After several rounds of deadlines issued to the political parties by the President Dr Ram Baran Yadav bore no fruit, and after rounds of negotiations between the ruling coalition and the opposition forces, chiefly, CPN-UML and Nepali Congress, to create a conducive atmosphere for formation of national unity government met with disappointing outcomes, the opposition, including other fringe parties, have started an anti-government protest from Dailekh. If handled with caution, the opposition protests may play a vital role in ending the current political stalemate and force Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai, whose hold onto power has been a stumbling block to consensus politics, to clear the deck. Though it’s unfortunate, the opposition’s protest is justifiable, as this has given the opposition parties a chance to go to the people and get them involved in the overall process, but we believe it should carefully weigh its plans and consider the following issues.
First, the protest should be absolutely peaceful - leaders should direct their cadres to not take to vandalising, burning tires on streets, obstructing vehicular movements, or anything else that goes against universal democratic values. Over the last few years, Nepali people have become sick and tired of recurrent banda and general shutdowns. Unless forced by extremely unavoidable circumstances, people will potentially resist the forces that make them suffer. Second, the opposition camps have been criticized for focusing on the PM’s resignation alone. We have maintained in this space that Bhattarai’s resignation is the only way out of the current impasse. But along with PM’s resignation, which is a must, the opposition should put the election of the Constituent Assembly as the foremost agenda. As the political scenario has changed drastically since the last CA polls in April 2008, the parties now need to seek a fresh mandate to forward their agenda and let the people decide their own fate. Decisions of any kind, taken within the parties alone, would not be acceptable to the people anymore, as there are many communities and groups who have expressed their grievances and have their own agendas. In this scenario, the fresh election of the CA to draft a new constitution is the only way forward. For this, both the ruling coalition and the opposition parties need to be flexible on their stance to create an environment for elections. We still believe that an NC-led government would be the ideal way out at this juncture, but any option should be open for discussion if the parties could guarantee the elections.
There is no doubt that the latest upsurge of protests against the government and the Maoists over the murder case of journalist Dekendra Thapa has definitely scaled up the discussions over rising impunity. But this issue alone should not jeopardize the overall peace process. The present need is for the parties to work together, putting aside their differences. The country has come a long way since the signing of the 12-point understanding between the Maoists and the then government in November 2005. And the parties also have taken many decisions to take this understanding to a new level. However, the current tit-for-tat actions from the ruling coalition would not help take the peace process to its logical conclusion. UCPN (Maoist) chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal’s latest warning of “tearing up all accords” if the opposition parties do not agree to polls is totally unwarranted. Dahal should instead focus on holding talks with the opposition, and continue to engage them in finding a way out of the present crisis, as all the parties have reiterated their commitment to polls. Taking to the streets to engage the people is always a democratic practice, but these protests should not hinder the dialogue proces