THE U-turn of top leadership of UCPN (Maoist) and Nepali Congress from the Sept. 19 understanding between the four major political blocks to go for new CA polls indicates that neither party is confident about its electoral prospects should the country go for fresh polls. The way Ram Chandra Poudel and Sher Bahadur Deuba have fallen to his bait of CA revival must have warmed the cockles of Pushpa Kamal Dahal’s heart. The latest trump card of the Maoist chairman vindicates suggestions that the Maoists are trying to engineer divides among the opposition forces to consolidate their position at the head of the government. Monday’s proposal was a culmination of a well-thought out political strategy, whereby the Maoists first floated the idea that NC might be liable for government leadership only if it accedes to CA revival, after agreements on crucial constitutional questions. This earlier proposal was clearly aimed at stirring Deuba’s prime ministerial ambitions. It worked perfectly. Now, the Maoists also seem to have Poudel on board the revival agenda. NC President Sushil Koirala, who was earlier being projected as a prime ministerial candidate, meanwhile, stands helpless as Poudel and Deuba continue to add to the confusion of party rank and file.
It is increasingly becoming clear that the Maoists are intent on retaining their hold over the state machinery, by hook or by crook. The hope seems to be that by reviving the CA, they will again be the biggest party in the house, which would allow them to push through their agendas, on federalism most crucially. This in turn strengthens the belief that the Maoists are trying to capture state power by inordinately prolonging the transition. Never mind CA revival is likely to be strongly contested on legal grounds; the CA is dead, gone for good, two long years after the expiry of its original term. Since the old CA had served out its term, going for new CA polls to get a fresh mandate is undoubtedly the most democratic path for a democracy.
But UCPN (Maoist) has once again made it clear that Prime Minister Bhattarai won’t step down until there is a package deal. NC also wants a package deal for CA’s revival, but on different terms. But developments in the last four months have made it amply clear that consensus on federalism is unlikely in today’s highly polarized climate. In this case, there is no point in dilly-dallying while the constitutional and political crisis deepens. The Maoists’ claim that the revival option is being floated to clear the way for amendment of various election-related provisions in the interim constitution is insincere. The kind of reinstatement they seem to have in mind is one which gives them enough time to push through a constitution drafted in their terms, failing which they will continue to stick to government leadership. The Maoists have also been saying that revival of the jumbo 601-member body is less risky of the two options. That is a hard buy as well. Each and every decision of the revived house is sure to come under intense legal scrutiny. Thus, new polls, though also contentious, is the most democratic and constitutional option to settle the contentious issues. On the other hand, we find the reluctance of our parties to go for this most democratic exercise deeply troubling.