Nepal – First Round Over Many More to Go

The constitutional impasse in Nepal over formation of the Interim Government was resolved at the last minute as Mr G P Koirala was sworn in as the Prime Minister and the cabinet formed with six ministers from amidst Maoist ranks on 1 April. The jockeying for power was the main reason for delay as the Maoists were seeking the post of Deputy Prime Minister which was not acceptable to the largest component, the Nepal Congress led by Prime Minster Koirala. In addition all parties were demanding lucrative portfolios such as finance, defence, communications and home.  

The problems were also exacerbated due to recent reports of Maoists continuing to display arms in the public despite having completed the process of surrender to the UN monitoring team last month. Reports of continued seizure of public property including the King is also not acceptable to the political leadership as it claims that only the government has the rights of control over public property including that of the Monarch. The Maoists on the other hand claim that weapons are essential for their public safety, thus one of the Members of Parliament is reported to have arrived in the House with a gun. In case such occurrences are due to communication gaps then these could be amicably resolved. However if these are due to lack of effective control over the cadres, then it is a cause for concern. The central Maoist leadership should effectively impose itself and exercise effective control over the cadres and exercise firm discipline.

The Constituent Assembly in Nepal is scheduled to hold elections in June. Current indications indicate likelihood of a delay. This is denoted by lack of adequate staff provided to the Election commission, delay in delimitation of constituencies to provide greater representation for the Terai region and delay in finalization of voters list.

Some other transformations in Nepal after the interim Constitution has come into play have been notable. The country is now secular, the first impact of which was seen in the list of holidays which bore a pan religious outlook with Christmas being declared as an official holiday for the first time in the country's history. In addition Chaat festival main occasion for celebration in Terai, Id ul Fitr and Id ul Zuha have also been declared as holidays.

The Terai region however continues to be on the boil with heavy fighting between the Maoists and the Madhesi People's Rights Forum (MPRF) or Madhesi Janadhikar Forum (MJF) breaking out in Gaur which is the district headquarters of Rautahat district. The final toll was 28 people killed in clashes between Maoists and MJF activists. There were allegations of firing from both sides as the Maoists are said to have opposed a rally planned by the MJF in the area. Maoist leadership has been claiming that the MJF is supported by forces from outside Nepal alluding to rightist groups in India and pro palace elements. The Madhesi Students Front (MSF) broke up with the MJF alleging it to be a front organisation for the Royalists. MSF has come out in overwhelming support of the government and the Maoists. The other faction in the struggle Janatantrik Terai Mukti Morcha (JTMM) led by Jwala Singh is also at cross purposes with the MJF further complicating resolution.

Nepal's leaders blamed criminal gangs from India, royalists and right wing Indian parties and groups such as Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the RSS for supporting the unrest in Terai. Vigilant organisations in the Indian state of Bihar such as the Seema Jagaran Manch were held responsible for protesting at Jogbani against crackdown on the MJF. The VHP and the RSS are also reported to have protested declaration of Nepal as a secular country. The perception of groups from India supporting the MJF is seen across the board in Nepal and is not just restricted to Maoist leadership. The allegations could bear some truth as population with ethnic affinity will always have some linkages especially when the borders are open. As the Terai from where the MJF draws its main strength is inhabited mostly by plains people as Yadavs and tribal Tharu, allegations of Indian elements supporting the same are quite common. This also enables the Nepali leaders to cover up neglect of Terai politically as well as administratively.

Thus the new government will have to come to grips with the problems of early elections, bringing the Maoists into the mainstream and controlling dissension in Terai all in a short period of three months. The old warhorse, Mr G P Koirala will surely have to ride the tiger this time around.  


More by :  Col. Rahul K. Bhonsle

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