As the constitutional endgame approaches, Nepal is witnessing its most fierce and polarised political debate since the process to transform the state began with the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in 2006. Strikingly, it is not a battle between political parties, but different social groups.
This is the battle over the nature of federalism, the boundaries of future states, and the names and number of provinces. The issue of state restructuring perhaps resonates most among ordinary citizens, especially those belonging to communities excluded from the power structure due to their ethnic, caste, regional and religious identities. It is a battle that has been fought in Constituent Assembly (CA) committees, the State Restructuring Commission, and in the past week, on the streets. Continue reading Forging a Nepal for all its peoples→
In an interview with this writer for The Hindu newspaper last week, Maoist chairman Prachanda explained the sudden decision to send the Nepal Army to the cantonments, revealed the possible meeting points on constitutional issues, said that he would have no objection to an NC-led government promulgating the constitution, and declared his personal ambition of wanting “5-10 years” to “implement his vision”. But the bit that has drawn the most attention here in Kathmandu is his public acknowledgment of India’s role in Nepal’s political transformation—from the 12-point agreement, to the CA elections, to the declaration of republic and the progress in the peace process.
Expectedly, ultra-nationalist websites have latched onto this as proof of Prachanda’s “subservience”; right wing stalwarts have the “We told you so” smug look about how they were right all along that this was an external plot. In a different context, there has also been commentary projecting India’s current phase of engagement with the Maoist as somewhat opposed to the Nepali people’s aspirations for peace and democracy.
Prashant Jha interviews the Nepali Maoist leader Prachanda:
All of us reviewed the situation. I presented a document in my party last April stating that the 12-point agreement must be the basis, and we must conclude the peace and the constitution process. India then changed the way it viewed Maoists, and realised it must help the process succeed. It was a realisation that we must revert to the environment of trust that existed during the 12-point pact.
Would it be right to say that Nepal’s peace process and the constitution would not have been possible without Indian support?
Definitely. Saying that the 12-point understanding was signed in Delhi means that there was India’s active support — otherwise it was not possible. CA elections would not have been possible. There could have been problems with the declaration of a republic. Now also, to take peace and the constitution to a logical conclusion, without Indian support, it will be very complex and difficult. [Full interview]
Exactly four years after a peace accord the end of Nepal’s civil war, the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) is going through a deep existential crisis. This was most starkly reflected in the separate political documents presented by chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’, senior vice-chairman Mohan Vaidya ‘Kiran’, and another vice-chairman and ideologue Dr Baburam Bhattarai at an extended party meeting in Palungtar of Gorkha district last week. Almost 6,000 delegates – including 1200 Maoist combatants from UN-monitored cantonments – reviewed the party’s achievements and failures after entering the peace process, and discussed the future ‘political line’ the party should adopt. Continue reading Maoist dilemmas in Nepal→
A conversation with Maoist supremo Prachanda this week not only brought out the party’s new line, but also offered a glimpse into his analysis of current politics and future strategy.
The root of the problem, according to Prachanda, is that the 12-point understanding was ‘tactical’ for everyone who signed the agreement. “The other side felt they could get us into the mainstream and weaken us. We thought we could use the process to create a new mainstream, which would include political competition.” Neither side got what they wanted, entirely. This paradox has forced the parties to make a more fundamental strategic choice. “This was inevitable and we are now heading for a crisis climax.”
The army issue is key. Neither side feels it lost the war. Prachanda concedes that no one won the war in material terms, but believes the Maoists won the war politically. “It was the then Royal Nepalese Army’s mandate and goal to protect the monarchy and block a republic,” he says. “They failed, and the PLA played a big part in bringing about this change.” The way forward for these “recognised and legitimate” outfits, he says, is “sticking to the peace accord, democratising the army and professionalising the PLA.” Continue reading “Twenty million out of twenty-seven million Nepalis are with the Maoists”: Interview with Prachanda→
The most dangerous and worrying feature in the last two weeks is the resurgence of visceral anti-Maoist politics.
The line between the liberals and right wing has suddenly blurred and they are united in their hatred of the former rebels. The Kathmandu middle class, a part of which gave the benefit of doubt to the Maoists in the polls, had to cough up concessions under Baburam Bhattarai’s fiscal regime. With the recent video revelations, they have veered away even further. The urban lower middle class suffered during eight months of misgovernance with price rise, and collapse of services and is hoping the next government may provide some relief.
The army establishment has reasserted itself and is actively hatching plans to undermine Maoists. Most of the press, with ownership and editorial staff affiliated to ‘mainstream’ parties’, is toeing the NC-UML line. And erstwhile sympathisers in the Indian establishment are now sick of what they see as Maoist duplicity – the recent rediscovery of the ‘nationalist’ rhetoric has put them off further. Continue reading ‘Either we finish what we started, or get finished’→
Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’s resignation on Monday afternoon once again reveals how the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) is different from any other ‘mainstream’ party that inhabits the Nepali political landscape. Most observers, including this writer, fail in assessing the Maoists correctly because we end up using the same categories, attribute the same motivations, and expect similar tactics from them as from other political actors.
The PM’s resignation came after a two week long political thriller leading up to the executive’s decision to dismiss Army chief General Katawal and appoint General Kul Bahadur Khadka in his place. Continue reading What next in Nepal?→
In the six months that Maoist chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ has been Prime Minister, he has realised that running a state is more complex than waging a war.
Since mid-August when he took charge, the PM has had to deal with multiple challenges – an intense ideological debate within his party; a deadlock in the peace process; breakdown of consensus with the G P Koirala led Nepali Congress (NC); acrimony between the defence ministry and Nepal Army (NA); opposition from sections of civil society suspicious of Maoist commitment to democratic norms; rampant lawlessness in the eastern Tarai and ethnic assertion in eastern hills; the collapse of basic services with 16 hour power cuts; and the impact of the global meltdown with remittances dipping. Continue reading A Fragile Peace in Nepal→
Maoist leader and the first Prime Minster of Republican Nepal, Pushpa Kamal Dahal, more commonly known as Prachanda, was in New York these last few days. I heard him speak at the Asia Society and at the New School for Social Research, where he fielded questions from the audience. The webcast of Prachanda’s address to the UN is here.