Nepali Times
Constitution Supplement
Consensus, not confrontation

After stepping down from the government, the Maoists launched protests against the new coalition and leadership. Although the language is strong ('foreign lackeys') the protests are relatively mellow in tone.

Despite tirades against political parties, the Maoists are stressing their commitment to the constitution and consensus politics. This means they don't want the current situation to head towards confrontation. Maoists chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal saying that "we will not be provoked and abandon the peace process" should be seen in a positive context.

Although the Maoists boycotted the election process of the prime minister in parliament, Krishna Bahadur Mahara from the Baidya bloc, Narayankaji Shrestha from the Dahal bloc and Dinanath Sharma from the Baburam Bhattarai bloc all attended the swearing-in ceremony of the new prime minister and congratulated him. This can be seen as proof that the Maoists do want to move towards consensus. Dahal's meetings with the new prime minister also indicates an effort towards consensus.

Dahal probably hadn't bargained for the Katawal episode to spiral so much out of control and lead to his government's resignation. He may not have also imagined that the 22 parties could garner the numbers to form a coalition. The withdrawal of the UML consent in the Katawal case was not actually a betrayal by Jhalanath Khanal, but the weakened position in the party which Dahal hadn't foreseen.

The Maoists even failed to take the MJF into confidence which could have kept them in power. Dahal boxed himself in with his rigid rhetoric so there was no way out but resignation.

The Maoists have been trying to put on a brave face by saying they left the government to establish civilian supremacy. They knew well that the slogan of nationalism and civil supremacy would work to appease internal and external forces. Unfortunately for the Maoists, both slogans have the potential to backfire.

The Indian establishment, which the Maoists consider an enemy thinks the peace process and constitution writing can be completed without them in the government. Analysts close to the Maoists who understand Delhi well say India was unhelpful as the Maoists attempted to move forward ignoring the past agreements between the political parties and India, which could pose a threat to security. So, whatever the Maoists may be saying at their public rallies, they do not want to head for a ruinous confrontation with India and the other parties right now.

There is still the hope that the Maoists will abandon the path of violence and democratise themselves. They know the strategy taken during the conflict didn't work. They are having a difficult time adjusting to coalition politics, but they'll have to learn. The Maoists need a foundation for safe landing for which the government and political parties should help them, in an issue, such as army integration for instance. The resolution of the army row with the retirement of both protagonists could be a face-saving way out for the Maoists and even pave the way for the Maoists to join a national government.

The Maoists, who are in politics for power cannot stay out of government for long. They know that confrontation is not an option, consensus is. Although they have been threatening to chase away cadres of other parties from villages and run a parallel government, it is not as easy as during the insurgency. Hounding unarmed party cadre will be counterproductive, and they will have to fight the enemies they make in future. There is no alternative but to follow the past agreements and democratic path and avoid violence, anarchy and lawlessness to capture state power.

After all, what is all this for? It is to keep the peace process on track and facilitate the writing of the new constitution.

Class inclusive

She is not from a family of politicians. And unlike many grey-haired leaders, she hasn't spent a good part of her youth in prison. Yet, in the last three years, she has served as a member of the Nepali parliament, and now as a constituent assembly member. "That is perhaps because the party must think I have some potential," says Lila Nyaichai, 29, who is the CA member from Nepal Workers' and Peasants' Party.

In the assembly, she asks smart questions, is willing to listen to what others have to say and if she doesn't know the answer to something, she is never afraid to say so. The chair of her party Naryan Man Bijukche says, "We were keen on bringing women and the youth into mainstream politics. We have very high hopes for Lila." In her short time in politics, this economics and English literature graduate has already proven that she will be in Nepali politics for the long haul.

Three years ago when discussions over the writing of the interim constitution were taking place, Nyaichai was suddenly asked to come to a high-level party meeting. After a short meeting with the party chair she was told that she was going to be an MP. Her father had been an active member of the party since the early 60s. Lila herself was affiliated with student unions since she was in Grade Six. In 1997, she stood for her party affiliated All Nepal Revolutionary Student Union, was the central committee member for the union in 2000 and is now the secretary of the revolutionary women's organisation of Nepal Workers' and Peasants' Party.

Lila has always believed that young people should be more involved in politics. She also thinks that being a CA member is a big responsibility and political parties must not make just anyone a CA member to fill their quota or for other party interests. While her colleagues are pushing for inclusiveness based on gender, caste, ethnicity and religion, she has a different take. Nyaichai strongly believes that class should be the main agenda for inclusion.
In line with her party's beliefs, she maintains that Nepal should be a socialist republic of peasants and workers, but she does not think this particular argument will be the basis of the new constitution currently being written. "I cannot say that the new constitution will immediately favour the peasants and workers, but we hope that it will address the majority of the issues we are pushing for," says Nyaichai.

Subash Devkota

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)