Interview with Narahari Acharya of the NC and Kamal Thapa of RPP Nepal.
BBC Nepal: All the bigger parties and a majority of Nepalis are in favour of a secular, federal, republic state. Why are you against it?
Kamal Thapa: All these ideologies were imposed on us by foreign powers. Looking at Nepal’s geopolitical compulsions we decided to follow a different path because communal and religious harmony cannot exist in the country if we become a secular, federal republic.
Some people think that the parties made a mistake during the 2006 Janandolan. What is your view?
Narahari Acharya: It’s understandable that people are becoming increasingly vocal about the protracted transition period. But it is immature to label all the changes that have come about, such as the downfall of the monarchy in 2006, as the doing of foreigner.
Can the parties still claim to have 2006’s mandate seven years later?
NA: No, that’s why we’re holding elections. The failure to draft the constitution the first time round was our weakness. But we also made a major achievement by transforming Nepal into a republic.
KT: I can provide you proof that the Maoists wanted to work with the king by sidelining the parties, but the king refused. That’s why they entered the mainstream with the help of India. We can and must review the mistakes we made in the past, but that is no excuse for parties to do as they please.
What are the challenges to institutionalise the achievements of the 2006 uprising?
NA: We rehabilitated former Maoist rebels and integrated some of them into the national army and we deposed the monarchy through non-violent means. All that remains to do is to complete the constitution.
KT: I’d like to remind everyone that the monarchy was not driven away by popular vote or a revolution but through the conspiracy of major parties.
But parties like yours which supported the king won very few seats during the last CA elections.
KT: It is meaningless to analyse the 2008 elections in the context of federalism, secularism, and republicanism. But we will see the peoples’ wishes reflected this time round.
Is that why you didn’t file for candidacy for first past the poll?
KT: We are a party that wants to establish our ideologies, so personal ambitions and victories during elections are meaningless to us. I admit that we are not in the position to claim a two-thirds majority, but I am confident that we will get enough votes to correct the mistakes made by the political actors of this country so far. If federalism fulfills all the demands of Nepalis, we might consider giving up our insistence on having a king. But since our polity is so unstable, I feel that we need the monarchy as the last custodian.
NA: Why should the public believe that the same monarchy which showed very little respect for peoples’ sentiments and democratic values, will now act as an able custodian. But if Nepalis still have faith in the king, it will show in the poll results.
Do you see any point of compromise between your respective parties?
KT: I think the next CA will in no way resemble the first one, because the people will not let the same people with the same policies conjure up the same reasons to make the CA fail. Keeping the country’s interests in mind, we have come up with a model of democracy where there is a ceremonial monarch and a prime minister elected directly by the voters.
NA: I wrote the same thing 16 years ago and would have had no problem agreeing with Kamal Thapa if not for the events of the last decade. As an example, the monarchy no longer exists.
So there is no possibility of compromise?
NA: We can only agree on monarchy after a parliament amends the constitution according to Mr Thapa’s belief. As far as ethnic federalism is concerned, I’m not in favour of it and neither is our party. I think that Nepal needs to become a republic, but we could initiate a debate on that. I have been in favour of directly electing a prime minister for a long time, so there is definitely ground for compromise.