The much-talked about lobbying for the revival of the Constituent Assembly finally seems to have come to an end with both the main opposition Nepali Congress and Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist Leninist) ruling out these demands. Putting the demands from the ex-CA members within their own parties to rest, both NC and CPN-UML are now in favor of getting a fresh mandate from people, terming it the best option both constitutionally and politically. While the CPN-UML standing committee on Wednesday decided to opt for polls, NC is learnt to have made up its mind in favor of fresh elections and would take the decision in the upcoming Central Working Committee meeting.
The decision now is about when the election should take place and whether it will be for a new CA or for the Parliament. CPN-UML has proposed to hold the parliamentary election and allow the new parliament to function as the CA for a brief period. This, of course, needs to be negotiated between various parties. But the parties seem to have come to terms that the elections, for either CA or Parliament, would not be possible on the previously announced date of November 22. Despite sections of CPN-UML and NC lobbying for the revival, the time has now come for the parties to seek a fresh mandate. In the changed political scenario post-CA dissolution on May 27, the only option now is to go to polls and let people decide on the most contentious issue of federalism.
The ball, however, is now in the prime minister’s court. The caretaker government of Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai has two options—either to make a last-ditch effort to turn his government into a consensus one or pave the way for fresh negotiations between the country’s major parties and forces to form a consensus government under someone else’s leadership. The ideal and logical situation would be for the prime minister to step down and create an environment for negotiations for a Nepali Congress-led government.
There is no doubt that an election is the only option now to overcome the current constitutional and political crisis. But that would not be possible until the present government continues, with both NC and CPN-UML ruling out their participation in the election until the prime minister resigns. With the prime minister’s party UCPN (Maoist) and one of the coalition partners, Madhesi Janaadhikar Forum (Loktantrik) splitting, the present government has already lost its legitimacy to continue. The delaying tactics of the prime minister to stick to his position would only jeopardize the environment of working together that began after the parties signed a 12-point understanding six years ago, followed by several other agreements.
Issues related to overcoming the constitutional difficulties and setting a new date for polls, if need be, are not going to be difficult tasks if the parties are able to reach an understanding. One thing that Prime Minister Bhattarai needs to keep in mind is that he cannot function alone if he is serious about addressing the existing problems. He also needs to know that he has already lost the popular support that he garnered while taking charge. The people who had high hopes from Bhattarai have now become skeptical about his intentions due to various steps he has taken since unilaterally deciding to go for polls before the tenure of the CA ended.
Therefore, the only way now for Bhattarai to redeem his lost image is to step aside and open the doors for the opposition parties to enter into a fresh dialogue in order to form a consensus government and hold CA polls at an appropriate time