Nepal: On The Edge in May

India’s Foreign Minister Mr S M Krishna a genial gentleman heads for Nepal on 19 April in what is seen as interjections to overcome the likely impasse on 28 May the day by which Nepal has to have a new Constitution. That there has been no consensus so far on the form or the structure is not strange for the Himalayan republic which strives on last minute compromises, conspiracy theories and eternal squabbles of the political class. This time it may turn out to be the last straw as there are many contra trends including the President taking a more active role and a possible split in the Unified CPN M or the Maoists.

So what will happen on 28 May 2011? Will there be another extension to the Constituent Assembly or will Nepal have a constitution which has not been debated or will there be President’s rule, we will have to wait and watch?

With dead line for statute drafting and completion of the peace process in Nepal fast approaching on President Ram Baran Yadav has undertaken consultations to ensure that parties fall in line and work towards a consensus. There is natural pressure from all constituents to protect their interests. For instance Madhesi Janadhikar Forum-Loktantrik (MJF-L) Chairman Bijaya Kumar Gacchadhar said that the party will not accept the constitution if drafted on majority basis sidelining Madhes-based parties.
The Madhes parties have already formed a Sanyukta Loktantrik Madhesi Morcha (SLMM) for this purpose and may launch a nationwide protest if marginalized. While in the Assembly elections Madhes parties had garnered support and as a result two plum constitutional posts that of the President and the Vice President were allotted to Madhesis, now in the final sweep stakes these elements are likely to feel vulnerable and have therefore pre-empted marginalisation. These parties could also resort to stray incidents of violence for protecting their interests.
While the Constitution seems to be in a reasonable state of preparedness though there is not much that is in the public domain, the peace process involving integration of Maoists in the Nepal Army remains in a limbo. The Nepal Congress and Maoists despite recent talks are divided over the manner in which integration should take place due to differing perspective. While the Nepal Congress is wary of continued Maoist control over cadres of the PLA and wants integration before finalisation of the Constitution, Maoists are sensing the Congress as the only possible block in their way in consolidating the power base. The Nepal Congress also seems to be for an extension to the Constituent Assembly. Congress Parliamentary Party leader Ram Chandra Poudel has been insisting that more time is needed for consensus as 30 issues in the draft are still contentious.
The Nepal Congress is also not likely to join the government unless the stand it has taken that integration and rehabilitation, are a pre-condition for constitution making is accepted. The original Comprehensive Peace Agreement says the process of integration and rehabilitation should be completed within three months and government would have no obligation to combatants whatsoever if they are not integrated within that timeframe. The constitution making period was two years but the integration and rehabilitation was to be completed within three months. Thus Nepal Congress feels that this condition of the Agreement would have to be met to before finalisation of the Constitution.
Maoists want to control the interned cadres directly, as one of the major component of funds of the Unified CPN M is contribution from PLA cadres. Each UN verified combatant residing at the seven main and 21 satellite cantonments draws Rs. 5,000 as allowance per month. The government also provides food allowance between Rs. 75 to Rs. 150 per day.
The key differences in the Constitution are likely to be demand for a liberal democracy by Nepal Congress and other traditional parties and people’s or socialist democracy by the Maoists. The latter also want federalism with national and regional identity with a proposal for 12 federal units. PLA integration by creation of a separate force, or a mixed force with matching numbers from other forces, or integration into different security forces including the Nepal Army, Armed Police Force and the civilian Nepal Police is the third debate.
The likelihood of three parties including the Nepal Congress going in for a ten point agreement to resolve the political impasse in the country may be a possible way out. Given that the seven point agreement that the Prime Minister Jhalanath Khanal had signed with the Maoists has no legitimacy even in his own Party and scrapping same may be loss of face to both sides, replacing it with a new agreement would be the way ahead and may be actively considered.
There are internal differences in the Maoists with UCPN (Maoist) Vice Chairman Dr. Babu Ram Bhattarai indicating that the party could split if ideological debates are banned. "Those creating hue and cry inside the party while trying to initiate debate over ideologies are spreading the rumour that the party is splitting," said the Maoist vice chairman, during the fourth annual assembly of a community radio, 'Hamro Radio' at the district headquarters, Charikot. This statement by Mr Bhattarai who holds the virtual number two position of splitting of the Party is most significant for it is the first time that he has expressed such fears. 
Mr Bhattarai is also encouraged by the moderates in the Party as well as some outside elements including from India as he is following a democratic path calling for peace and reconciliation as opposed to hard liners as Mohan Vaidya who are for a people’s republic led by the Maoists as the single dominant force in the country. Mr Bhattarai is a pragmatist and is aware that such a possibility is remote given that the revolution did not succeed in the truest sense and a compromise had to be made. Now it remains to be seen how the Mr Prachanda is able to manage the differences between Mr Bhattarai and Mr Vaidya to avoid a split. 
So what will happen on 28 May 2011? Will there be another extension to the Constituent Assembly or will Nepal have a constitution which has not been debated or will there be President’s rule, we will have to wait and watch?


More by :  Col. Rahul K. Bhonsle

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