Mutual suspicion mars quest for consensus

- KAMAL DEV BHATTARAI, Kathmandu

Mar 9, 2015-

Growing animosity between the CPN-UML and the UCPN (Maoist) is the main reason behind the sluggish pace of negotiations for settling the contentious issues of the new constitution on the basis of consensus, cross-party leaders said on Monday. The divided opinion in the political circle is also blamed for the uncertainty over the way forward.

Yet, efforts are being made to hold formal dialogue possibly on Tuesday among the four major political forces. There has not been any substantial discussion between the UML and the Maoists on the statute drafting process in recent days.

UCPN (Maoist) Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal and UML chief KP Oli do not see eye to eye. The two leaders blame each other for the absence of dialogue. Leaders from both the parties are not very optimistic about the progress in statute drafting through talks.

UML leaders say the Maoist party is taking talks as a tactic to delay the constitution writing process and to bolster its street agitation. Leaders of the second largest party charge that the Maoists want to sabotage the majority process of constitution drafting and linger the whole process.

“Frankly speaking, the UCPN (Maoist) is not in favour of forging consensus on the disputed issues. In the name of consensus, it is buying time,” said UML Secretary Pradeep Gyawali. “The chances of an agreement on the contentious constitutional issues with the Maoist and Madhes-based parties are slim,” said Gyawali.

Few days ago, the UML Standing Committee concluded that there is little

chance of accord with the opposition parties on the disputed agendas.

The UCPN (Maoist) accuses that the UML is responsible for the prolonged deadlock. Maoist leaders name Oli as one who is against accommodating them and Madhes-based parties in the statute drafting process. Top UML leaders have not been attending cross-party talks in recent days, which, according to Maoist leaders, reflects poorly on the party’s promise for writing a constitution acceptable to all.

The Maoist party suspects that Oli is trying to reverse the course set by the 12-point understanding. “The UML has a negative role in consensus efforts. Chances of an agreement with the ruling parties are diminishing,” said Maoist leader Agni Sapkota.

There have been several rounds of talks between the Nepali Congress and the UCPN (Maoist) about taking the constitution drafting process forward on the basis of consensus. Primarily, Prime Minister Sushil Koirala and Maoist Chairman Dahal have been discussing the process and the agendas. But there is no communication between the UML and another communist party.

NC leaders say there cannot be tangible progress in talks without the participation of the UML. However, the largest party recons that the opposition, not the UML, has been obstructing dialogue. “We are convinced that it’s is not UML, but the Maoist and Madhesi alliance that has been obstructing the talks,” said NC Joint General Secretary Purna Bahadur Khadka.

Growing mistrust between coalition partners seems to have obstructed progress on the constitution drafting front.

UML leaders suspect that in the name of bringing the UCPN (Maoist) and Madhes-based parties on board, PM Koirala is trying to prolong his tenure till the party’s general convention in September. The UML also fears that the NC is trying to sideline them by bringing the opposition party in government. UML leaders charge that the NC, primarily PM Koirala, is reluctant to put the disputed issues to a vote in the Constituent Assembly.

The NC, on the other hand, harbours suspicion that UML Chairman Oli is trying to change the government by creating obstacles in the constitution drafting process. While, the UML watches the growing “rapprochement” between the NC and the UCPN (Maoist) with apprehension.

The UCPN (Maoist) remains a divided house about holding talks with the ruling parties. Senior leader Baburam Bhattarai is not keen to sit for dialogue. He is not in favour of striking a deal with the ruling parties by compromising the party’s agendas.

Another top leader, Narayan Kaji Shrestha, however, believes that the party should be flexible on federalism in order to preserve the political gains by promulgating the constitution.

In the UML, senior leader Madhav Kumar Nepal has taken initiatives for a cross-party agreement with the Maoists. Oli, however, has been absent from talks citing his health.

Power-sharing has not surfaced as a formal agenda in dialogue. But leaders say it should be a component of a package deal. The PM is said to be ready to transform the current Cabinet into a national unity government by incorporating the opposition bloc. The Maoist party has also been calling for a unity government.

Published: 10-03-2015 08:42

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