15-21 November 2013 #681

A second chance

Nepalis are set to reject totalitarians, oligarchs, separatists, and anti-nationals in this election
Muma Ram Khanal
There are just three days to go to E-day. Nepalis will be casting their votes in the second election for a Constituent Assembly. There is a lot of apathy and disillusionment, but most people know that voting is the only way to get this country back on the rails. It was just two years after the end of the conflict that the first CA election was held. It was conducted under the shadow of war and its legacy of violence. But there were insurmountable disagreements over the constitution and competition for power that deadlocked the polity.

The stalemate was so debilitating that we had to reluctantly accept the smothering of the judiciary and the squelching of democratic values to form an interim electoral council. Ironically, we had to undermine democracy to save it through another election.

Just about the only remarkable decision the last CA made was to vote for the abolition of the monarchy in its first sitting in 2008. Other than that, it is difficult to think of what else it accomplished. UCPN (Maoist), the largest party in that assembly, was hell-bent on getting to power under the misleading slogan of an ‘urban insurrection’.

The Maoist leadership squandered its mandate and lost the trust of domestic political forces and the international community. Comrades started calling each other ‘rightist deviationists’, ‘anti-nationalists’, or ‘renegade capitulationists’. On the other hand, the international community and national political forces blamed the mainstream Maoists of being anti-peace and inconsistent and for attempting to capture state power by means of unconstitutional sleight of hand.?

No matter how much the Maoists and their apologists try to airbrush history, the first CA was in trouble from the day Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal tried to unconstitutionally remove then army chief Rukmangad Katwal. The rest of the CA’s tenure was wasted in trying to restore Dahal to power. The Maoists’ delay in pushing through army integration and the attempts to buy CA members with cash, were tactics Dahal used to backpedal to Baluwatar. The CA’s constitution writing deadline of two years was extended, twice.

Dahal is an ambitious man and espouses the doctrine of ‘après moi, le déluge’ and his backroom powerplay was mostly responsible for the demise of the CA last year. The country then headed towards the precipice, the only way to drag it back was through the polls that are now upon us.

The time has come to use our discretion again. It is important in this election to analyse who was most responsible for getting us into this rut. Who parlaysed the country for so long? Who tried to undermine democracy time and again? Who handed the country over to outsiders? Who raised the ultra-nationalist voices and then metamorphosed them into anti-nationalism? This election, without the fear that characterised the 2008 voting, will be determined by who the people blame for the violence of the conflict and the machinations after 2006.

Most Nepalis are asking why it was necessary to kill more than 17,000 people. Even Maoist cadres wonder, looking at the behaviour of their leaders. The UCPN (M) has no answer to this in its campaign rallies. It is trying to distract attention from its violent past by getting people to focus on the Baidya group and its election boycott. A handful of leaders have used the proletariat to propel themselves to a neo-elite class through blood-soaked war.

The UCPN (M) knows the election climate is not right - its leaders sense it at the rallies. The vote bank is split and there is mass disenchantment among the comrades. The Nepali people are aware and alert, they know exactly what is going on and who is who. They also value their freedoms and will vote for those who are for democracy, rule of law, human rights, and peace.

Forces that support the idea of totalitarianism, oligarchy, national capitulation, and separatism will not fare well. The result of the first CA has shown that the victory of these forces means the defeat of peace and of the constitution. We have no more chances to set things right. Let us not waste it.

Read also:


Two polls, EDITORIAL

Let's not repeat 2008, KANAK MANI DIXIT

Far-fetched in the Far-West, SUNIR PANDEY

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