Indians internalized their own true historic past, for exmaple, the real meaning of Gandhi's 'Swaraj' and the birth pang of true National Independence, the neighbours would find a different India today. It would not have been difficult for such a Nation to foster a mutual and trusting relationship with her neighbours, nor would it have been hard for Inida to treat  her own tribal peoples with dignity and respect. Instead, in the name of the mirage of 'national security', Delhi seems too much obsessed with seking for blessing from yet another 'Master' from the overseas.  (Mind you, the historic 'honeymoon' with Moscow ended as soon as the Cold War ended!) On the other hand, the 'traditional' intellectuals and the political pundit class in Nepal, are still obsessed to see every problem in Nepal through the 'Indian' lens. (There was a time, during the 1950's, the entire Nepal's cabinet used to fly to Delhi to take major decisions!) The 'Patna-educated' and 'Banaras-bred' intellectuals and 'pundits' in Nepal have failed to take the 'historically thawed' and 'sick' relationship between the two countries to a new and healthy one. My generation that witnessed first-hand, both the fall of the Berlin Wall and the fall of the Wall Street, sees things through different references (mind it is plural!) I would like both the democratic forces in India and Nepal to be more assertive and confident. It is high time to start a healthy dialogue between our two nations. An alternative discourse is the demand of our time. The best mantra for the mutual security of our nations would be 'keep your purse secure, and don't blame your neighbour!' Nepal needs to define her strategic position as a bridge between the two rising economic power-houses of Asia. Let's do our homeworks to usher in a new era with the hightended consciousness of our own historical realities and sensibilities. It is the task of our younger generation leaderships to redefine a new relationship. Let's have debates on what should constitute the elements of such relationship.

12. Atul Kumar Thakur
Rational of Healthy Debate
I am emphatically happy to entwining with a very meaningful debate that represents all the constructive ideas across the board where the crux of relations between India and Nepal lies in reality.While writing my reply for Anonymous,whom I admire stoutly for his courageous and remarkable hold on synergistic inference;I felt best to leave the scale of peoples  relations to shape and uphold the traditional ties between these very close neighbors.Because,with heavy heart,I will have to say that diplomatic relations between Delhi and kathmandu have completely failed to capitulate any mandate of common folks across the boundary.At worst,forcing contentiousness with the changing Nepal were the most unpragmatic programming from Delhi that vehementally shooked the traditional bond which was made through the peoples contact and sharing common griefs.

Ofcourse,fault lines were also drawn by the Nepal's political parties,especially by the Maoists camp...their's leadership displayed utmost cunningness in dealing with India.Through my personnal interaction,I could say that,it harmed a lot in distorting Indian diplomatic vision towards their most essential neighbour.I am happy to see the wishes from prolific young Nepali political commentator about the new constructive approaches to build ever best ties between our two nation-on this,I would also add that,peoples like us,who will do this irrespective of our myopic institutional standings.Even,when Nepal is passing through the political crisis,I am quite sanguine about the future prospect it has as nation amidst the two emerged power...yes,this two giant have to essentially break their sleeping tigers tag in perspectives of foreign affairs.Indeed,India with its overt practices of original legacy could have done much better than blindly replicating the foolish bandwagon of cruel colonialists.We must keep the debate alive to sort out the maladies in governance...leave the geographical belongingness out of mind,instead start thinking as humane citizen-hope for building better coception,it's a fair idea...with best wishes for India-Nepal relations...
Atul Kumar Thakur
New Delhi{see my creative repository..}

13. Parag

√Į¬Ņ¬ĹAttempting to continue without elections after May would not result in a "vacuum" but an uprising.√Į¬Ņ¬Ĺ

This brilliant commentator, as¬†always,¬†is absolutely right! It will indeed be an √Į¬Ņ¬Ĺuprising√Į¬Ņ¬Ĺ funded by the over 6,500,000,000 rupees (~USD 87 million) in monthly and daily allowance payments made thus far by the taxpayers to the √Į¬Ņ¬Ĺfierce√Į¬Ņ¬Ĺ Maoist guerillas (poor guys!) who hitherto have been unfortunately and unfairly confined to the cantonments.¬† At least 50% of the money (NRs 3,250,000,000) has reportedly gone to the great Communist Party for which no accounting exists.¬† This is just one of the many sources of their ill-gotten wealth while they continue to amass hundreds of millions from extortion, looting and plundering.¬† The uprising will indeed be √Į¬Ņ¬Ĺrevolutionary√Į¬Ņ¬Ĺ, so it is better to bow down to them right now.¬† Over our dead bodies!!

14. Arthur
Parag #13, do you really think that shouting about Maoist "ill-gotten wealth" will make people support continued rule of the "well-gotten wealthy" without elections?

Naturally those who rule without elections will accuse their opponents of anything at all. But the simple fact that they are trying to rule without elections will ensure that everybody understands that they represent a minority seeking to rule over the majority.

So yes, if you don't want to "bow down" to governments being chosen through elections, the result may well be "over your dead body".

15. ramji

This article by Prasanta Jhha brought up a deep analysis of current political situation of Nepal. Good work.  All political forces should arrive at a common conception to break the current deadlock. Simple majority government cannot bring stable peace and new constitution; Madhav and Oli should change their mind and give up their stance against the Maoist. Whoever is leading the government that does not make any difference to all Nepalese! Today first and foremost requirement is a broad consensus among all political parties as well as a majority government that should be able to bring new constitution in time and stable peace in the country.

16. Parag

"So yes, if you don't want to "bow down" to governments being chosen through elections, the result may well be "over your dead body"."

Sounds like a deal. Just like your heroes to whom you're busy singing your stupid paeans didn't bow down to a government that was chosen through elections and it resulted in thousands of dead bodies! Go ahead and give a shout out to your comrade buddies and see if they have the stomach for another fight.  The first and second string leaders of their party look like they've all gone through an extensive stint at a beef-fattening camp, but I'm sure the rest of their comrades, who purportedly represent the proletariat, and for whose cause the great leaders are standing firm, will fight the fight for their elitist leaders.  What a joke!

17. rishav

Your talking about the last elections Arthie. the ones in which the UN totally messed up in supervising. the ones in which there were wide spread voter intimidation.

Don't comment on things you don't understand and have now experience yourself.

18. Arthur
rishav #17, its too late! No point pretending - Parag #16 has already made it clear that what he won't "bow down to" is elections, period. Problem is that you are both living in the wrong century.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)