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In Nepal, anything can happen

Consider for a moment the bizarreness: Nepal’s Maoist PM Pushpa Kamal Dahal resigned on Monday saying his Govt was not being allowed to function. Then, two days later, at a press conference, Dahal said his party will form the next government. In fact, he could again be the new PM. Welcome to Nepali politics, where anything can happen, reports Vijay Jung Thapa.

world Updated: May 07, 2009 23:55 IST
Vijay Jung Thapa

Consider for a moment the bizarreness: Nepal’s Maoist Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal resigned on Monday saying his government was not being allowed to function. Then, two days later, at a press conference, Dahal said his party will form the next government. In fact, he could again be the new Prime Minister.

Welcome to Nepali politics, where anything can happen. Clearly, Nepal is going through another one of its “anarchy” moments, common enough for the Nepali people – given that the new government will be the 19th one in as many years.

Trying to accommodate revolutionary forces like the Maoists within the framework democracy is an important crucible for Nepal. Will the experiment work, or will democracy unravel itself amid irreconcilable differences?

“There is no clear answer. Nepali politics has entered a very grey zone,” said Dhruva Kumar Shrestha, a security issues analyst with Tribhuvan University.

As usual, Nepal, looks to be in a political bind. Right now the major issue to be resolved is whether President Ram Baran Yadav’s move to reinstate the Chief of Army Staff (CoAS) Gen Rookmangud Katawal after an elected government had sacked him – is constitutional or not? Till this issue is resolved, the peace process in on pause.

The Maoists rode to power after the April 2008 election. The constituent assembly’s main task was to work towards drafting a new constitution. However, 11 months down the road, little has been achieved.

Today, the Maoists are politically isolated – with even their two main coalition partners (the Communist Party of Nepal-UML and the Madhesi Janadhikar Forum) ranged against them. Political parties say dismissing a CoAS within the framework of the interim constitution can only be done by a consensual decision of the cabinet. But this wasn’t done.

When the President, as supreme commander of the armed forces, revoked that order and asked Katawal to remain till a consensual decision is reached – there was confusion in the army ranks.

The interim constitution is vague. It allows the President to appoint a CoAS, but remains quiet on his removal.

To be fair to the Maoists – the integration of their People’s Liberation Army into the Nepal Army was one of the main planks that led them over-ground and into the peace process. It’s well known that Katawal, known to report to the monarchy, was loath to integrate “politically indoctrinated” cadres into the army and has a history of being disobedient to the Maoist government.

But the Maoists could have waited three months before Katawal retired – or even worked out a solution with their coalition partners. Democracy is all about working out compromises and the Maoists haven’t yet acquired the art.