Nepal's travails

The confrontationist approach adopted by Nepal’s Maoists has plunged the country in deep crisis. They are not only preventing the country from meeting a May 31 deadline for approval of new constitution but also, their strikes and street protests have paralysed daily life, causing immense hardship to millions of ordinary Nepalese. Nepal has a little over a fortnight before its present constitution expires but not even the first draft of a new constitution is ready yet. Instead of sitting together with other parties to hammer out a document that will determine the future of this young republic, the Maoists are busy pushing for their leader, Prachanda, to become prime minister. They are demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Madhav Nepal on the grounds that he is allegedly pro-India. It is obvious that the Maoists are trying to stoke anti-India sentiments to create public unrest and political instability.

Back in 2008, when the Maoists contested elections, their seeming willingness to make the transition to democratic politics was widely hailed. But two years down the line, it is apparent that they are unwilling to function in a democratic way. They seem to believe that as the largest party in the constituent assembly — they hold 40 per cent of the seats — it is their position alone that must be reflected in the constitution. They are unwilling to work for consensus solutions. When others do not agree with them, they simply walk out. A year ago, a miffed Prachanda resigned from the prime minister’s post, irritated that the army did not agree with him. Making the transition to mainstream politics involves not just contesting or winning elections but functioning democratically. That the Maoists are yet to get an understanding of how a democracy works is evident. The violence that Maoist cadres unleashed on journalists in Katmandu last week because the latter had criticised their protests and strikes is one instance of their undemocratic style of functioning.

There are growing calls for a national unity government. The Maoists are insisting that as the largest party in parliament it is Prachanda who must be put in charge. But the problem is that Prachanda’s aversion to consensus-building, his reluctance to consult and compromise makes him unsuitable for this leadership position. A national unity government requires constituents to pull together. Is Prachanda willing to provide that leadership?

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