Nepali Times
From The Nepali Press
Historic night

It was the night of 28 November, and the entire nation's attention was on the prime minister's residence in Baluwatar. Senior party leaders, civil society members, and observers were at the hall. The observers and leaders of other communist parties looked confused, almost harassed. The talks were delayed, and some were almost falling asleep from exhaustion, waiting for the PM to wake up from his nap so the talks could resume.

There was confusion over who was organising the talks that night. Frustrated, a UML leader started shouting at Home Minister Krishna Prasad Sitaula, "Sitaula ji, it looks like the talks are not going to start anytime soon. I'm not sure who is talking to whom! And where is my tea?" To which Sitaula answered gently, "This is the best Congress can do."

The bickering did not disturb Maoist leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal, who was intently reading the newspapers. Deputy Prime Minister Amik Sherchan covered his face with his topi and took a nap. Devendra Raj Pandey was reciting satirical poems about the peace process, Laxman Aryal was practising yoga, and Lila Mani Pokhrel was being interviewed by radio stations on his mobile phone. Madhab Nepal asked his assistant Ishwor Pokhrel to inform him when the talks began, and left Baluwatar. Tired of waiting, Maoist leader Ram Bahadur Thapa ordered coffee, which took an hour to arrive. In the meantime, Maoist spokesperson Krishna Bahadur Mahara inspected all the rooms at the prime minister's residence.

Comrade Barsha Man Pun 'Ananta' ordered Frooti to cheer up the leaders. Though the talks had not even begun, journalists outside the residence were eagerly waiting for any news on new developments. I could not tell them what was really going on and so said the talks were going smoothly and that the formal talks would begin soon.

Krishna Prasad Sitaula and Baburam Bhattarai were the only leaders serious about summit talks. They were having an intense discussion, but both were obviously frustrated. Sitaula was worried the talks would fail if the agreement could not be signed that night.

Disappointed with the situation, I told Bhattarai, "I'd imagined there would be heated discussions in summit talks; I was so wrong." Bhattarai smiled and said, "You're lucky to have had the chance to study Nepali politics and history in the making so close up."

At 11.30 PM, Prime Minister Koirala came down to the hall and the mood changed instantly. Leaders woke up from naps, and others came back, and soon the leaders of all eight parties were present. Sitaula read out the agreement, there was some discussion, and it was finally signed at 12.30 AM on 29 November.

Biswadeep Pandey is assistant to Maoist leader Baburam Bhattarai.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)