Report by Mukit N. Kattel.
This briefing on Nepal covers the developments until 11:45 am May 29 Nepal time (2 pm May 29 Eastern time USA/Canada). Finally the term of the Constituent Assembly (CA) has been extended by one more year and a national consensus government through an immediate resignation of the prime minister has been agreed upon by the three major parties (Maoist, NC and the UML). The extension of the term has been effective immediately but the resignation by the prime minster has yet to be implemented and whether the Maoist party would be able to lead the mainstream politics in the next phase of development is yet to be seen. Most Nepali people are happy with the extension even though they are tired of the corrupt and selfish nature of the current political leadership.
Nepali people are now thinking of the future of the CA and new constitution in relation to the Maoist party. What progressive contributions have the Maoist party has made so far, whether Maoist party had any better options regarding the CA extension debate, whether this party is on the line of its new democratic revolutionary mission and what tests the Maoists will have to pass immediately has been topics of discussion among left forces of Nepal in the occasion of Republican Day of Nepal. These are difficult topics that require an extensive treatment. However, views expressed by various sections of people in the internet and over few radios do also indicate the situation of the Maoist party. Besides, the activities of various organized and unorganized sections of people during the current discourses are also helpful in figuring out the picture of the situation.
Both organized and unorganized sections of people looked really serious about saving the CA. Particularly, the minority ethnic groups, the dalits (the so-called untouchable groups) and women groups and some CA members and parties related to these groups were in the frontline of the sit-in programs, hunger strikes, rallies and demonstrations. Even Maoist party supporters were involved in these activities. The UML party lawmakers had a vertical split on this (resignation by the PM) issue. Not only Nepalis, diplomatic missions from foreign countries were also divided on this issue (most diplomatic missions indirectly suggested the PM to resign). Yes, some lawmakers may have been motivated by keeping their office and lucrative salary, but most of the people involved in the above strikes or rallies were seriously concerned with public causes (such as the prevention of anarchy and the protection of the achievements of the previous peoples’ struggles such as federalism, secularism, rights of the dalits, women and the resource poor) and intended towards also putting pressure to the PM for resignation and to the Maoist party to extend the CA term.
Many parties used to claim that the CA (that was able to declare the abolition of monarchy and declare federalism and secularism in the country to partly liberate the people and the peripheral and marginalized groups) was the result of their role in the previous struggles. During the course of debate on the extension of CA term, those parties were compelled to reveal that the mother of the CA was the Maoist party, hence had the greatest responsibility to protect it by extending its term. All the people or groups involved in the rallies or sit-ins or hunger strikes reiterated the importance of the CA and admitted it to be the child of the Maoist party.
Another contribution of the Maoist party is in developing a new international power balance in favor of Nepal. India used to have a sole influence on Nepal’s foreign and economic policies and relations until recently. The fight of Maoist party against this influence after it came to mainstream politics, particularly during the debate concerning the resignation of the PM and the extension of the term of the CA, China and European Union has also become active in Nepali politics and have morally supported the Maoist party in this debate(whereas the Indian Ambassador openly took the side of the current government). Many intellectuals have stated that the USA has also started viewing Nepal from European eyes lately, instead of the traditional practices of viewing through Indian eyes. This shift is expected to reduce the chances of Sikkimization of Nepal.
In this context and upon the possibility of being upper-handed (for the possible transitioning to a new democratic revolution) once the party gains the leadership in the consensus government, many people who want to bring the revolution through the least loss of blood argue that this party cannot be blamed to have made a mistake in extending the term of the CA and in slowing down the movement in the street. In addition, they think that this party should also pass the test of instituting laboring mass-friendly structures and institutions in as short period as possible. Still, people are skeptical about the revolutionary future of this party. People are worried if this party would always swim in the mainstream power equations, or would continue legitimizing the loot of the people and public resources by the state apparatus or would drag people for ever with limited reforms. When this party called a general strike, people supported the movement despite a number of constraints. When the movement was named a Third Peoples’ Movement and heard about declaring a revolutionary constitution from the street, people were very hopeful and supportive. But when the movement was degraded to a power bargain and the declaration of the new constitution from the street was degraded to simply making the party’s opinion public for discussion, the enthusiasm of people has significantly lowered. People have a fear if this party would again repeat the earlier mistake of following the traditional (bureaucratic) processes or technicalities as a means of bringing revolutionary changes.Given the fact that the party is still conscious about the importance of having a military power base, that the party has been saving the local power-bases and that it has progressed from a stage of debating whether to go for a new democratic revolution or not until the last Kharipati national conference of 2008 to a stage of determination to go for it show that the party is moving to a right direction even though it has faced zigzags. When viewed positively, the Peace-Deal, the top-down and reconciliatory approach of bringing revolution appear to be new experimentations. Much will be told about its revolutionary integrity by the extent of people and the labouring-class-friendliness of the constitution they are making public in few hours and the interest to conclude the experiment once results keep repeating (likely during the next one year of CA life too).