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Polarised polity

Publication Date : 21-01-2013

 

Nepal’s political process, which has mostly been dominated by negotiations regarding a change of government over the past six months, has now taken a different course. The Maoists continue to be firmly entrenched in government. With the party’s General Assembly round the corner, neither Maoist Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal nor his deputy, Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai, seems interested in reaching an agreement with the other parties at the moment. Rather, both are now involved in trying to consolidate their hold over the party base. Dahal has been travelling across the country trying to drum up support among the Maoist rank and file. Judging from his words, he does not appear to be in a conciliatory mood regarding the other political parties and it is evident that he is engaged in mobilising the party base to create pressure on the other parties to reach an agreement so that elections will be held under the current government, if at all. Disturbingly, he keeps on changing his positions on elections and the larger political process. This at least was the message when he threatened that his party would withdraw from the peace agreements if the other parties don’t agree to hold elections.

The Nepali Congress and the Unified Marxist-Leninist (UML) also appear to be in some confusion regarding the path ahead, with Bhattarai making it clear that he is in no mood to leave office to make way for Nepali Congress President Sushil Koirala. The opposition parties seem sceptical about their capacity to lead widespread protests against the current government. Nonetheless, they have been buoyed by recent criticisms of the government for its attempt to protect those involved in the murder of Dekendra Thapa in 2004 in Dailekh, from where the opposition parties launched their anti-government agitation last week. It remains to be seen whether they will get mass support.

The nation, it seems, is headed towards another bout of polarisation between the Maoists on one side and the Nepali Congress and the UML on the other. In the short term, it does not seem that either side can prevail over the other. It is certain that the Congress and UML, on the one hand, will try to whip up anti-Maoist sentiments to topple the government and on the other, the Maoist chairman and his deputy will take ever-more belligerent positions against the opposition, even threatening to withdraw from the agreements their party has made over the past seven years. These activities will only serve to further prolong the current political deadlock and polarise the political landscape. The governmental paralysis will only continue and the public’s disillusionment with their leaders will heighten further. The parties need to recognise this, tone down their rhetoric, and once again begin negotiating in earnest—no matter how difficult.

 

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