Logjam in Nepal

After a period of lull, the Nepali Maoists, who are at loggerheads with the government, are out on the streets again. They have followed up their declared intention to ‘take control’ of the capital city of Kathmandu and treat it as ‘an autonomous federal state in Nepal’ with more street violence.

Maoist leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ has claimed that his party’s latest move was aimed at generating awareness about federalism among the people. After declaring Kathmandu, Lalitpur and Bhaktatpur districts as Newa autonomous states, Prachanda has issued a warning that his party would turn them into parallel government structures if ‘conspiracies’ against federalism, peace and constitution drafting processes continued and impaired the historic processes. Evidently, this move has the potential to destabilise the nascent political structures taking shape after the last elections in the country.

The genesis of the development is the protracted confrontation between the political parties with the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) pitted against the Nepali Congress and the Communist Party of Nepal (UML). The political divergence arises from a deep distrust between the ultra left outfit on one side which failed to win the last elections and the moderate political parties on the other.

Despite their utterances about the adoption of democracy, the Maoists continue to perceive the other political parties as ‘stooges of feudals and reactionaries,’ who are not prepared to attune themselves to the peoples’ aspirations and acknowledge the ultra left as a legitimate political power. As a belligerent opposition, the Maoists had earlier sought a house discussion over their demand to dismiss the army chief which the other parties did not favour. This prompted the Maoists to start a street movement with the slogan of instituting civilian supremacy over the army and a Maoist-led national government.

Today the government which has a majority support of members of the total 601 members in the Constituent Assembly is tasked with drafting a constitution by May 2010 but remains paralysed by the Maoists who have boycotted parliament. Clearly the Maoists intend to precipitate a political crisis and then take the lead to form the government notwithstanding their pious pronouncements about upholding the sovereignty and national interests. Whether the ultra left UCPN (M) which has shunned violence for now would continue to do so or not remains to be seen.

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