If ever a nation did not deserve the leaders it has got, Nepal would probably be right up there in the rankings. After paralysing the country for the umpteenth time since the peace process began four years ago, the United Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) has called off its strike citing hardships faced by the people. No one will buy this, given their past record and their earlier demand that Prime Minister Madhav Nepal resign and hand over power to them, which Mr Nepal refused to do.
One thing that was clear during this latest strike was the open hankering for power by the Maoists. At the end of the six-day strike, there is still no consensus on the new constitution, a sticking point among Nepal’s political formations. Nor is there any political resolution to the deadlock among the political parties and the Maoists, with the latter rejecting Mr Nepal’s invitation for talks. The Constituent Assembly that is to draft a new constitution is struggling and its term expires on May 28. With tourism in a shambles, thanks to the depredations of the Maoists, the people of Nepal are caught in a bind. Defying the Maoists could mean dire consequences for them, but the constant disruption of normal life means that many Nepalis who are daily-wage earners are faced with the prospect of penury. The disputes among the political parties are not likely to be resolved in the near future for they are not just about the composition of the government.
The Maoists and the other parties have differences over the federal structure, the system of governance and, most contentious, the integration and rehabilitation of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) into the country’s army. The PLA’s main motivation has been to take on class enemies, a far cry from the ethos of the country’s professional army. The Maoists had a great chance at making a go of things when they were briefly in power but fell out with the coalition over a dispute on firing the army chief. Maoist leader Prachanda does not seem to understand that running a diverse country is very different from conducting guerrilla warfare. The give and take of democracy seems an alien concept to him and his cohorts. The indefinite bandhs that the Maoists continue to organise are hurting the common man. By relentlessly fomenting trouble and destabilising the country, the Maoists are only giving a handle to external forces who have a vested interest in keeping things on the boil.