It was on September 19 that the four major political forces reached an understanding on new CA polls, but five days into the agreement, they are nowhere close to announcing an election date. We believe the parties were right to discard the dubious option of CA revival, a move which would have posed huge constitutional and moral questions. Although election of new CA is also problematic as there is no provision for it in the Interim Constitution, new election, nonetheless, is the most democratic way to settle contentious political and constitutional issues. But the political parties’ apparent lack of homework on the issue is troubling. They seem to have come to the Sept. 19 agreement, not on principle, but more on political expediency, with nothing more than government leadership on the line. It was this same hunger for power that undid the last CA, and could yet again undo all the important achievements post 2006. This possibility must be forestalled.
Under current circumstances, the obduracy of PM Baburam Bhattarai to hold on to his post at any cost is the biggest hurdle to political consensus. It is hard to understand what he wishes to achieve by prolonging his tenure as a caretaker prime minister, one who can neither function effectively, nor give the country a way out of the current impasse. In fact, with each passing day, Bhattarai’s political capital is eroding and his image of a progressive leader working to rid the Nepali society of its traditional ills like class and caste based discrimination is being tarnished. More and more it appears as if Bhattarai’s extension at the top is a part of the Maoist ploy to give continuity to the party’s leadership into the next election. The Maoist rationale has been that it had agreed to Nepali Congress leadership only on the condition that the CA would be revived. In the changed context of agreement on CA polls, in its view, the old five-point agreement no longer holds. This is a disingenuous claim.
Baburam Bhatttarai must make way because he could not honor his central agenda of constitution by the May 27 deadline. His legitimacy as the prime minister ended the day the CA went, and with it the legislature-parliament which legitimized his prime ministership. But it is not just a question of legality. It is becoming clear that without the Bhattarai government making way, there can be no political consensus on new polls, as both Nepali Congress and CPN-UML have made amply clear. We believe the opposition’s stand that the current caretaker government does not have the authority to conduct election of such high import is legitimate.
The only way it could do so was if NC, UML and other political forces outside the ruling coalition, like CPN-Maoist and Madhesi parties, joined ruling coalition. But as things stand, that is an impossible proposition. Absent this, the best bet to break the current impasse is for Bhattarai to resign to clear the way for a fresh electoral government under Nepali Congress. A lot of time has already been wasted. A clear future political and constitutional roadmap could not come sooner