Nepali Times
From The Nepali Press
‘We won’t walk out of talks’

Rajdhani: No one used to take you seriously seven years or so ago, now you are the centre of national attention. How do you view this success?
Baburam Bhattarai: Within a seven year period, there occurred a distinct qualitative change in the communist movement of Nepal that had remained static for over 45-46 years. And this change crossed the national boundaries and aquired a global importance. Our party takes great pride in this development.

The King is being felicitated on Friday in Dhangadi while you are going public on Thursday. Is there a connection?
The King represents the old system of governance. He refers to himself as a constitutional monarch, but why does a constitutional monarch need civic felicitation? He should consider this. So far as our welcome program is concerned, it is just a modest gathering to re-introduce us after seven long years. It should not to be interpreted as a demonstration of power. Neither is it a counter to anyone.

There is a widespread perception among the parties that you already have an understanding with the palace.
We found out that they are to some extent apprehensive that the role of the political parties will be sidelined, which I think is absolutely normal. On the other hand, we convinced them that the parties should not be excluded.

On and off, you talk about a new democracy. What is this new democracy?
We want to establish a democracy where the people will have real participation and decide their own futures. We will gradually make its basic structure clear.

Why do you come to the negotiating table if you believe that you have the capacity of taking over state power militarily?
A strategic balance means a state where the new power has not achieved complete victory and the old system is not in its original capacity. In a situation like this, it is natural to look for the solution in a dialogue process. This was the case in China and in other countries.

Why is the pace of talks so slow? At this rate a roundtable meeting will take two years.
That is a little pessimistic, but you are partly right. The truth is that the old regime is stubborn. In some respects I think it is already plotting against the peace talks.

But the government is saying that it is you who is putting forth new demands every day.
We think that our demands are entirely clear and lie within the remit of the Code of Conduct.

What about the parliamentary parties' insistence that your demand for a progressive outlet can as well be fulfilled through constitutional amendments?
No, they have got it all wrong. There isn't even a constitution to amend, and even when there was a constitution we were forced to choose the revolutionary path because it failed to address our demands. How can we call this constitution progressive when it is, in fact, a pack of rubbish? It was this disagreement about the constitution that forced us to take up arms.

Your party has accepted that the king is a power and has agreed to hold talks with him. Where does abolishing the monarchy come in?
History has many examples of the king himself voluntarily abdicating the throne, understanding the voices and sentiments of the citizens. Why is it so improbable here? History can repeat itself.The truth is that the constitution of the Kingdom of Nepal, 2047 is pro-royalist. The very preamble to it says 'By applying the royal rights vested in us'. What does it mean? It only means that the people have no sovereignty of their own.

The previous round of talks broke down. What's to prevent it from happening again?
We were sincere then, and we are sincere now. There won't be any obstruction from our side in finding a peaceful settlement. We have traveled to this place by putting our lives at risk, so there is no question of us walking out of the talks.

You say you are flexible and there will have to be some give and take. Is there room for compromise on the demand for a constituent assembly?
A roundtable conference, an interim government and the constituent assembly can represent all shades of opinion and give people an opportunity to decide the kind of governance they want. Therefore, we see no democratic way out other than this. As far as flexibility is concerned, how much softer can a revolutionary force become than this? There is no chance of us compromising on this agenda, such efforts will be futile.

In the beginning, your group was anti-Indian. But these days you are mum on issues like dam inundation by the Indians.
In the first place, we are not anti-Indian. In fact, we are the vanguard of national interest. Our 40-point demands sufficiently demonstrate that. I am of the view that no one has been as steadfast as the Maoists when it comes to nationalism.

The parliamentary parties are at a loss in this process where you have the royal army on one side and the peoples' liberation army on the other.
The PLA is the people's very own army. It's clear who the royal army is serving. There is a fundamental difference between both these forces and both the armies must be reconstituted as per the need of the country. The army should essentially be under the elected body. The political parties have nothing to be scared of.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)