Sunday, November 03, 2013

Big Tent And Small Talk

Okay, enough with the cackles. The Big Three are serious when they say they want to nominate representatives of the poll-boycotting 33-party alliance to the new constituent assembly. We all need a big tent, unless we want to keep choosing every couple of years people who might be able to draft our constitution. Even in that case, who is to say that the Nepali Congress or the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist-Leninist (UML) would not mount their own boycotts down the road for one reason or the other? So let’s do what we have to while we still can.
Comrade Rohit of Nepal Workers and Peasants Party is most appalled at the idea. But, then, he’s the guy who signed the 12-Point Agreement in New Delhi only to land in Kathmandu to tell us how bad it was. Maoist chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal, Nepali Congress leader senior leader Sher Bahadur Deuba and CPN-UML senior leader Madhav Kumar Nepal all have broach the idea because, Maila Baje hears in not so soft whispers, it originally came from the real architects of the 2005 accord.
There is precedent here. One that precedes the entry of Madhav Nepal into a body voters affirmed they didn’t want him in – twice. Nepal went on to achieve his long-held dream of becoming head of government but also became one of the longest caretaker premiers in the world.
Come to think of it, our whole post-April 2006 peace process is predicated on such magnanimity. The Maoists, who facilitated Nepal’s circumvention of the popular will, were themselves brought into an interim parliament that rose on the debris of what had been duly dissolved by an elected prime minister. When the king revived the House of Representatives to cool passions on the streets, he employed the same arbitrariness the mainstream parties and the Maoists had longed condemned him for. Consensus trumps constitutionalism. Who can forget how Krishna Prasad Bhattarai, having lost the election to the first parliament in 1959, went on to become its speaker anyway?
But there is a problem, here. The breakaway Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), which heads the anti-poll alliance, does not want a place in the assembly. That it has fallen to leaders of the hardest-line major party to point out the inherent undemocratic nature of the proposal is beside the point.
The international community must be a little discomfited here, too. Jamie McGoldrick, the top United Nations official in Nepal, urged CPN-Maoist leader Mohan Baidya to make sure his boycott was peaceful.
The campaign, meanwhile, has turned colorful and clich├ęd. Dahal’s critics continue to mock him as ‘wall president’, while the Nepali Congress is dismissed as a sinking ship. The UML is being called what it has been since its inception: wishy-washy. The pro-monarchist Rastriya Prajatantra Party-Nepal expects an “unexpected” outcome, while the regional outfits are trying to figure out who they want to represent.
As November 19 approaches, there still is the possibility of a postponement of the polls. An equal likelihood could be a last-minute point-by-point deal that would bring Baidya & Co. onboard to fight their next battles. This is the fun of our relentless search for newness. While we’re still at it, Baidya might want to do a Comrade Rohit: maintain the boycott, refuse nomination to the assembly, but extend support from outside.