It may be through Indian and International facilitation, but finally Nepal’s seven agitating parties (SAPs) have managed to do something. They must be given credit for managing to enter into an agreement with the Maoists, which they had failed to do for the last ten years.
This agreement it seems has opened the way for them to exercise their political practices in the rural areas from where they were completely cut-off for the last few years. But the 12-point agreement between the Maoists and the seven parties does not spell out much action, except, the continuation of agitations in the streets as before with the involvement of the Maoist cadres.
The “far reaching agreement” as it appears is nothing but just listing out the rhetoric that various quarters had been making for years. And the big question still remains unanswered – who is going to bell the cat?
Analyzing the twelve points of the agreement one can say that the only agenda agreed upon by the SAPs and the Maoists was to attack and weaken the institution of the monarchy. This might be the reason why the Maoists have agreed to permit the SAPs into the villages so that the parties can fight their battle against the monarchy for them. This will also give the Maoists a chance to transform their cadres, deemed terrorists till now, into soldiers of democracy, to make their urban entry.
Reinstatement of the parliament, formation of all party government and elections for a constituent assembly is the path which the SAPs and the Maoists have agreed upon. This roadmap is not new. In fact it is the same old rhetoric voiced by many since the last parliament was dissolved by the Deuba government in 2002.
As things stand now, neither the SAPs nor the Maoists have the legitimacy or the capacity to do so. The futility of the argument lies in the fact that there is no provision whatsoever in the constitution to make that happen nor is anyone in a position to resurrect the dissolved parliament. The only exception could be the King doing so by invoking Article 127, but we all know where that possibility stands.
The absurdity of this agreement is that all the political players except Koirala have in the past termed restoration of parliament impossible. Agreeing to it now only shows their desperation.
Self-criticism or “atmalochana” by the SAPs and pledges that “they will not repeat the mistakes of the past”, do not prove anything. Until the present time, the parties have not taken any steps to clean their rank and file.
The leaders are still seen as opportunists and corrupt. No single party has investigated or taken action against any of its corrupt members; neither has any party proven adequately that intra-party democracy exists. No party has made its financial transactions transparent. It is pathetic that they believe they can spearhead a “democratic movement” in the country with their tarnished image and that people will forget and forgive them on the basis of their atmalochana.
The same applies to the Maoists. It is foolish to believe that they have suddenly “realized their mistakes” and will be forgiven just like that. How have the Maoists proven that they are committed for this? Twice, in the past, they have declared a ceasefire only to walk away from the peace talks and come back stronger.
It was the Maoists who disrupted the democratic process in the country. They killed the elected representatives. They attacked the government offices and they dragged the military into the conflict. It was Prachanda who declared he hated “revisionism” and came out with Prachandapath, which the Maoists consider the “new path of creating communist utopia”. It was Baburam Bhattarai who publicly said, 10,000 deaths were nothing and that they were ready to give and take hundreds and thousands lives more, in order to achieve their goals. Is it possible to trust the Maoists only on the basis of one agreement with the SAPs?
And what mechanism do the parties have to control the Maoists if they don’t keep their promise?
The points about disarming the Maoists and putting the Maoist militia and the RNA under UN or any reliable foreign supervision are equally debatable. Who is to ascertain that the Maoists have given up all the arms? Who is to put the Maoist militia and the RNA under UN supervision? Do we know for certain that the Maoist leadership controls all its men with arms?
What makes the parties believe that they can control the RNA if and after they have stripped the monarchy of its powers? Will the RNA agree to abide by the orders of the government that has come to power through a street agitation? Moreover, on what basis of legitimacy will such government invite a “foreign force” to supervise a sovereign country’s national army?
The only way by which all the points mentioned in the agreement can be realized is by putting in place a legitimate government, which can only be achieved through fresh elections. But the SAPs are not ready for elections. The fallacy is that SAPs were not ready for elections in 2002 after Deuba dissolved the parliament because of the Maoist and are not ready now because of the Monarchy.
Before, their slogan was that, “elections cannot be held” and now when it has been announced they say, “they will prevent the elections.” It is a paradox that the parties (and not surprisingly the Maoists) have called upon the people to sabotage the announced elections while simultaneously arguing that they are fighting for democracy! None of their arguments hold, if the SAPs have to “sabotage” the announced elections with the help of the Maoists.
It is positive that finally the parties have hit back to the arguments of the “mandales” that they are quislings. It is a heartening sign that they are ready to prove that they are as patriotic as any other political force in the country. But just as the “mandales” call them “muthi bhar ka dal”(minority), they can’t just shrug off the presence of ultra, right wing, hardliners in the country. The parties cannot repeat the mistakes made in the 1990s. They have to be prepared to incorporate the right-wingers, as they are now ready to accommodate the Maoists in the system. It has to be understood that any accusations made against the parties are due to their actions in the past 15 years. It is time that the SAPs prove such allegations wrong and prove that they have the people’s support.
And the only way to prove that, is by winning elections. As long as fresh elections are not conducted, we will never know the people’s mandate. Only the newly elected government will have the political and the moral right to decide on any “long reaching consequences”. It would be logical if the parties’ andolan were directed towards facilitating free and fair polls rather than posing to attain their idealized version of democracy.
The SAPs cannot refrain from elections and at the same time gain moral or political legitimacy to lead the country. If they boast they can rally the whole country behind them against the autocratic monarchic rule, they should also be able to transfer the support into votes. As long as the SAPs refrain from elections, a positive and sustainable solution cannot be attained.
U Raj Misra is a student of international relations at the School of Advanced International Studies of Johns Hopkins University, Washington D.C.
By U Raj Misra