Nepali Times
By The Way
The rat race


From Girija Prasad Koirala to Pushpa Kamal Dahal, from Madhav Nepal to Jhal Nath Khanal, each prime minister came and went for the same reason: he wanted to be the one to take credit for concluding the peace process and constitution.

One hundred days ago, Baburam Bhattarai became the fifth prime minister in five years to lead a transitional government. Chances are he won't be the last.

The Maoist camps are being decommissioned and the peace process is entering a decisive phase. Talks about a national unity government are rife. The 20th clause in the 7-point agreement signed on 2 November states: 'The formation of the national consensus government will begin once the peace process and constitution building picks up momentum.'

Although there may be disagreement about what exactly constituted 'momentum', the agreement provides adequate incentive for the major parties to cooperate. Roadblocks in the peace and constitution are less about the process and more about about what follows immediately after. In a newspaper interview this week Bhattarai admitted that the parties are competing for a larger share of credit for concluding the peace and constitution so they can reap rewards in the run up to elections.

The Maoists have been forced to compromise on their agenda of 'people's constitution' and are less likely to concede the government leadership as they feel they have given away too much for too little. Their disgruntled hardliners and ethnic constituencies will keep the Bhattarai faction on its toes, lest they relent to opposition pressure.

The Nepali Congress on the other hand, will not allow the Maoists to run away with all the credit for the peace process. NC President Sushil Koirala feels that the party hasn't got due share of recognition for its "historic" role in the peace process. He told us on Wednesday: "The Maoists want everything under their own leadership. The peace process, the constitution declaration and maybe the elections as well. What do we get then?"

The UML will not stake its claim for the leadership, neither is it going to be third time lucky. But it is aware that a popular Maoist party will weaken its left vote bank in the next elections and will probably back NC's candidacy for the national unity government.

The Madhesi front, although still a formidable force, have been embarrassed among their constituency after recent corruption exposÚs. They have thrown away another great opportunity to consolidate their position as the regional power. The national unity government will limit their presence and influence in the national politics, and they will once again be tempted to use the 'One Madhes' slogan to revitalise their image.

To sum it up, we are witnessing the end of coercive politics and the beginning of realpolitik in Nepal. The parties will have less and less incentive to mobilise youth wings like they did in the last few years, in order to salvage their international image. The callback of the nation-wide strike by the Youth Association Nepal after the foreign embassies cautioned the parent party UML is a case in point.

The Supreme Court verdict will also act as an effective deterrence against 'business as usual' attitude and the parties will be forced to look for compromise. But time is of the essence. The clock is already ticking and 30 May 2012 is not that far away.

Portuguese writer Jose Maria de Eca de Queiroz once remarked, "Politicians are like diapers, often when they are changed it is for the same reason." Having a consensus government may not be a bad idea.

Read also:
Guns and nuns

The right climate for change

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)