Confusion, Contradiction And Cacophony Of Discord
Confusion, Contradiction And Cacophony Of Discord
By M.R. Josse
The national political waters are becoming increasingly turbid and choppy as a tide of confusion, contradiction and a cacophony of discord swirl into them. Meanwhile, the uncertainty of Prime Minister Koirala's health continues as underscored by the fact that official business, including cabinet and party meetings, are still being conducted from Baluwatar, not Singha Durbar.
CONFUSION & CONTRADICTION
Although the political landscape has, for sometime now, admittedly been clogged with awkward unfinished business, in the past week the rank confusion hitherto prevailing in the realm of governance visibly escalated. That unhappy reality has nowhere perhaps been more effectively underscored than in the brouhaha over Friday's seven-hour talkathon in Godavari between top-notch leaders of the NC, sans Koirala, the UML and the Maoists.
Though this time around the political jaw-boning was modestly dubbed as an "informal" meeting rather than another "historic" one – of which there has been a splurge in recent times – it has managed to generate confusion, stirred intra-party suspicions and underlined basic political contradictions.
The meet was reportedly designed to sort out differences between the Maoists and the SPA, including those over the now-controversial 8-point agreement of 16 June, and prepare the grounds for the second "summit" meeting between them slated for Friday, 21 July.
Though spokesmen of the three participating parties were upbeat if not actually gung-ho about their multiple or even protean achievements, no formal decisions were taken. Indeed, although the hoi polloi were given to understand that the whole gamut of key issues – including arms management, dissolution of HoR, an interim constitution and interim government – had been discussed threadbare, the most advertised attainment was a decision to resolve the thorny issue of HoR dissolution by its expansion, i.e. by inducting an undisclosed number of Maoist representatives.
At the level of the enlightened, non-partisan citizen, it did appear bizarre that there could be a creature such as an "interim parliament": after all, that would clearly seem to be a contradiction to the very meaning of a parliament, as commonly understood in a democratic setting.
For another, as pointed out in a recent editorial in the Kathmandu Post, "if the summit-level talks itself decides on the interim House, what is the interim constitution drafting committee doing?" Indeed.
In any case, after the initial euphoria of the Godavari pow-wow between the Big Three evaporated, Maoist honcho Dinanath Sharma, addressing a press meet in Kathmandu, (vide the Himalayan Times, 18 July) rejected the idea of an interim parliament, asking: "Can the interim parliament include 1,600 Maoist parliamentarians?" Quite so.
Incidentally, Sharma angrily shot down any suggestion that the Maoists would meekly surrender their arms to anyone, merely because the international community expects them to. As he put it, they would not do so without achieving the expected goal of a democratic republic. In his own words: "Since our party had raised arms to bring political change in the country, they will remain as they are." (TKP, 18 July).
By an interesting coincidence, incidentally, Sharma's salvo came on the heels of the arrival in Kathmandu of Adrian Verhuel, a UNDP advisor from the UN department of Disarmament, Demobilization and Rehabilitation, ostensibly in response to Koirala's much ballyhooed request to the UN, the actual text of which has not been disclosed to the public.
Also indicative of the confusion and contradictions that litter the political terrain today is the categorical statement of Ram Baran Yadav, joint general secretary, NC, who told a group of reporters here that his party is absolutely against the dissolution of the HoR and was also convinced that "the formation of an interim House is not possible." (THT, 16 July).
Equally illuminating, in the same context, is Tourism Minister Pradip Kumar Gyawali's public comment that "there is no guarantee of stopping the possibility of regression by giving continuation to the HoR." (vide The Rising Nepal, 18 July). In other words, going by that specious argument, it would seem that "regression" and the "HoR" are synonymous: an odd conclusion given the circumstances in which the HoR was reinstated!
Most spectacular of all, of course, has been PM Koirala's outburst to HoR Speaker Nemwang that he was "surprised to learn about the agreement to convert the HoR into an interim parliament" (vide THT, 17 July). Incidentally, this revelation makes one wonder, first, if the second "summit" will take place on 21 July as announced by a plethora of concerned politicos, and, second, whether the Prime Minister's ill health will not, once again, come in the way of that planned event.
CACOPHONY OF DISSONANCE
Be that as it may, a harsh cacophony of dissonance – within the ranks of the SPA and between the SPA and the Maoists – has now has suffused the political air. A few specific concrete examples of the same might help to underscore such a conclusion.
Returning, once again, to the redoubtable Dinanath Sharma, this is how he has reacted to Koirala's aforementioned disclaimer. As reported, Sharma bluntly asked: "If our responsible leaders make such irresponsible comments why and with whom should we sit at the negotiating table?" (TKP, 18 July).
Not surprisingly, the five parties of the SPA combine left out in the cold at the Gadavari palavers are not amused at the discriminatory behavior of the Big Three. Though DPM K.P. Sharma Oli of the UML has attempted to give a positive spin by reassuring that "even fringe political parties would be taken along in the peace and nation-building process" and that at the Godavari talks the three concerned parties had no intention of by-passing them as no official decisions were taken (THT, 16 July), they have clearly not been mollified.
Thus, C.P. Mainali, general secretary, CPN-ML, publicly accused the NC, UML and the Maoists of bypassing the other constituent elements of the SPA. As he reportedly put it: "We, the small political parties, are not prepared to accept the cocky (sic) parties domination in every decision making process and do not recognise what have been agreed upon at the Godavari meeting." (THT 16 July).
Minendra Rijal, spokesman, NC (D) has also been highly critical of the concerned three is sidelining his party, among others, as he has made clear on more than one occasion in the past week. Speaking at the Reporters Club here the other day he declared: "The Maoists should also acquire the ability of listening to others' 'no' while sitting at the talks table. Two months have passed but the Maoists are not showing commitment to the 12-point agreement they reached with the seven-party alliance" adding, for good measure, that Maoist atrocities are rampant. (vide THT, 16 July).
The exclusion of the NC (D) is particularly intriguing for a number of reasons: one, because it cannot be considered as a fringe party and two because there is a possibility, at least in theory, that sooner rather than later it might merge with the NC. Could its exclusion, then, be because it is not only perceived as pro-American but, after Sher Bahadur Deuba's recent India visit, also pro-Indian as well? In this context, analysts point to the fact that, increasingly of late, the Maoists, in particular, have been lashing out against both the US and India, in that order.
While the Sadhbhavana party has not, to my notice, publicly given vent to their disappointment at being sidelined by the Big Three, there is no reason to believe that its leadership is thrilled about it. In any case, most Terai-based politicians are these days more occupied by attempting to focus attention to their demand for providing citizenship certificates to those whom they claim have been denied it in the past – before the actual process of Constituent Assembly elections get underway.
Finally, what has injected a liberal dose of intrigue and uncertainty to the prevailing situation is Home Minister Krishna Prasad Sitaula's sudden dash to India on Monday, even canceling a pre-arranged meeting with the visiting EU parliamentary delegation. Given the fact that Situala is also the lead negotiator for the SPA for dialogue with the Maoists, and not forgetting for a moment that important sensitive issues remain unresolved at this time, it has certainly raised eyebrows all around.
Though, for the record, it has been stated that he is Ranchi, Bihar or to Jharkhand (vide TKP, 18 July) on a "pilgrimage" to pay homage to "Thakur Baba", it is quite on the cards that it could be a convenient cover for secret meetings, possibly with Indian Maoists or individuals such as Sitaram Yechuri, away from the limelight of a New Delhi that is seemingly becoming impatient with the Maoists.
While time will reveal what Situala's Indian pilgrimage is all about, it is profoundly ironic in my view that for a Home Minister of a nation that has just been proclaimed secular – by fiat, incidentally – he should take time off his official duties at such a delicate time to have "darshan" of a Hindu sage!
That, however, is only one of a series of strange happenings that the country is being subjected to while it is enveloped in confusion, contradiction and a cacophony of political discord.