Interviews

Interview: There’ll Be Strong Resistance

Baburam Bhattarai
UCPN Maoist Leader Dr. Baburam Bhattarai talking to the Journalists of Kantipur Publication on the topic of ongoing constitution drafting process in Nepal.

22 DECEMBER 2014 KATHMANDU – As Political Parties of Nepal are widely divided into various ideology to draft new constitution of the nation, One of the key player and UCPN Maoist leader Baburam Bhattarai said they will oppose strongly if the old conservative ideology is implemented in new constitution by adapting procedure prescribed by the interim constitution of Nepal.

 As the January 22 deadline for the new constitution draws ever closer, the ruling parties the Nepali Congress (NC) and CPN-UML and the opposition, Maoists and Madhesi’s, have yet to reach consensus on contentious issues of the constitution and federalism, forms of government, electoral process, and the judiciary. On Saturday, a meeting was held at the residence of Prime Minister Sushil Koirala in Baluwatar, seeking to reach consensus on these issues; the dissatisfied UCPN (Maoist) walked way. Kantipur Publication’s Journalists have interviewed Dr. Baburam Bhattarai, senior UCPN (Maoist) leader and chairperson of the Constituent Assembly’s Political Dialogue and Consensus Committee, about the current deadlock, the possibilities of the formation of a national consensus government, and the talk of new leadership in the UCPN (Maoist).

Chances of completing the drafting of constitution by January 22 seem very slim. Where exactly is the problem between the political parties, which has led to this current deadlock?

The main problem lies in our difference in perspective. The processes of the CA are always applied to institutionalise the agendas of the immediately preceding revolution. The case of Nepal is similar. But unfortunately, this process has been prolonged by six to seven years. Now, the agendas established by the Maoist movement, the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), the Madhes Andolan, and the basic principles of the Interim Constitution are gradually being diluted and forgotten. With the ruling parties, their leadership, which played a key role in signing the 12-point agreement, the CPA, and writing the Interim Constitution, has been replaced. The current leadership was not directly involved in the aforementioned processes. So they think that the CA—and they are the majority in terms of numbers—is similar to a normal Parliament and that writing the constitution is akin to passing a law. They are conservative in their understanding of the situation and therefore, seek to move ahead differently. Those directly involved in the revolution will obviously place greater importance on their own agendas.

Going by latest developments, there seems to be little possibility of give and take. The prime minister spoke of not being able to deviate from parliamentary processes while the UCPN (Maoist) chairperson did not agree. So is there any room for compromise?

No agreement has been reached as of yet because of the polarisation of the political forces. The example you gave is of a difference in perspective. We are seeking a point that both sides can agree to. That point was where we were on Jestha 2 [May 15, 2012], where all agreed to a somewhat mixed system of federalism (five on the basis of identity and four on capacity); forms of government (neither the old system nor our proposal of a directly-elected president); and electoral system (neither completely first-past-the-post nor completely proportional). Even now, that could be the point of agreement. If we go beyond it and seek to establish the agenda of only one side, there will be no consensus.

Is the UCPN (Maoist), which has a lower hand after the 2013 election, first seeking to break the NC-UML coalition and only then begin fresh negotiations from a position of strength?

No, we do not think that way. The CA is not the Parliament; it is a formal process to institutionalise the agendas established by a revolution. In the first CA, we had a majority, with the signatures of 418 members. But we did not promulgate a constitution knowing very well that it could result in conflict. We sought consensus from the forces established after the 1990 movement and the process got delayed and eventually, the CA collapsed. Now, the NC-UML has the numbers but the agenda remains the same. So it is the ruling parties who need to be flexible now.

The mandate of the 2008 CA was different from the mandate of the 2013 CA.

No, the mandate is not different. You should not just look at the numbers. If you look at the votes acquired by the Madhesbadi forces, they got 11-12 percent of votes in the 2008 election. The parties have split now, but the percentage of votes they got in the 2013 election remains the same. The NC and UML are misinterpreting the mandate.

The NC and UML have come forward with a joint proposal. Are these the same agendas they went to the people with during the 2013 elections? No. The UML had gone to the election by proposing a directly-elected prime minister and a mixed electoral system with proportional representation. Now, it has given up those agendas and lent support to the Congress’ proposal of the old parliamentary democracy and only first-past-the-post electoral system. It has deceived the people by going against the people’s mandate. So even if you look at the mandate of the 2013 elections in totality, it is in favour of inclusive democracy, not for the traditional parliamentary system but a more evolved democratic model.

Where do the Madhesi parties stand in your political calculation?

Their main agenda is federalism—an autonomous state with identity and rights—to address the oppression of the Pahad-centric ruler class. The Maoists too say that the unitary Nepali state was unable to bring the country’s ethnic, linguistic, and geographical diversity into its fold. So the Maoists, Madhesis, and Janajati forces have an issue- centred cooperation among them for constitution writing, which will remain until the statute is written.

But the Madhes is not a homogenous entity. There is a strong presence of Madhesi lawmakers in the NC and UML, for example.

In the CA, it is not appropriate to only be divided along party lines. There should have been a greater focus on agenda. Federalism, inclusivity, and secularism are common agendas of Madhesis, Janajatis, Dalits, women, and other oppressed groups. We feel that there ought to be agenda-centred cooperation among lawmakers, regardless of the parties they belong to. The reason there has been a break in the NC-UML’s push to promulgate a constitution through a majority is also because the Madhesis and Tharus in their parties have not lent full support.

If we follow the changes since 2006, though it is frequently said that constitution writing is different from the government, there is always a deal to form a government. Post-constitution, whenever that may be, will the deal end too?

The peace process will not be complete unless a new constitution is written, and until the peace process is complete, there has to be consensus among major forces and a government has to be formed through consensus. However, after the Maoists became the largest party in the CA after the 2008 elections, other parties demanded an amendment to the Interim Constitution to adopt majority politics. If consensus-based politics could have been retained, the constitution could have already been written. We made the same mistake after the 2013 elections when we formed a majority government instead of a national consensus one. So we have a few weeks left to find consensus within this majoritarian political system. Going by experience, the possibility is minimal.

Can you offer us some future political scenarios?

If the extremely conservative current leaderships of the NC and UML seek to push for a majority, they will face equal resistance, as we too have around 200 lawmakers within the CA. And even outside the CA, if there is a move to overturn the agendas of change, Madhesis, Janajatis, Dalits, and women will fight back. So that is not a possibility. Likewise, if the constitution is not written by January 22 then the notion that perhaps the statute can be completed after forming a national consensus government might gain prominence.

There are now talk of leadership handover within the UCPN (Maoist). What will be the process?

The democratic revolution in Nepal starting from 1950 has been completed in a way. Now, we are entering the phase of a socialist revolution. This demands a new plan of action and a new political line. Communist parties and their leaderships during the World Wars were overtly focused on war and over-centralised. That must change. We will hold extensive discussions within the party for a year and then seek to reinvent and reconstruct the party. The way the issue has come out in the public, only focussing on leadership change, is not sending a good message. It is only part of the overall change in the party’s political line, organisational structure, and leadership system.

Has there been a gentlemen’s agreement to handover leadership to you from Pushpa Kamal Dahal?

Let us not use that term. The first thing is to develop a leadership system while handing it over. As Prachanda has been leading the party for the last 25 years, it has also overburdened him. So he has made up his mind to take up a role within the party that is different from the current executive one. And as we are from the same generation, I have also been thinking of handing leadership over to the next generation.

But in the open and competitive politics new leadership cannot be established overnight. Our understanding of late is that after Prachanda relinquishes his position, I will take up the leadership position while also developing a new leadership for a handover of power.

Where does Mohan Baidya’s re-entry into the party fold fit in?

He will not join anytime soon, as his understanding of Marxism is still dogmatic, unlike ours. Therefore, we don’t see the immediate possibility of unification between the two parties.

There is Biplab in the extreme left of the communist movement and the UML to the extreme right. Those in between, the genuine progressive communists, should form a new polarisation. We need to keep all doors open and we will talk with everyone. But right now, without erasing ideological differences with the CPN-Maoist, we are not in favour of uniting the two parties in a hurry.

Source: The Interview was first published in the Kathmandu Post and kantipur daily and narrated to online at ekantipur and all rights are reserved by Kantipur Publications. Shared to let Nepalese citizen to understand the current situation of Nepal by reading the top most leader of Nepal in an interview.

 

Post Comment