Everybody laments the current political deadlock. But the real reason why there is a deadlock is even more lamentable: it is because by seeking government leadership, each party wants to manipulate the electoral process for its advantage. What could be a bigger travesty for democracy in Nepal?
Once again Nepal's political parties have shown that they are simply incapable of managing their affairs. Karan Singh's visit last week was not overt meddling, but it just means that if your house is on fire and you don't make any move to put it out, your neighbours will be worried. Singh's visit apparently didn't go down well with the PMO and the Foreign Ministry even though it was a direct message from New Delhi that India wants Nepal to start putting out the blaze.
But the parties have done little to show that they are capable of fire-fighting. Loud op-eds and rabble-rousing commentaries in the media blame Baburam Bhattarai or President Yadav for the current political mess. But the pundits miss the point. The solution to the stalemate is not in the hands of the prime minister or the president, it is with Sushil Koirala, Jhala Nath Khanal, and Pushpa Kamal Dahal.
Two probable solutions would be to ensure a Maoist or Madhesi Morcha-led unity government with the NC and UML getting portfolios of their choice. Second is an NC-led unity government with power sharing with the Maoists and Madhesis. While the first option remains unconditionally open for the opposition, for the ruling parties to hand over the leadership to the NC, it is reasonable that they would want an assurance that the party which had until two months ago been against CA elections, is committed to holding polls. On both instances, the ball seems to be in the opposition's court.
Appointing Sushil Koirala as its candidate, the NC has demonstrated that it prefers leading the government. Now, it has to explain to the people what it intends to do once in power. The party has so far maintained that it would talk about its agenda only after being handed leadership, which is odd coming from a party that claims to be the most democratic among the lot.
On Wednesday, Pushpa Kamal Dahal put forth a condition of agreeing on the date of holding CA elections in April before considering the NC's leadership. This is an indication that the Maoists and Madhesis have enough incentives to go for the polls. After running the government for over a year, the Maoists feel they have done enough to woo the voters, but are nervous about the split within their party. As long as they have the Madhesis with them, the Maoists are willing to face polls.
Since the day the CA was formed, the peace process and constitution drafting were held hostage to government formation. Six months after its dissolution, things have not changed. By seeking leadership of an electoral government, each party wants to ensure results in its favour so that it can effectively dictate the peace process and constitution drafting to suit its own ends.
The extended deadline given by the president to forge agreement on the government formation will expire on Friday. It will be nothing less than a miracle if the parties meet that deadline. The parties agreed on consensual politics in the interim constitution, but have been unable to develop a culture of give and take. The fear of losing too much has made them unwilling to compromise on the stakes. Unless they let go of that fear, deadlines will just keep on coming and going.
Making a big deal