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The general debate in Nepal has had three constants for the last eight years. One, the key parties and leaders promise to deliver the constitution within a timeframe, followed by their prompt announcement of a new deadline upon failing to meet the earlier one. Two, the international community expresses hope that Nepal’s actors will succeed each time they announce a new deadline. Three, public indifference, anger and frustration grows as the leaders continue to “lie” and not perform.
Nepal’s new government, made up of the two largest parties in the Constituent Assembly (CA) — the Nepali Congress (NC) and the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (CPN-UML) — has reiterated the same promise: a constitution within a year; better investment opportunities; reduction of power-cuts substantially from the current 12 hours a day; elections to local bodies, after a gap of 16 years, in the next few months; and investigation and trial of human rights violation cases during the decade-long armed insurgency led by the Maoists (1996-2006) by an independent Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).
But the last two “promises” have hit an obstacle already, on a scale difficult for the coalition to ignore. The Unified Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (UCPN-M) and its breakaway group, the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (CPN-M), came together for the first time since their June 2012 split to oppose these.
They say an election to local bodies before the new constitution is delivered is aimed at derailing Nepal’s transition to the promised federalism. And the move on cases of human rights violation is directed against the Maoists. In fact, CPN-M chief Mohan Baidya Kiran has already asked UCPN-M chief Prachanda to dissociate his party from the CA, which is dominated by what the Maoists call “regressive and anti-revolutionary” forces.
For Prachanda, joining hands with the CPN-M that boycotted the CA polls in November has become a tactical necessity, as his once trusted comrade Baburam Bhattarai is asking for his resignation as party chief owning responsibility for the electoral debacle.
The CPN-M has split from the parent UCPN-M, within six months of their plenum, accusing the parent party of being a supporter of “hegemonic” India. The party that had raised arms in Nepal for a “republican order”, resulting in 14,000 deaths, and had treated India as an ally of “imperialistic America and a country wanting to spread its hegemony in the region”, had decided not to treat India “as its principal enemy” at that plenum.
“It is too early to say we are reuniting. But there are issues of mutual concern, which we can raise together,” said Baidya. Prachanda knows that walking away from the CA will discredit his party further. But sticking to it with a much smaller role and size — while the ruling coalition hits him where it hurts most — would be a humiliation he is not used to. “Our going back to the jungle or raising arms is not possible at this stage, continued…