As the country’s largest party struggles to keep its house in order, the first one month of the extended constituent assembly has been wasted leaving no indications for hope in the next two<br>SAROJ DAHAL<BR>

July 3, 2011, 5:45 p.m. Published in Magazine Issue: Vol. : 05 No.-2 July 01-2011 (Ashar 17,2068)

The United Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist had never belied its name as it has in recent weeks. It is a disunited lot, waiting to disintegrate any time. This has threatened to throw the peace process into pieces and the constitution making in a limbo.

The momentum seen in the immediate aftermath of the extension of the constituent assembly has virtually come to a halt.

Whatever had been agreed in the army integration special committee and the CA sub committee are in disarray.

The agreed calendar on declaring a draft statute two weeks before the extended deadline and the army integration four days before the deadline is almost certain to be confined to papers.

At the centre of the deadlock is the deep division in the Maoist party. Chairman Prachanda has failed to convince his detractors on what he had agreed with the Nepali Congress, the UML and the Madhesi outfits.

Arch critic Mohan Baidya ‘Kiran’ has defied the party in ending the dual personal security as agreed with other parties. He has refused to return the Maoist combatants, deputed to provide security to the Maoist leaders, and their weapons to the camps.

The modality on the army integration has also caused a deep division in the party, with Baidya openly challenging Prachanda.

With strong opposition from the Baidya faction showing no sign of receding, Prachanda is also unlikely to agree with other parties on a ‘democratic constitution’ and independent judiciary. Baidya faction is insistent on a “people’s constitution’ which the other parties can not accept at any cost.

The internal differences have run so deep that the central committee meeting to thrash them out has not taken place after what was supposed to be a brief interruption last week.

"And until and unless the largest party makes its position clear on key issues of peace process and the constitution making, any headway is impossible.

Said Maoist politburo member Devendra Poudel, “the on-going discussions among the parties are only a formality. They can take a concrete shape only after the Maoists decide its future course.”

Whether Prachanda will be able to get his line endorsed by the central committee will decide the fate of the talks with other parties.

Prachanda has the sympathy of other major parties who feel that he has appeared honest these days on the issue of a democratic constitution and the logical conclusion of the peace process.

Following long talks with the Maoist chief, the Nepali Congress general secretary, Krishna Prasad Sitaula said, “there are grounds to trust Prachand now than before.”

Prachanda has been intensifying consultations with the Nepali Congress vice president Ram Chandra Poudel and the senior UML leader Madhav Kumar Nepal to take them into confidence.

The three are likely to hold a secret meeting out of Kathmandu soon to bolster mutual confidence.

But with “moderate” vice chairman Baburam Bhattarai joining the “hardliner” Baidya bandwagon, the “centrist” Prachanda has found himself cornered in the party.

Setting aside what seemed their unbridgeable differences – for now -- the two vice-chairmen want to bring the powerful chairman “down to his size”.

But the wily Prachanda is not going to budge that easily. He is a hard nut to crack. The tussle has caused a serious crack in the country’s largest party. It will be no surprise if the party succumbed to it.

The peace process and the constitution-making would in all probability become a casualty.

As the extended August 28 deadline is missed Nepal will embark on a new political course shape of which is not clear yet.

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