Nepal’s seven agitating parties have for long claimed that it was their effort that yielded into the Maoists announcing the unilateral truce and that some of them have finally made them agree to conditionally lay down their arms and take part in the competitive politics of multiparty democracy. Wish all that were true and that the conflict in Nepal could have been so easily resolved. One request by the agitating parties, and voila, there is peace.
The question starts with this rather simple one – why were such efforts not made while the parties were in power and, hence, with state clout? Wouldn’t the results have been more dramatic and effective? Given the developments that have taken place, the answer appears to be that the Maoists would not have agreed until the parties decided to drop constitutional monarchy from their party manifesto and agree to their demands for a government in partnership with the Maoists – to later draw plans for a constituent assembly or whatever.
What is quite clear is that the parties, in their frustration over the rejection they were facing not only because of the waning popular support due to their poor performance while in government but also because of the rising insurgency, appear to have unwittingly fallen into the trap set by the Maoists.
The Maoists appear to be in a winning position in this political game all the way. They have finally brought the agitating parties into the republican fold for all practical purposes and have them commit to sharing power with them, if only for the so-called interim period before the constituent assembly elections supposedly take place. A complete overhaul of the pillars of the 1991 Constitution, the parties themselves said would never happen.
How all this will be carried out would be a good question, but were this actually allowed to happen, do the parties really believe that they would have any command over the elections that would be held after that? And, for the sake of some of the parties in the agitating camp, how would the deal they reached prevent a looming dictatorship of the proletariat, as developments are bound to unfold once things are set in motion? The answer to this question aside, the parties have been swaying to the Maoist tune for quite some time now.
After horse-trading matured into perfection in the parliament, the Maoists came to the scene. It was the Maoists who started calling the shots about who should be in power and who not. All they needed to do was either call a truce or break one. The government would easily disappear only to be replaced by another one. The break-up of parties or conjuring up of very unnatural coalitions was a side effect in this great game of the Maoists. The same game has been continuing today, albeit outside the parliament they indirectly helped dissolve. They have been able to bring together the disparate parties with different ideologies onto one spot, a rare phenomenon in Nepalese politics. It is hard to recall one event in the past 15 years to see such consensus taking place, except during the ratification of the Mahakali treaty for which almost the whole of the parliament had come into agreement. That they can do so even outside the country also tells something about their international nexus.
But again, how does the said agreement with the Maoists strengthen the hand of the parties in strengthening democracy? They needed the hand of the Maoists to be in power in the past, later the party workers needed their permission to go to their own villages. With the recent deal, they have acquired that permission from the central level so that they can hold their party activities outside the district headquarters and urban hubs, where the security forces provide cover so that they can agitate against the monarchy. What did they lose? The very foundations of a democracy they say they have fought for the past 60 years.
The Maoists have stepped up their politicking, no doubt, but it is because of the sustained military pressure they are facing, not some request by the parties. Whether it is their unilateral ceasefire announcement or the agreement with the agitating parties, a strong presence in the battlefield would not have given them the political will to go political at a time when their war was supposed to be at an ‘offensive phase’.
They know very well that there is no respite to them whatever their ploy to conserve their military strength. Hence, the very convincing face-saving political device provided by the gullible politicians. The irony of it all is that it is the King who is taking all the muck from left right and centre just to clear the ground to allow all this monkey business to take place.
By Hari Uprety