In keeping with the tradition, major political parties and their leaders did not waste any time in interpreting in their own way the agreed upon five points contained in the deal that paved way for the extension of the Constituent Assembly for three more months in the morning of 29th May. As was the case in the last extension of CA where pm Nepal’s resignation emerged as the major issue outweighing the remaining two points in the deal, this time also of the five points contained in the deal, the one related to pm’s resignation attracted prompt and prime attention. Responding to various observations, pm Khanal in his address to the nation made it clear that he would step down only after a consensus was forged for a national unity government.Inter and intra-party differences have surfaced on this issue. While UCPN Maoist, probably waiting for the opportune moment, does not seem to be in a hurry to dislodge Khanal, NC and Khanal’s own party UML are divided on this issue. The intra-party feud in UML attained a new height with the parallel fractions in the party officially trading accusations. Leaders of United Democratic Madhesi Front (UDMF), with 70 members in CA, want immediate resignation of Khanal as is the position of K P Oli and his followers in UML.Despite differences and reservations on some points in the deal and their implementation, all major parties have endorsed the deal including UDMF, which did not participate in the ballot to endorse the agreement reached between the three major parties.
Amidst confusion and controversy, some positive developments have taken place such as Maoist’s decision to end dual security system and bringing unregistered vehicles used by Maoists under the legal ambit. Following this decision of the party, the Special Committee meeting praised the decision as being in line with the “gentlemen’s agreement” and also decided to return more than100 Maoists combatants, currently providing security to their leaders, to Shaktikhor cantonment. In view of the latest serious fractions seen in his own party and NC’s current movement-oriented mood ,it seems the Maoist Chairperson Prachanda has an uphill task of implementing not only the five points contained in the deal but also other commitments that he made prior to the agreement. On the implementation front, he could find hardliners in his own party more difficult to deal with than his NC opponents. Despite reservation from within the party; surrender of weapons by Maoist combatants following decision to end dual security system had provided some relief to the worried mass. For peace and new constitution, people are prepared to show any kind of flexibility that could encompass accepting UML proposed rotational government designed to have the three major parties at the helm alternatively. The newly energized Special Committee has made several important decisions on peace related issues such as finalizing modality of integration and rehabilitation of Maoist combatants by 19th June and consigning their weapons to state arsenal by 27th August. If these decisions\commitments are actualized within the specified time-line, unlike in the past, people will see not only conclusion of the peace process but also a draft of the new constitution before the end of the extended term. Prachand’s remarks that integration will proceed in the letter and spirit of the deal have gladdened people who were disheartened by influential Kiran Baidya’s observations on the integration issue. Indeed, Maoist chairman Prachanda looks serious this time in implementing the five-point deal and other tacit commitments made during the lengthy negotiations with other parties. This is the opportune moment for him to show his opponents within his own party and in other parties that he is sincere and will remain so as far as abiding by the commitments made is concerned. Let us hope that the recent sharp observations of NC at the conclusion of its district presidents’ meeting and the critical comments perennially flowing from a section of UML will not derail the peace process but make positive contributions towards implementation of the deal. This is not the time for Maoists to agitate.
Contrary to expectations, it seems some more weeks will be needed to form the consensus government as neither NC nor Maoist leaders are in a haste to dislodge the current government led by Khanal.UDMF, , which made insertion of a clause related to PM’s resignation possible in the deal at the last minute, is still serious about it and also feels that it has every right to lead the proposed rotational government at one point or the other in the cycle. Despite this stand of Front, it is not likely to impede presentation of budget in the legislative parliament by deputy prime minister Adhikari whose efforts earlier to bring supplementary budget and thereafter early budget were nipped in the bud by the opposition of which Front is a major constituent. Prevailing economic fundamentals have also not cooperated with Adhikari who is also accused of not taking appropriate action against tax (VAT) evaders and encouraging politically motivated budget transfer at the end of the fiscal year. Instead of indulging in these kind of unhealthy practices, he should have paid serious attention to double digit inflation(11percent) and negative balance of payment(Rs 14billion) and a deteriorating trade position with export import ratio standing at 16.It must have been made very clear to him by now that not only the promised inflation level(7percent) and a positive balance of payment(Rs 9 billion) for the current fiscal are unachievable, the nation is bound to see a short fall of around 2 percentage in meeting even a moderate growth target of 5.5 percent this year. As if this deteriorating macro picture was not enough to disturb the minister, the financial sector that remained relatively sound even during years of conflict, has begun to throw negative signals. Nepal Rastra Bank (central bank) should not lag behind in initiating actions against fraudulent activities of these institutions but care should be taken to see that whatever the central bank throws for mass consumption does not encourage run on these institutions. Actions should precede words. This is the time to inject liquidity and not withdraw deposits from these cash-starved institutions.
Let us not ruin one more fiscal year by not letting finance minister present the budget but the elderly leader will have to frame the budget keeping in mind a bundle of accusations\allegations leveled against him by a cross section of people. More important than anything else is the conclusion of peace process and drafting of the new constitution requiring major inputs and cooperation from the Maoists. Let us hope Prachanda succeeds in walking the long-drawn peace path along with his political rivals in the party, which is now showing growing signs of factionalism and anarchy.
Dr. Rawal is a CA member and former governor of Nepal Rastra Bank.