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The legitimacy of the constitutional process might be questioned in the absence of the breakaway Maoist party.

The legitimacy of the constitutional process might be questioned in the absence of the breakaway Maoist party.

Indian Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid told a visiting group of Nepali editors that it would be wise on the part of major parties to bring the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (CPN-M) — which had boycotted the polls — into the constitution-making process by nominating some of its leaders to the Constituent Assembly (CA). Khurshid also explained how India viewed Nepal’s affairs post election: Delhi was not closer to any party,but would be guided by the wishes of the Nepalese people,and that it wished success to the constitution-making process.

CPN-M chief Mohan Baidya reacted swiftly,asserting that it was not for an outsider to recommend “our nomination” to the House. Baidya’s anger was understandable,as India is largely perceived as the key international player behind the chief justice-led government that oversaw the election,something that the CPN-M had opposed on the ground that it would violate the principle of separation of powers and compromise the independence of the judiciary. The exclusion of the CPN-M,part of the decade-long Maoist insurgency,and the radical political changes that followed,has now triggered fears and debate: can the changes be legitimised if the CPN-M is kept out? Khurshid was not the only external actor to realise what the CPN-M’s exclusion would mean.

Ai Ping,the vice minister for Asia Pacific affairs of the Communist Party of China,lobbied intensely not to keep the CPN-M out. But unlike Khurshid,he didn’t plead for the symbolic inclusion of the party in the House. During his meetings with top leaders of various parties,including the CPN-M,Ai suggested Nepal’s actors together frame the constitution,and that China wanted a politically stable and economically prosperous “independent” Nepal.

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Despite China and India’s concern,there is little reason to hope that the leaders will act in unison and not let the second CA end in failure too. The Unified Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (UCPN-M) has lately agreed to be part of the CA,but the Nepali Congress and the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (CPN-UML) have together rejected the UCPN-M’s precondition of an independent and “credible” probe into “the largescale manipulation of poll outcome”. “There will not be any committee formed except that the issue can be raised in the CA,” former prime minister and UML leader Madhav Nepal said. Meanwhile,bitter factional feuds in the Nepali Congress and UML have delayed the selection of their legislators under the proportional representation system.

The delay has come as a “bonus” as it helps continue the electoral government led by CJ Khil Raj Regmi,who would otherwise be preparing to return to the court and face an angry bar. The House will be duly constituted in three weeks after the election commission submits to the president the lists of legislators. The cabinet will also nominate 26 members on the parties’ recommendation.

Despite their differences,the Nepali Congress,the UML and the Maoists — who call themselves the forces of change — have so far treated the Rastriya Prajatantra Party-Nepal (RPP-N),the fourth largest party,which wants constitutional monarchy and Nepal’s Hindu status restored,as a political pariah. The foreign mission chiefs,including India’s,have called on the three big parties and other smaller ones,but have made it a point not to call on the

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RPP-N. “Our strength is the Nepali people and we will be guided by their and our country’s interest,” asserts RPP-N chief Kamal Thapa. He also announced that his party will sit in opposition and keep mobilising people in support of its twin agenda.

With the three largest parties battling intra-party feuds,and with the CPN-M in the mood for revenge,it is too early to conclude that the election has brought Nepal’s politics back on track.

yubaraj.ghimire@expressindia.com

First published on: 23-12-2013 at 01:14:28 am
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