Nepali Times
Plain Speaking
Elusive unity


CHECKING OUT: Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal checks his mail next door from his official chair in May.

Resigning is the best thing Madhav Nepal has done since he took office. He had done little to deserve the position in the first place; his ministers were relics from the past, with little faith in the post-2006 political framework; and the government was the biggest insult to the electorate.

Madhav Nepal succeeded in keeping the Maoists out of power till 28 May, for there were other plans lined up after that (including the dissolution of the CA), which were fortunately foiled. Some may feel that the anti-Maoist coalition helped save democracy, but it has also done enormous damage to the legitimacy of the democratic system, and public perception of the political parties.

But there is no guarantee that Nepal's exit will indeed break the political stagnation. In the next few weeks, we will witness all kinds of permutations.

The ideal, though unlikely, scenario is a national unity government. Till all parties have a share in the formal state apparatus, they will have little incentive to cooperate. One could argue that even an opposition party can collaborate with ruling parties on constitutional issues, or the peace process. But the past year has shown this does not happen.

India, and its Nepali proxies, will not accept Pushpa Kamal Dahal as PM. Dahal will try to block Baburam Bhattarai, even if it means sitting in the opposition again. But the balance of power in the party has shifted and Bhattarai today is in a stronger position than he was six months ago. Let us assume, for a moment, that the Maoists agree to present him as an alternative candidate. Will the other parties, and India, accept a Maoist-led government? Or has his name been thrown in only as a card, to stoke the existing divisions within the party?

The fact that the Maoists hold on to their coercive apparatus will be held against them by the others. The Maoists will offer to bring the PLA under the Special Committee in practice (the decision was taken in principle ages ago). Will that be enough for the other parties? Today, PLA commanders are with Bhattarai, but it is likely that Dahal will try to block any movement on integration if he thinks moving on the peace process will enable Bhattarai to become PM. The official party decision to move on the peace process and constitution-writing simultaneously remains. Many Maoists genuinely believe that if they give up their army, the other parties will back out of writing a 'progressive' constitution, and want to keep the PLA until they are entirely secure.

Dahal had told Jhalanath Khanal that he would back him as PM if Khanal got Nepal to resign. But there will be dissent within the Maoists to joining such a government as junior partner to the UML, for the competition over the left space continues. Even if it happens, will the NC be ready to play second fiddle in what will be a national unity government in name but a left-dominated government in practice?

The NC itself does not seem to be in a position to lead a unity government given the clear fissures between Sher Bahadur Deuba and Ram Chandra Poudel, and the upcoming convention. Even if the NC decides on a candidate, will the Maoists join such a government? Some Madhesi leaders think it is their chance to lead now, but Nepal already has a Yadav president, and a Jha vice president. Will the conservative hill establishment hand over real executive power to another Madhesi? And is there such a figure from a smaller fringe party who can win the trust of all sides?

Clearly, negotiating a unity government will be a major challenge. But the alternatives are worse. The anti-Maoists will seek to continue with the same 'democratic' coalition, and find a candidate from within the alliance to replace Madhav Nepal. The deadlock will continue. Certain factions of the UML and the Maoists are fantasising about a left unity government. This does not look achievable at the moment, and last year's game was all about getting the UML and the Maoists to keep fighting. If they do get together, it will antagonise India and the NC, and without them, there can be no consensus on either the future of the PLA or the constitution.

Whatever happens, Nepal will soon have its fifth government of the last four years. The legacy of the 1990s continues.

Romancing power, courting a constitution, MENAKA GURUSWAMY
Chhi-chhi to chichi, RABI THAPA
Freedom to market, ARTHA BEED
Is it ok to cheat in football?, PETER SINGER

1. jange
"The fact that the Maoists hold on to their coercive apparatus will be held against them by the others."

This is so unfair. How can the Maoists do any politics without their coercive apparatus?

The other parties really are totally unjustified in their opposition to Maoists holding on to their  coercive apparatus.

The right of the Maoists to hold on to their coercive apparatus must be enshrined in any New Constitution if we are to have true democracy.

2. Nirmal
Right analysis! except of reference to possible Madhesi candidate for premiership. I think Mr. Jha's sporadic obsession to exclusionary madhesiness prevent him to recognize that Sushil Koirala is also from Biratnagar(within the one madhes one pradesh principle that these so called madhesi leaders advocate so loudly).

The worst thing now is that, despite the predictability of the outcome, there is no plan B. Neither the prolifics of the future constitution nor any political party has designed an alternative. Everything moves in an improvised form, between the compliance with protest, disobedience, the proclamation of the right to rebel ... and the silence of the heir of Koirala clan, who is being presented as NC engine. I ignore what all this will lead to. What I know is that Nepal does not deserve to be condemned to a further period of frustration where it is forseen that this mess will guillotine the desires of the people, their aspirations will slow down and we are stopped again to be a Nation. I have only seen a glimmer of light in Baburam Bhattarai when he acknowledged that at least the resignation of Madhav Nepal is a step forward to forge consensus on many contentious issues. But who else holds this thesis even within his party? Sometimes, for saying the obvious, it is seemed that you are kicked out of your own country.

It is true that post 1990 legacy continues. So, the large portion of the culpability goes to the Maoists as a party which wanted to bring change and came as the single largest party. They had the opportunity to disassociate the national politics from usual notorious business, but NO, they are now the part of this degrading culture with upper case. They could have performed a fantastic job being a responsible opposition but No, they did not let any CA task go smoothly because they want to be a part of the governement that they love  cunning so much. As a result, the Maoists have very limited options now. The NC has already stated that it would first want to see a clear work-plan of integration of PLA, the YCL issue needs to be sort out but not as imminently as PLA. 

Those people who have upheld the peace process even in places like that of Nepali Times for example, now we must do the difficult intellectual effort to assume that the rules of the game have worked. It causes annoyance, is another story. And that put us in a scenario of unknown horizons, is an evidence. But for once, the revolutionaries are obeying the rules of the game, better for them and their existence.

3. Dipti Sikha

 Some Madhesi leaders think it is their chance to lead now, but Nepal already has a Yadav president, and a Jha vice president. Will the conservative hill establishment hand over real executive power to another Madhesi?

The important thing is to note that is there maturity within the Madhesi leadership to bargain for the premiership? So why always to blame the conservative hill establishment? Even after a half century's democratic exercise, Nepali leaders are not matured then why to expect from Madhesi leaders who have emerged just recently. But believe in the power of Madhes it will certainly produce Madhesputra one day who will make it's own glorious history.

4. Arthur
The article could have been much shorter if the author simply said he doesn't have a clue what is going on or what will be the result.

5. DG
There is neither Madhes  nor Pahad,Border ,nor Breed, nor Birth,

When two strong men stand face to face, though they come from ends of the earth.

6. Steve
ha ha funny man. You are right broda.

7. hange

"India, and its Nepali proxies, will not accept Pushpa Kamal Dahal as PM. . . . Will the other parties, and India, accept a Maoist-led government?"

While we all recognise our southern neighbour's influence on our politics, why is it that Jha seems convinced that everything must be stamped by south block prior to taking place in Kathmandu?  Did Delhi approve of the Maoist win in the elections?  Were they even able to predict it or were they simply stunned by their lack of insight?  Methinks we give India too much credit when, in truth, they are just another bumbling south asian country. 

Granted, they have economic expansion, but after how many years of the "Hindu Growth Rate?"  Now, they finally make some progress and they suddenly think that they invented the very world.  We only act to further pump up their inflated pride.  Truth is, they have the money, but they are just as clueless as we are.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)