KATHMANDU, Nov 20: When Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai unilaterally decided to call fresh elections for the Constituent Assembly before its dissolution on May 27, not only the opposition parties but people in general suspected his intentions. And six months down the line, the suspicions have been confirmed. It is now clear that the UCPN (Maoist) neither want a new democratic federal republican constitution nor wish to face the people´s verdict.
Though people had a faint hope of consensus among the country´s major political forces before the announced poll date of November 22 came around, the government´s decision Tuesday to forward a new budget to the president for his endorsement and announce new elections in mid-April without the opposition parties´ consent is yet another Maoist ploy to derail overall efforts at consensus and continue to stay put. It shows their lust for power.
It was amidst much gusto that people participated in the CA elections in April 2008 and chose their representatives for drafting a new constitution that would guarantee a new Nepal divided into various federal states and equal rights to all its citizens irrespective of caste, ethnicity, religion, region and gender, and would build an all-inclusive society in place of an age-old uni-cultural one. This was, and still is, never an easy task to accomplish, given the feudalistic nature of our society.
The people had heaved a huge sigh of relief when the decade-long killings of innocents came to an end with the 12-point understanding between the then Seven-Party Alliance, including Nepali Congress and CPN (UML), and the then CPN (Maoist), followed by the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. People began to return to their villages to be with their loved ones, and development activities started to gain pace again to some extent.
One of the major achievements, moreover, was that the voices of the marginalized communities, which had been deprived of their rights and discriminated against for a long time, began to be heard. This strengthened the debate over the rights of all marginalized communities and encouraged these people to assert their position and stake a claim for an equal share in all state affairs.
But change had to begin from somewhere and it could have done so with the new constitution. However, the power-centric wranglings between the country´s major parties showed how difficult it is for a nation to change. The people´s hopes of bringing in a new era in Nepal´s history have been shattered time and again by the inept leadership of the parties and this has clearly happened once again.
Notwithstanding his failure to conduct fresh polls on November 22, caretaker Prime Minister Bhattarai decided to take care of the situation himself once again and made people laugh by once more announcing elections, this time without even deciding the exact date. The people would definitely ask: how does a person who failed for six months to hold elections have the right to claim again that he would do so, with the ground realities still remaining the same.
It would be naïve to think Bhattarai does not know that elections would not be possible without the participation of the country´s two major political forces - NC and CPN-UML. But he seems to have taken things for granted. And dissent against him is only growing. With the latest of his unilateral steps, it is only set to increase in the days ahead. Not only the opposition parties, civil society also has decided to come out of its slumber and agitate against his goings-on.
One thing is clear, and that is Bhattarai made a mistake on May 27 by unilaterally announcing fresh polls for November 22. He is repeating the same mistake now by making yet another poll announcement without taking the opposition forces into confidence.
George Bernard Shaw once famously said, “Success does not consist in never making mistakes but in never making the same one a second time.” If only Bhattarai is listening.