Thursday, December 20, 2007

Nepali Congress at Crossroads - Govinda Raj Joshi

(Source: Nepalnews)

Nepali Congress party now stands at crossroads. Its right decision can guarantee the stability and democratic process in Nepal and its wrong decision can bring about prolonged political instability and chaos For the Congress, Constituent Assembly (CA) is associated with its existence as it is the first political party, which had demanded the election of CA. The demand for CA has come as a consensus agenda following the signing of twelve point’s agreement. Under the agreement, CPN-Maoist also agreed to be a part of joint agitation against the autocratic rule of the monarch. Thus, the mandate of April uprising was to end the autocratic rule of the King, reinstate the House of Representatives, ink peace agreement with the Maoists, form interim government and hold the CA poll. Although the dates for the elections were fixed twice in the past, they were postponed at the last minutes.

After the dismissal of elected government in October 4, 2002 and taking up of executive power by King Gyanendra, Nepali Congress launched a nationwide agitation with a demand to reinstate the dissolved House of Representatives and activate the Constitution of Kingdom of Nepal 1990.

Other parties also joined the agitation against the direct rule of the King. With the imposition of direct rule by the King in February 1, 2005, seven political parties had no option other than to launch a joint agitation against the autocratic step of the King. Maoists, too, joined the agitation of seven parties to end autocratic rule of the King. The agitation was called off following the reinstatement of the House of Representatives by the King as per demand of seven parties. Maoists, however, put psychological pressure on the seven party alliance to choose between them and the King after the reinstatement of the House. This was the first step with which seven parties were trapped in the Maoists’ strategy. As political parties were trapped in the Maoist agenda, the mandate of the uprising was gradually overlooked. The parties are now interested to woo the Maoists rather than prepare a ground work to hold the elections at the earliest, which was one of the key demands of the uprising.

In the last one year, seven parties have committed many mistakes, one after another, under Maoist pressure. Instead of working to hold the elections for CA, parties diverted their focus towards non-political agenda. The 14-point proclamation of House of Representatives - which made many articles of then Constitution of Kingdom of Nepal 1990 null and void – pushed the country towards an uncertain phase by destroying democratic norms and values as well as institutions. Under this proclamation, interim constitution 2007 was promulgated. The dissolution of the reinstated House of Representatives further created confusion and overshadowed the CA polls. The termination of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Nepal 1990 was another political blunder committed by political leadership, which pushed the country into the course of prolonged political instability. It is unfortunate to say that nowhere in the democratic world does parliamentary proclamation supersede the constitution but we saw this in our country. Had the CA polls act been formulated immediately after the reinstatement of the parliament, CA polls would have been held in October, 2006 and the present crisis would have been averted.

From twelve point agreement to Comprehensive Peace Accord, different agreements were signed between the government and the Maoists but none of the agreements were respected by the latter. The criminal case against the Maoist leaders and cadres were withdrawn but the people who were displaced by Maoists have yet to return to their homes and get back their properties. While two billion rupees were given to the Maoists to look after their cadres, the displaced persons got nothing. Government ignored the Maoist victims. It even stopped the scholarship given to the martyrs' (people killed by Maoists) children.

One of our mistakes was that we signed twelve points agreement with the Maoists without proper discussions and home work in the party. Seven party alliance blindly welcomed the Maoists hoping that their entry into mainstream politics will end the twelve years long bloody conflict and give relief to the people. However, Maoists have not changed their actions as they have shown that their ultimate aim is to grab state power. By forcing the postponement of the elections for CA, Maoists showed that they don't have any faith and commitment in the election. Despite joining the political mainstream, Maoists continue to engage in terror, abduction and extortion. Maoists, who claim to have 30,000 army, had handed over 3,400 weapons to the United Nations.

Contradictory to our expectation, Maoists pulled out from the government after Nepali Congress agreed to go for republic. The CA elections were postponed even though we changed our party's ideology. Furthermore, Prachanda is now calling for the unity with "royalist nationalists." Maoists have proved once again that autocratic power is dearer to them than democratic Congress. Even acting president of Nepali Congress Sushil Koirala revealed that the Congress was trapped in Maoists’ political strategy and was forced to proclaim republic under their pressure. Another vice president of Congress Ram Chandra Poudel, too, has blamed Maoists for forcing Congress to go republic.

In the last one and a half year, the law and order situation has deteriorated. There is a virtual anarchy in the country though the main responsibility of the government is to give security to the people and guard the border of the state. The interim government has proved to be very weak in maintaining internal security. Home ministry failed to contain the activities of Maoist-affiliated Young Communist League (YCL). The public felt that law is in the hand of Maoists and their cadres are above the law. As home minister was the coordinator of the talk team whose duty was to negotiate with Maoists, appointing the same person with dual responsibility was the reason behind the present situation but it was never seriously discussed. With a hope to restore long lasting peace by bringing Maoists to the mainstream, we have even betrayed our founding leader BP Koirala's ideology of national reconciliation by tilting too much towards extremist communists. We have now realized that why BP always stood against the alliance with communists. In his long political career, BP always held the view that that there is no important matter than the protection of motherland and he always asked party workers to take the soil of country in their hands whenever they faced any dilemma in taking decision on national interest.

We undermined that by signing the twelve point agreements with Maoists in foreign soil. BP never tried to convert communists into democrats. We forgot the 30 years long intimacy of communists with Panchayat and the twelve years long instability caused by activities of Maoists. This turned out to be a big mistake. According to BP, our society has major influence of aristocratic families. This traditional force, with which we share commonalities of interest, need to be converted into democrats. But we didn't make any effort towards that. We condemned them as regressive, reactionary and anti-democratic elements. We have lost our support base on those elements after aligning too much with radical communists. As our party undermined this powerful traditional force, the situation is now such that neither our party could penetrate into communist vote bank nor could we retain our traditional support base. Our party has lost its political base.

After committing the ideological blunder, our party is making another major mistake by agreeing to integrate Maoist cadres into national army. According to Article 146 of interim constitution, a special committee will be formed by the cabinet to look after People's Liberation Army (PLA) and for its re-establishment. It is mentioned that the committee will be under the cabinet and will act according to the cabinet decision. From twelve point agreement to Comprehensive Peace Accord, there is no agenda for integration of PLA into Nepal Army. Can a particular political party’s cadres be integrated into national army? What would be its result? Is there any example in the world where ideologically indoctrinated army is integrated into national army? The rest of the six parties have to take this point seriously. The Maoist cadres without weapon cannot be called army. As they handed over just 3,400 weapons to UNMIN, how can one justify the existence of 30,000 plus army? Here also Maoist have demonstrated their tactics by pushing for integrating PLA into Nepal Army - they want to capture the state power. This fact is not realized by the leaders in the government.

On issues of republic and proportional representative system, the Mahasamiti (General Convention)of Nepali Congress has already decided that interim parliament cannot proclaim republic. It has also endorsed mixed electoral system. Our party stand is that proclamation of republic without the mandate of people is against the democratic practice. On the other hand, accepting fully proportional representation system will violate the fundamental right of people to fight in an election.

My opinion is that the alliance of communists has already proved harmful for NC. If congress gives up its principles and values, it will lose its existence. So, Congress has to stick to it democratic values and principles.

When we have been busy all the time tackling the Maoists, we have undermined many other problems. Madhesi issue is one of the major ones. Of course, there are some genuine grievances of Madhesis, which Nepali Congress needs to address. Maoist leader Prachanda's statement in Janakpur and senior cabinet minister Ram Chandra Poudel's provocative statement in Nepalgunj are just two recent examples how they tried to ignore Madhesis. People from Madhes feel that the government and Nepali Congress have become pro-Maoists as the government oppressed Madhesi uprising in Lahan, Kapilvastu, and Nepalgunj. Even as the government is preoccupied with the Maoist agenda, we must realize that until and unless we solve the problems of Madhes, CA is impossible in coming April also. Following the resignation by the Madhesi leaders of major political parties, the problem of terai has not only become a security problem but also a political one. Seven parties have to address it politically. Failure of home ministry is that it decided to address it through security actions, which are inevitable to boomerang.

The political solution to the present stalemate is the holding of free and fair elections for the Constituent Assembly and drafting a new constitution. Leaders of the seven political parties are just caretakers and they cannot take major decisions on behalf of the people. As people are supreme in democratic process, they should be given the right to choose what forms of government and what kinds of political system they want. If present political deadlock is not resolved in time, it will become a threat to democracy, nationality, and sovereign rights of Nepalese.

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