There is hardly a political leader in Nepal who has not predicted that the country will plunge into disaster if it deviates from the line they advocated in a particular context and situation. Almost invariably the line they have been advocating, with consistency or lack of it, is the road map they thought would take them to the centre or periphery of power. Dr. Baburam Bhattarai was most vocal in the post 2006 phase shouting out loud that not even a coma or a full stop that the Maoists did not want, can be incorporated in the new constitution. Four years down the line Nepali Congress leader Ram Chandra Poudel recently reiterated the same sentiments, even in the words.
What they said was in total departure from the politics of consensus that their parties--Unified Communist Party of Nepal-Maoists and the Nepali Congress and their chiefs had vowed to pursue together. The moment this division between the two parties that signed the historic peace accord in November 2006 became so apparent and public, everyone understood that the Congress had fallen into the trap of the Maoists.
The late G.P. Koirala confided this pain in his biography--Afnai Kura--published a year after his death. He was candid, perhaps shy to admit in public while he was alive, that doing away with the 1990 constitution was wrong, and curtailing the power of the monarchy and inserting provisions for a constituent assembly election would have been much wiser and appropriate to move forward instead of bringing out a radical interim constitution. Although he seems to have realized that pushing the country to a constitution less state without a system of political accountability in place would invite nothing other than anarchy and chaos, this realization came a tad bit late.
For Dr. Bhattarai, demolishing the old regime in the belief that nothing new can emerge without totally destroying the old edifice and its remnants, was the essence of the political philosophy that he came to align with. However, it is time to analyze things and go for a course correction on the basis of our failures, uncertainties and the chaos that the failure has led to. This needs to be done before outside forces have too much of an influence and start dictating the Nepali actors, including the UCPN-M.
History cannot be repeated on 28 May. It will not be easy for the government to push its agenda for extension of the House tenure. Nor will the big parties be able to come together, as the Nepali Congress, buoyed by impressive show-up of the people during a recent rally, find it easier to retreat from rigid public posture it has taken on hand-over of arms by the Maoists to the state within the deadline they have set.
What will be the impact if the House ceases to exist without delivering the constitution? Maoists, ML and the Nepali Congress in particular will be lumped together as the failure and betrayer for not giving the constitution on the time they promised. They will be projected by the people as solely and together responsible for the current mess and chaos. The group demanding revival of the 1990 constitution would gather more support in rebound as people do have a tendency to perceive belatedly that the past regime were better than the ones that has just failed. Fading memory and forgiving nature of the society and the people may be the reason for that perception developing and influencing the human mind. Secondly, Mohan Baidhya Kiran will emerge as the leader of the UCPN-M as he consistently disapproved of Prachanda's turn-coat approach, and Bhattarai's tactical endorsement of politics favoring democracy. Baidhya can declare from a public platform that the relevance of the peace process is over. Bhattarai will greet it with silence, while Prachanda will still be in the forefront of those applauding Baidhya.
But how will the state--totally bereft of its authority--deal with the situation?A second faction of the “pro-democracy” forces may approach the President to intervene like he did when Prachanda as Prime Minister sacked Army Chief Rookmangud Katawal. But a large section of the populace and votaries of the 1990 constitution revival would put the blame together on Maoists while the other sides are likely to demand repressive actions against the Maoists in the event of their disrupting presidential intervention. Of course the legitimacy of such a move, if at all takes place, will be raised in the Supreme Court, but it will assume a much bigger political dimension and trigger polarization rather than being guided from the judicial forum.
So the President, political parties--mainly the big ones--need to take into account these factors and their growing unpopularity. Creating artificial fear, and projecting oneself as the only savior will not be acceptable for the people this time. The house term, even if extended arbitrarily considering narrow partisan interest will not be binding on the people, and that might trigger a new phase of conflict: the people vs the so called parliament vs big political parties. And history is replete with facts aboutwho wins ultimately.