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Dr. Baburam Bhattarai Stays On-Part IX

Issue 20, May 13, 2012

Siddhi B Ranjitkar

Apparently leaders of UCPN-Maoist, NC, CPN-UML and UDMF have made another deal on a common understanding, all the ministers except for the prime minister quit the office paving the way for others to join the government of Dr. Baburam Bhattarai but leaders of CPN-UML have announced that they are not sending anybody of their party to join the Bhattarai government, as the government is of the majority nature not of a consensual one they have agreed on. The leaders have still a number of unresolved issues of a new constitution. Different pro-and-against the ethnic-based-provincial-names groups have been on the streets demanding to meet their demands. Now, we need to see how Dr. Bhattarai would resolve the formation of a new government leading to the common understanding of a new constitution, as the NC and CPN-UML have linked the promulgation of a new constitution with the power sharing.

The most political miracle the Prachanda-Bhattarai axis has performed is Dr. Baburam Bhattarai staying on as a prime minister despite the heavy pressure put on Dr. Bhattarai not only by the leaders of the NC and CPN-UML but also by the Vaidya faction of UCPN-Maoist to quit the office. The strong coalition of UCPN-Maoist and UDMF might be one of the reasons for accepting to retain Dr. Bhattarai as a prime minister for a new consensual government. The next strong reason might be the NC and CPN-UML leaders could not bring the Vaidya faction of UCPN-Maoist to their fold despite the faction was willing to support the no-confidence motion against the Bhattarai government. Then, they became sure that their no-confidence motion would no way to pass in the parliament leading to the Bhattarai government to stay on. The alternative the NC and CPN-UML have is to join the Bhattarai government and have a piece of pie that Dr. Bhattarai has been holding on as bait, as Dr. Bhattarai might stay on as prime minister for indefinitely if the political situation deteriorates and leaders don’t build a consensus on major political issues and the Constituent Assembly dies before promulgating a new constitution.

Now, why the CPN-UML has refused to join the Bhattarai government despite the NC has already joined it. What is the hidden motive of the CPN-UML leaders? We don’t know. This is really a breach of the five-point deal, Chairman of CPN-UML Jhalanath Khanal has signed off along with Chairman of UCPN-Maoist Prachanda, President of NC Sushil Koirala and one of the leaders of UDMF Bijaya Gacchedar. They have signed off a number of agreements but none of them are honored fully. So, it is not the first deal that has not been honored by at least one of the signatories. The question is what is the motive for not honoring this deal. The motive might be stop other three parties from going together. The NC has already started off feeling uneasy in the government without the presence of the CPN-UML. Some of the so-called NC leaders have already publicly stated that the NC needs to pull out of the government if the CPN-UML is not going to join it.

According to some CPN-UML leaders, they have been ignored. How are they ignored they did not explain but they have held back the list of names to be sent to Dr. Bhattarai to include in his cabinet. One of the unique characters of Nepalese politics CPN-UML leader KP Oli has said as long as Bhattarai retains his office, the government is a majority government; so, his party is not joining it. Another leader of CPN-UML Bharat Mohan Adhikari has publicly asked Dr. Bhattarai to quit the office for paving the way to form a new consensual government. In the past, Bharat Mohan Adhikari as a finance minister of Jhalanath Khanal’s government had earned the reputation of asking the secretary to his ministry to throw out the list of the Vat (Value-added Tax) defaulters to a trashcan. The secretary had so meticulously made it he was determined to take strict actions against the tax evaders even if he needed to quit the office. Ultimately, Bharat Mohan Adhikari forced the secretary out of the office but Bharat Mohan Adhikari could not scrap the list of the tax evaders due to the public pressure the Nepalese media had put on him. These politically bankrupt leaders of the CPN-UML must be forcing Chairman of CPN-UML Jhalanath Khanal to hold on to the list of names of persons joining the Bhattarai government for making Prime Minister Dr. Bhattarai to quit the office.

However, Prime Minister Dr. Bhattarai for sure would not quit the office at the time when the regressive forces in the name of Brahmin and Kshetriya Ekta Samaj have been showing their muscle power starting off in the far western region possibly with the support and funding provided by the people dreaming to bring the dead monarchy back to life, and when the NC and CPN-UML leaders are going head-on collision on major issues of a new constitution ignoring the possibility of the country going to a political chaos after May 27, 2012 deadline for promulgating a new constitution if the Constituent Assembly fails to promulgate a new constitution on or before the deadline. Prime Minister Dr. Bhattarai would certainly not let the country plunge into political chaos strengthening his position by consolidating the coalition of UCPN-Maoist and UDMF, and remaining in power until a new constitution is promulgated, and general elections are held for a new legislature and a government that will lead the country to a political stability and a lasting peace.

According to the media report, a central committee meeting of the CPN-UML followed by a standing committee meeting held at the party headquarters Balkhu in Kathmandu on May 06, 2012 has decided not to join the government, as the UCPN-Maoist has minimized the status of the CPN-UML in course of forming a consensus cabinet, and accused Prime Minister Dr. Baburam Bhattarai of not consulting the CPN-UML leaders for giving important ministerial portfolios to the Madhesh parties, and the restructuring of some ministries. Leaders of CPN-UML should know that the prime minister would not be able to consult with leaders of other political parties, in fact, would not be possible for any prime minister to consult with the leaders for making decisions on the state matters including the decisions on allocating ministerial portfolios to various persons. In addition, the UDMF leaders have been closer to the prime minister and his party than any other leaders and parties. They have been important partners for the prime minister to hold on to power. Naturally, the prime minister gives a top priority to the Madheshi leaders. So, the CPN-UML leaders need to realize that they are asking too much from the prime minister asking him to consult them for splitting or merging ministries and so on, and complaining the prime minister for allocating the important ministerial portfolios to the Madheshi leaders without consulting them. One thing they could do was as President of NC Sushil Koirala had done directly ask the prime minister to give whatever ministerial portfolios they wanted. However, our politicians have been playing a power-oriented political game rather than the value-oriented. So, their demands are sometimes beyond the possibility of meeting them.

How long Chairman Khanal would be able to keep the list of his party members joining the government in his pocket following the pressure of his colleagues remains to be seen but they might not be able to influence the Bhattarai government at all. The Bhattarai government has been obviously stronger after the NC has joined it. Now, the Bhattarai government is the coalition of three parties. The government could claim two-thirds majority in the parliament believing all the dissident groups in the UCPN-Maoist and the NC would join hands with the rest of their colleagues when they need to vote in the parliaments for many things to come. So, what the CPN-UML leaders are looking for without joining the Bhattarai government might be for getting the lucrative ministerial portfolios. Their preference might be for home, defense or foreign ministry portfolios but Bijaya Gacchedar has retained the home portfolio, NC General Secretary Krishna Prasad Sitaula has got the defense portfolio, and Vice-chairman of UCPN-Maoist Narayankaji Shrestha if keeps his foreign portfolio certainly the poor CPN-UML guys are neglected as they will be getting the ministerial portfolios of lesser importance. However, Prime Minister Dr. Bhattarai has acknowledged his mistakes in not consulting the CPN-UML leaders for allocating the ministerial portfolios to the new ministers and has been ready to correct his mistake. So, the CPN-UML leaders have what they wanted. Then what makes them to remain out of the Bhattarai government? Certainly, it was a mystery so far if they were not for not promulgating a new constitution on or before May 27, 2012.

Could really, the CPN-UML guys make a difference to the current government not joining the bandwagon of Dr. Bhattarai government when the cabinet has already three parties in it? If we take the stock of the current government, the three parties currently in the Bhattarai government have the total strength of 420, which is almost 70% of the 601-member parliament. These three parties staying together and attracting some small parties to them could easily garner two-thirds majority: the magic figure needed to promulgate a new constitution. As such, the CPN-UML guys could remain out of the current cabinet saying they are not offered any significant ministerial portfolios but they hardly could make any different to ultimately promulgating a new constitution. Certainly, they would miss a piece of pie that they think is theirs. Most probably, the NC guys would not walk out of the Bhattarai government for the sake of the CPN-UML guys, as the NC guys know that the CPN-UML guys have betrayed them in the past not supporting the NC for forming a government under its leadership, and its parliamentary party leader Ram Chandra Poudel could not win the election to the office of prime minister even after running for eighteen times. Thus, Mr. Poudel became a political laughingstock.

According to the news published in the state-run newspaper ‘The Rising Nepal’ of May 04, 2012, UCPN-Maoist, NC, CPN-UML and UDMF signed off five-point agreement. The five points are 1) the national unity government will be formed under the leadership of Prime Minister Dr Baburam Bhattarai within two days; 2) the new constitution will be promulgated before May 27: the deadline for the Constituent Assembly term; 3) Prime Minister Dr Bhattarai will resign to pave the way for a Nepali Congress (NC) led national consensus government before promulgating the new constitution; 4) the NC-led government will hold general election within a year; 5) the parties will strive to find a meeting point on remaining two disputed issues, form of governance and state restructuring, of the new constitution for three days, but, if they failed to resolve the dispute, it will be put for voting in the Constituent Assembly (CA).

Following the first point of the five-point deal, all the members of the cabinet except for the prime minister quit the office paving the way for the prime minister to form a new consensual government. Former UCPN-Maoist and Madheshi ministers returned to their previous offices. NC leaders joined the government. Only the CPN-UML leaders have an excuse for not joining the government.

The next point of the five-point deal is to promulgate a new constitution on or before May 27, 2012: the deadline they could not miss. It would be certainly possible if the leaders strictly follow the fifth point of the five-point deal. By all means they need to finish off the contentious issues either by voting or by compromises. We have a number of unresolved issues of a new constitution even though the fifth point of the five-point deal says they have only two issues.

 ‘The Himalayan Times’ of April 16, 2012 has published the following issues as unresolved.

• Federalism: Parties are yet to agree on nomenclature, number and boundaries of federal states;
• Forms of governance: Leaders are divided on how power is to be shared between the President and Prime Minister and how they are elected or chosen;
• Judiciary: Parties differ on the issues of a constitutional court, re-appointment of judges and new norms to bar members from being eligible to the appointment to judges;
• Citizenship: A bone of contention between major parties and Madhes-based parties that want to soften some provisions suggested by the CA thematic committee on fundamental rights and directive principle of the state.

What we don’t understand is the third point that says, “Prime Minister Dr Bhattarai will resign to pave the way for a Nepali Congress (NC) led national consensus government before promulgating the new constitution.” The deadline for promulgating a new constitution is May 27, 2012. If all the political parties strictly follow this third point of the five-point deal the four parties reached then the prime minister has not more than 20 days to remain in the office. The question is why all the political leaders are taking such a trouble to form a new consensual government if they need to quit the office after 20 days. The most intriguing question is why the NC leaders have sent two of its members to join the Bhattarai government despite the objection of the Deuba faction of NC if they are going to form a new government after 20 days or so.

The Undivided Far-West Unified Society (Akhanda Sudur Paschhim Ekta Samaj) in other words the Brahmin and Kshetriya Ekta Samaj has enforced the shutdown of all sorts of business in the far western region for the last several days demanding to keep the far western region intact causing profound misery to the people after the UCPN-Maoist proposed to split the far western region into difference provinces. On Saturday, May 05, 2012, leaders of UCPN-Maoist, NC and CPN-UML have called on the protestors to stop the movement but the far westerners have not stopped it. Political and civil society leaders representing the far-western region refused to comply with the call of the top leaders of these three parties and have continued the indefinite shutdown of the far western region. They have the strong support of some of the central level leaders of these parties, and one of the Madheshi parties has publicly supported the movement for keeping the far western region intact. In fact, the people leading this movement are the same NC and CPN-UML guys in the far western region.

NC lawmaker Ramesh Lekhak has said that the design to split the far western region is to weaken it. He did not bother to mention whether the political leaders of the area will be weakened or the community of the area will be weakened. Probably, it might weaken some political leaders of this area, as the people in this area are of culturally diverse communities. Tharus claim that they are the dominating community in this area. So, they want to have the far western region as the part of the Tharuwan province. Their demand is to declare Dang, Banke, Bardiya, Kailali and Kanchanpur as a Tharuwan province following the proposal of UCPN-Maoist.

Leaders of the far western movement want to integrate the Terai districts of Seti zone including Kailali and Kanchanpur into the upper hill province to maintain economic, social, cultural and political balance following the proposal of the NC for provinces. However, some high-level leaders of UCPN-Maoist are also supporting the proposition according to the media report.

Student unions such as ANNFSU, ANNFSU (Fifth) and Nepal Students Union and youth organizations such as Youth Association Nepal, Tarun Dal, and Progressive Youth Association have shown their solidarity with the people in the far western region announcing their joint program in their favor. National Federation of Indigenous Nationalities (NEFIN) has called on all the people to maintain communal harmony in dealing with the federal restructuring of the far-western region according to the media report.

On May 07, 2012, Prime Minister Dr. Baburam Bhattarai urged the protestors to end the shutdown and sit for dialogue, the government had already set up a high-level team to talk to them and resolve the problem of the far western region. Prime Minister Bhattarai has set up a three-member talk team presided over by newly appointed Deputy Prime Minister Krishna Prasad Sitaula. Other members on the team are also newly appointed ministers Barshaman Pun and Mahendra Yadav. In response to the prime minister’s call for a dialogue, the leaders of the far western region held a press conference and told the reporters that they were ready for talks but talks should be held in the far-western region. However, the recent news says that their talk team has left the region for Kathmandu. "If the UCPN-Maoist party decided to withdraw their proposal to disintegrate far-west we will call off all our protests," said Bhojraj Bohara, a local leader of Nepali Congress, ‘The Rising Nepal’ of May 08, 2012 writes.

Leader of Rastriya Janamorcha party Chitra Bahadur KC urged the government to make an immediate security arrangement for him because the time has been running out for him to remain alive following the death threat he received. The party has two representatives in the 601-member parliament. Chitra Bahadur KC has been deadly against federalism, and has been campaigning against the federalism and strongly advocating for the central powerful government since the proclamation of Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal. His cadres have been on the streets protesting the federalism. The Bhattarai administration has intensified the search for the people allegedly threatening him to kill. Logically, anybody could say that the federalists must have wanted to kill him but in reality some of his own colleagues might have wanted to sacrifice him for strengthening their anti-federalism stance.

Federalists have been campaigning for federal provinces following the ethnic identities. Lumbus are for Limbuwan, Tharus are for Tharuwan, Tamangs are for Tamsaling, Madheshis are for ‘one Madhesh on province’ and so on provinces. They are ready to go to the extreme if needed be to have what they have said are theirs.

Recently, the Mithila people have been demanding a Mithila province to the great dismay of the Madheshi people that want a single Madhesh province. It might be a trick of the people that don’t want a ‘one Madhesh one province’ as simple as that. The Mithila people have been out on the streets demanding a Mithila province. How far they are serious about it, and who are pushing them to demand a separate Mithila province remains to be seen. However, we can guess that the people seeking to destabilize the political situation to suit their interest are certainly behind such a movement at the last moment of promulgating a new constitution.

Nepalis have floods of protests. We have had more than enough protests. We have terminated the monarchy by protests, and declare Nepal a Federal Democratic Republic. Every day, a number of protests are going on. We anticipate another floods of protests even after the proclamation of a new constitution. The Bhattarai administration has been bracing up for such floods of protests. The administration has put the security on alert to deal with any possible violence, and to ensure the absolute security of property and people, as the day for promulgating a new constitution is approaching. Now, the era of perpetual protest must be over soon, and began the era of a lasting peace and the stable long-term economic growth.

To be continued….

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