Nip it in the bud
Substantive moves towards dialogue will go long way in assuaging oppn
FEB 12 – Even as the parties within the Constituent Assembly (CA) are locked in a protracted constitution project, a new danger is emerging from the extreme left. Last week, a select group of leaders from the Netra Bikram Chand-led CPN Maoist decided that they should develop into a ‘militant’ party. Towards that end, the party leadership will immediately formulate policy in ‘developing the military’. Though the party is unlikely to have a huge base, given that the CPN Maoist is an offshoot of the CPN-Maoist, which is itself an offshoot of the UCPN (Maoist). Still, we ignore such trends at our peril. It is very unlikely that Nepali people have much appetite for a national rebellion, after having recently witnessed 10 years of civil conflict, which pushed national development and growth to the backseat.
Yet, it is a fact that the socioeconomic transformation that the parties promised in lofty documents signed after the 2006 Janaandolan remains a mirage. As world history attests, conflicts and poverty have an inextricable relationship—one contributes to another. Societies that are mired in low growth are more likely to relapse into conflict, a thesis brilliantly explored in the seminal work The Bottom Billion. We, therefore, cannot overemphasise the value of putting an end to the political transition that started in 2006, ran through two CA elections, and many failed CA deadlines. The Nepali people have also seen all kinds of governments during that period. When the parties went to vote for the second time during the transition in 2013, they asked for a second chance for a timely delivery of the constitution. And people did give them that chance—a record 78 percent voter turnout elected a new CA.
The parties were incompetent all right, but Nepali voters were magnanimous. They had seen a bloody conflict and a mass movement and wanted the CA to put an end to turmoil and chart a new course that would lead to dignity and prosperity. Today, the Questionnaire Committee will present its report to the full CA House. There will, however, be a 10-day cooling off period for the parties before the questionnaire is put to a vote. This is welcome news as it provides CA Chair Subhas Nembang with a chance to bring the consensus process back on track.
We have already stated in these pages that the CA Chairman’s decision to go ahead with the formation of the Questionnaire Committee led to quick polarisation between the ruling parties and the opposition. The opposition parties have since left Kathmandu and headed to the districts to energise their base. And though the ruling party leaders have made repeated appeals for dialogue, the opposition remains deeply wary of the intentions of leaders such as NC President Sushil Koirala and UML Chairman KP Oli. The ruling parties need to take the 10-day interregnum in stride. Substantive moves to bring the opposition on board the CA process will go a long way towards assuaging fears. There is the CPN Maoist for now but if polarisation continues, there could easily be others.