Can Democracy Thrive in Nepal Amidst the Maoists?

By Prakash Bom

It was a sigh of relief when Maoists withdrew their indefinite general strike. To General public who participated in peace rallies nationwide it was worth their effort. But to the incumbent government and to the political parties in the coalition, it has given another form of political choice.

It was a big mistake of the Maoists to call their general strike in the wrong place at the wrong time. It was not absolutely necessary nor propriety. Rather to general public it was a threat to peace and stability.

People have mandated through historic Constituent Assembly election the democratic means to achieve peace and stability through consensus politics and Parliament proceeding. The day the Maoists led the government in coalition by keeping Nepali Congress party in opposition, the Maoists did kill the spirit of consensus politics.

The Maoist leaderships failed to form a unity government to begin with the new political situation, which is diverse in every aspect. Knowing that without the consensus among political parties Constituent Assembly cannot succeed to draft the new constitution. Therefore, to place NC in opposition without forming a unity government was the big mistake the Maoists made to overrule consensus politics.

Veteran democrat GP Koirala, who played the most effective role to bring the Maoists to mainstream politics, had on several occasions warned the Maoist chairman “Prachand” not to overrule consensus among political parties. Frankly, Mr. Dahal did not respect the consensus politics from the bottom of his heart.

In my opinion, Mr. Dahal made another gigantic mistake as a chairman of the Maoists party by not agreeing with NC’s proposal to elect GP Koirala as the first president of Nepal. Mr. Dahal and the Maoist party had to pay the price for by arrogantly giving up the government leadership. The price again for not honoring GP Koirala, has not yet paid off politically. It might hound for a long period of time.

I believe that if GP Koirala had been elected the first president of Nepal, (which had put him above the politics with better health condition and chance for some longevity), the current political situation could have been completely different. NC perhaps could be playing different political role for the coalition and could have avoided the role of opposition.

At the moment, Nepal needs desperately the foundation for peace and the rule of law. Unless the United Maoist party becomes completely a citizen-party and comply to the peace accord to abandon its ties with combatant politics and mechanism, the foundation for peace and the rule of law will not be there soon in Nepal.

The Maoists have been making mistakes after mistakes, and how much mistake they will be making in near future is capricious. This is due to their lack reliance in consensus politics and the Parliamentary proceeding. For example, if they had gone to the Parliament regarding the conflict with “NA-Chief” and the president, instead of resigning from the government. Similarly if they had once tried “the motion of no confidence vote” against sitting PM MK Nepal in the Parliament before going to general strike. Then Maoists’ reliance in the Parliamentary proceeding could have been demonstrated.

It seems the Maoists at this point have been less serious about the nation and people but more ambitious about their own ideology and worship to their chairmanship. But, Democracy does not care leaders like demagogues, who do little for the rule of law and justice to protect freedom and liberty of people, but die hard for their ideology and self-centered leadership.

The United Maoist party has to make a new choice of a leader, if it wants to lead a fresh national unity government. The Maoist chairman Mr. Dahal has failed to lead a consensus politics for the nation. He did not care about the drafting the new constitution on time and nor secured permanent peace process when he had the opportunity.

India supports Dr. Baburam Bhattrai, so the world community, just as for the United States the Maoist led national unity government is acceptable as long as the United Maoist party comply with the norms of citizen-party.

The United Maoist party must find the way out to meet these conditions as NC and UML have demanded – “Complete the integration and rehabilitation of Maoist combatants”, “Return of properties seized during conflict”, “Dissolution of the paramilitary structure of the Maoist with YCL”, “Drafting of new constitution on time”, and “Amendment of the interim constitution for extending the term of Constituent Assembly, if needed.”

The PM has already consulted the president for the amendment of the interim constitution to extend the term of CA. This means that the incumbent government has realized the fact that it can not possibly draft the constitution in the stipulated timeframe.

However, the amendment to extend the term of CA cannot pass the House without the support of the Maoist legislators, because it needs two-third of majority. The Hindu royalist party leaders, on the other hand, are saying such an extension is unconstitutional and demanding fresh election of the Constituent Assembly. At this point, if the Maoists could act responsibly for the sake of people and the nation then they have the chance to gain credibility of a citizen-party.

Whether the national unity government is formed under the leadership of the United Maoist party or not the Maoist leaders must cooperate with CA first to complete the drafting of the new constitution or must support the amendment to extend the term of CA. If not the establishment of the secular federal democratic republic of Nepal will soon be too thorny to walk through. Unless the Maoist Chairman “Prachand” thinks he is the iron-man to put all who do not agree with him in “Gherau.”

Prakash Bom is a freelance writer and columnist. His writings are focused on socio-political and economic issues of South Asia. He has written extensively on federalism with regards to the current political movements of Nepal. His articles are also published in American Chronicle