The Constituent Assembly Elections: hindrances and hope

The Constituent Assembly Polls around the corner, YCL cadres are being dragged into more than one controversy,with condemnations of trying to disrupt the elections.National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on Thursday condemned the Maoist attack against NC activists including Badu two days ago in Darchula district. The human rights watch dog has also slammed Maoists for reviving the United Revolu-tionary People’s Council. More Here The Nepali Congress (NC) and CPN-UML, the two major factions of the ruling seven-party alliance Thursday flayed the Maoist decision to revive its United Revolutionary People’s Council (URPC). More here Though Senior Maoist leader Dr Baburam Bhattarai has claimed that the United Revolutionary People’s Council(URPC) is not a “parallel government”.

The assurance of the Maoist leader aside, Young Communist League(YCL) Ganesh Man Pun claimed that they are capable of capturing the entire Kathmandu in just five minutes.He was speaking at a protest function in Ratnapark to protest against police action at YCL offices Wednesday. More here

protest of YCL

The YCL Protest against the Police raid in Ratnapark on Wednesday. Pic by DK

The unrest in Terai, added to the list of hindrances to hold the Constituent Elections successfully Ameet Dhakal writes in The Kathmandu Post on why the elections are unstoppable now.

Election: Unstoppable now
Five reasons why election will happen

By AMEET DHAKAL

Will there be an election? Will the Madhesi parties come on board for the election? Is the election possible without them? We face a barrage of questions about the election these days. Everyone seems to be anxious about the polls, and it includes people from both ends of the spectrum: The ones who want it and the ones who want to scuttle it at any cost. On the surface, the closer we move to election day, the more uncertain it seems to become. But that’s just what appears on the surface; scratch beneath it, and the polls appear unstoppable. Here are five reasons why.

First, there is growing unity of purpose among the Seven-Party Alliance (SPA). This unity is anchored by two key realizations: One, there is no alternative to the CA polls; and two, if the polls don’t take place, a new alterative to the SPA will become possible. Political parties do take threats to their existence seriously.

Second, the SPA itself is becoming increasingly confident about its strength. The seven joint rallies they held across the country have bolstered their confidence. Some of these rallies and mass meetings took place against heavy odds. In Janakpur, Birgunj and Nepalgunj, the common people – mostly Madhesis – came to listen to the speeches braving a general strike, intimidation and threats of physical harm by armed groups operating in the tarai. Post-joint rallies, the SPA now seems to be open to all options. It’s ready for a dialogue with the Madhesi groups. If the talks fail, it even seems ready for Plan B, which is to hold phase-wise elections by leaving out the troubled districts. Within the SPA, the Maoists, which thwarted the November 22 polls, are now at the forefront of the election campaign and seem increasingly confident of a respectable show for their party in the vote. The more the Maoists become committed to holding the election, the harder it becomes to scuttle it because it would give rise to the dreadful prospect of their returning to war.

Third, the Madhesi parties may be threatening to boycott the polls, but their actions seem to be increasingly gravitating towards election preparations. The Tarai Madhes Democratic Party (TMDP) was the last among the three agitating Madhesi parties to obtain the election symbol (a pair of yoked oxen) from the Election Commission. None of these three new parties – the TMDP, Madhesi People’s Rights Forum (MPRF) and a splinter group of the Nepal Sadbhavana Party (NSP) led by Rajendra Mahato – has a strong organizational base in the tarai. All of them are in the process of building one. They have realized that they cannot attract many cadres from the mainstream parties (they were earlier expecting an exodus of party workers), and they have also started competing with each other. Now they are addressing this difficulty by entering into an alliance. The MPRF and the NSP have already formed the Joint Madhesi Front (JMF), and talks are in progress with the TMDP. They may have argued that the front was aimed at a joint movement in the tarai; actually, it is more geared towards the election. The formation of such a front will also boost the confidence of these parties and encourage them to take part in the polls. What they are looking for at this point is some face-saving compromise with the government so that they can hold their heads high when they go to the people. The SPA should demonstrate adequate flexibility here.

On January 27, a day after India’s Republic Day, Indian ambassador Shiv Shanker Mukherjee, held a meeting with the Madhesi leaders and gave them a good piece of advice that there was no alternative to election.

Not going to the polls could be very costly for the Madhesi parties. So far their main trump card has been the threat of disrupting the election in the tarai. Now, as the SPA looks to be prepared for a two-phase election, if it comes to that, it has turned the tables on the Madhesi parties. After all, they don’t have the necessary network to prevent the polls from happening nationwide. Growing violence in the tarai has also undermined the Madhesi parties’ bargaining power. Some of their leaders had thought that the intensifying mayhem in Madhes would strengthen their bargaining power. They were in for a surprise as the violence undercut their own influence instead. Should these parties reject the polls and decide on agitation, the armed groups will gain the upper hand – for violence is their domain.

Fourth, India matters. On January 27, a day after India’s Republic Day, Indian ambassador Shiv Shanker Mukherjee, held a meeting with the Madhesi leaders and gave them a good piece of advice that there was no alternative to an election and that it was in their interests too.

Stability in Nepal’s southern plains is as much India’s concern as it is ours. And Mukherjee understands that. India is today growing at an average 8-9 percent, and is poised to become the third largest economy after China and the United States by 2040. India’s march towards affluence seems unstoppable. Economists have rated the Indian economy as being the most resilient to external shocks in the present day. Its booming consumer market and high savings and investment rates make India in itself a sort of an economic universe, insulating it from external economic disturbances (the volatility of the stock market is just a short-term phenomenon). But instability within India and along its borders can sabotage this growth and resilience. Mounting Naxalite influence in Andhra and Jharkhand and instability in Nepal, which will squarely buoy Indian Maoists should their Nepali brethren relapse into war in the absence of an election, are the two immediate security concerns for India.

Fifth and final, royalists could have put up some resistance against the polls. But many of them now seem eager to flaunt their nationalist credentials – and hide their royalist skin – to survive in the post-CA election scenario. The king’s political machine – the RPP-Nepal – is now preparing to take part in the election, not to sabotage it. With the army pledged to accepting the people’s verdict, the king has simply run out of options, except funding various small armed groups in the hope that they will create anarchy forceful enough to obstruct the polls. The election seems inevitable. Thumbs up!

Published in The Kathmandu Post , Feb 1, 2008 edition

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5 thoughts on “The Constituent Assembly Elections: hindrances and hope”

  1. Outdated analysis! There are now 50 reasons why it will not happen and can’t be bothered listing them.. what’s the point?

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  2. I need some one who could define clear objectives of conducting CA poll in Nepal? Originally, it was the demand of the Maoist party. Later seven political party accepted the idea and CA election and it has become hot cake in Nepalese politics. But nobody knows the ingredients mixed in this cake. People are unable to predict the test, only future could tell us whether it is going to sweet, sower or even poisionous in long term.

    I do not think violent CA election would produce better lasting result, rather country may go for anarchy that would cost lives of Nepalese people very soon.

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  3. I don’t know on what basis GPK is so much confident about the CA polls and the future of nepali and nepali aftermath when all the leaders are same since long just fooling people . One cannot expect a good thing from those old dogs of nepali politics with new tag in thier neck and forehead within the upcomming 48 days. GPK even don’t know how to solve the present conflit at hand and bizarre phenomena right before his so called head quaters. His over confident and ego centrism in himself had already ruined the country so much and degrade the living standard of nepalese people.

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