Nepali Times Asian Paints
PRASHANT JHA
Plain Speaking
Mission impossible


PRASHANT JHA


MIN RATNA BAJRACHARYA

In 2005, the Maoists decided at Chunbang that their immediate aim was a 'Democratic Republic Nepal'. Their Kharipati meet in 2008 declared that the objective was to draft a constitution for a 'People's Federal Democratic Republic' (PFDR). That aim persists, though many leaders at Palungtar used an alternative nomenclature Ė 'People's Federal Republican Nepal'.

Chunbang led to consensus and Kharipati sharpened the polarisation. How Palungtar will play out in large depends on how far the Maoists push their political project.

Broadly, this is how the Maoists define PFDR Nepal Ė an executive presidency; federalism with nationality as a prominent basis; secular state; 'democratisation' of the Nepal Army; 'first rights' to local communities; 'revolutionary' land reform; and eventually, restricted multiparty political competition where 'feudal and pro-imperialist' parties will not be allowed to operate.

The Maoists hope this framework would give the 'people' (read the party) a firm hold over the state, and break existing structures and nexus that govern policy. But intention is one thing and capacity, especially under the prevailing balance of power, another. A brief review reveals why this model provokes opposition from different sources and is not possible.

The Maoists want a directly elected president for multiple reasons. They do not want to return to a parliamentary system, against which they waged a war; it is seen as too unstable; and party leaders think they have the best chance to win in a direct contest. But look at the coalition ranged against it. Many see in the demand underlying ambitions for an 'authoritarian' ruler. Small parties worry this would deprive them of a share in power at the central executive level. Planners have warned about potential gridlock as a result of president-legislature battles. And the Maoists cannot push the model unilaterally in the CA.

The NA has gone through a set of changes since 2006. There is no palace to report to; a Janajati has become chief; there has been an increase in the interaction between the army brass and the defence ministry; army chiefs have testified before parliamentary committees; and there is relatively more information about how the army operates in the public domain today.

The Maoists dismiss these as token steps and cite the Katawal incident, or NA's recent lobbying on UNMIN, to show how there is no 'civilian control'. But they have neither explicitly explained what further 'democratisation' of the NA means, nor been able to allay the fears of others that this is a ploy to increase Maoist influence over the military.

Party leaders should read Washington Post journalist Bob Woodward's recent book, Obama's wars, which details how Pentagon truly boxed in the White House during the review of the Afghan war strategy and extracted an additional 30,000 troops. This is no way for democracies to function, but it will give them a sense of how governments struggle with sensitive civilian-military relationships. Crucially, the Maoists cannot push their model of integration in the changed context.

The Maoist stand on 'restricted political competition' is something no other party can accept for reasons of both principle and survival. Federalism is another polarising issue. NC, UML, and Kathmandu technocrats will not buy the Maoist map and argue it goes too far; the Madhesis and ethnic groups will claim it does not go far enough. There is however a greater degree of agreement between the national parties on the limited powers to be given to the states.

There is also a consensus among national parties in the CA on the need for land reform, though Madhesi parties have reservations. The difference is on whether compensation should be paid to those whose property is above the limit set by the state. The Maoist emphasis on 'first/prior rights' to locals over their resources is important, for the battles of the future are over resources and related displacement. This often gets linked up with their support for prior political rights for 'dominant nationalities', thus alienating parties that give precedence to individual over group rights and represent traditional interests.

The other parties do little except react to and reject Maoist proposals. But the point is to show that the Maoists cannot get a PFDR Nepal. Here is what looks achievable Ė a republic; possibly a directly elected head of government (with checks); secularism; a multiparty democratic system; a quasi-federal system built up incrementally over years; affirmative action for marginalised ethnicities but no recognition of 'prior rights'; and an NA under the government in principle.

Can the Maoists agree on a 'revisionist' democratic republican statute, make the compromises required to get such a system, and reconcile themselves to the fact that they will not necessarily enjoy unfettered political dominance? If Palungtar is anything to go by, the answer is no.

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1. K. K. Sharma
Naturally. NO. They would not have been Maoists, otherwise. To expect the Maoists to be democratic would be like expecting the goats to be like the sheep. 

2. rishav


Interesting interview with Dr Bhattari. See how easily he is made to appear foolish in this interview by an average interviewer from Aljazeerer.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b3Zw8sy6Yfg&feature=channel




3. Rodya
We are regurgitating  the whole  debate. Nothing new in article. 

4. Arthur
"The NA has gone through a set of changes since 2006. There is no palace to report to; a Janajati has become chief; there has been an increase in the interaction between the army brass and the defence ministry; army chiefs have testified before parliamentary committees; and there is relatively more information about how the army operates in the public domain today.

The Maoists dismiss these as token steps and cite the Katawal incident, or NA's recent lobbying on UNMIN, to show how there is no 'civilian control'. But they have neither explicitly explained what further 'democratisation' of the NA means, nor been able to allay the fears of others that this is a ploy to increase Maoist influence over the military.

Party leaders should read Washington Post journalist Bob Woodward's recent book, Obama's wars, which details how Pentagon truly boxed in the White House during the review of the Afghan war strategy and extracted an additional 30,000 troops. This is no way for democracies to function, but it will give them a sense of how governments struggle with sensitive civilian-military relationships. Crucially, the Maoists cannot push their model of integration in the changed context."

One could be more positive and call the changes in NA "minor improvements" instead of "token". But the plain fact is that it has NOT become a democratic army subordinate to civilian control and remains a direct threat to any progressive change in Nepal.

That is precisely why the anti-Maoist parties who fought so long to keep the monarchy and not have a Constituent Assembly want to keep the NA and get rid of the PLA. Naturally the Maoists would prefer to keep the PLA and get rid of the NA.

Either the war had to continue until one army was destroyed by the other or there had to be an agreement to combine the two armies into a democratic army under civilian supremacy.

Prashant Jha is quite right that the Maoists will never agree to go back on what has already been agreed - for real, not "in principle" democratization of the NA (which can only be achieved together with integration of large numbers of more democratic minded PLA soldiers and officers to help the more feudal minded NA speedup their transition).

In complaining that the Maoists should agree to accept only "in principle" democratization of the Nepal Army, Prashant is demanding that they accept Nepal remaining under the threat of military rule and civil war.

I have read the book he recommends, "Obama's Wars". It is absolutely ridiculous to compare the political disagreements between Obama and his generals as similar to the refusal of the Nepal Army to accept civilian supremacy in practice as well as "in principle".

A vivid illustration of this can be seen by simply looking at what happened when Prachanda sacked Katwaal for insubordination and when Obama sacked McChrystal for insubordination.

Since McChrystal is the general who Prashant believes "boxed in" Obama over Afghanistan, he could not have chosen a worse example to demonstrate his inability to comprehend what an army subordinate to civilian authority would even look like.

The "changed context" is simply that the Maoists have emerged as the largest political party. The other parties certainly fear that the Maoists will become even more dominant and that they will grow smaller. In their fear they look to both the NA and India for support against the Maoists. They are the ones who will eventually have to accept the "changed context" and adapt to the consequences of a Maoist majority in a democracy instead of trying to avoid democracy because it results in a Maoist majority.

"The Maoist stand on 'restricted political competition' is something no other party can accept for reasons of both principle and survival. Federalism is another polarising issue."

The first part may well be true. It seems to be just designed to embarass the UMLs and NC into admitting that they are feudalist and imperialist enough to fear such a restriction, so they cannot possibly agree to it and any agreed constitution is not likely to contain such a provision. (But if they do not agree to democratic constitution and a constitution ends up being imposed on them as a result of a people's revolt they have been given fair warning that this result could contain such provisions that would be even worse for their future since such an imposed constitution fought for in the streets against them, instead of agreed with them, might well exclude them completely just as they excluded the Maoists completely).

Federation is certainly polarising and the UMLs and NC are on the opposite side of the polarisation to the Maoists. But they cannot survive while remaining there since Federalism is a necessity in a multi-national society like Nepal. So they are the ones that will have to adapt to the Maoist (and Madheshi and janajati) position on this issue.

"There is also a consensus among national parties in the CA on the need for land reform, though Madhesi parties have reservations. The difference is on whether compensation should be paid to those whose property is above the limit set by the state."

No constitutional provision would be relevant for land reform with compensation. The state can buy land from its owners anywhere under any constitution. In demanding "compensation" for having held back Nepal's development for so long, the landlords and their parties are in fact demanding that they be allowed to continue to do so. No wonder they need also need the NA.

"Here is what looks achievable √Į¬Ņ¬Ĺ a republic; possibly a directly elected head of government (with checks); secularism; a multiparty democratic system; a quasi-federal system built up incrementally over years; affirmative action for marginalised ethnicities but no recognition of 'prior rights'; and an NA under the government in principle."

What is "achievable" according to Prashant Jha seems to coincide with what is acceptable to Nepali Times. What an interesting coincidence!


5. rame
Logic with poor Mathematics = Fail.
Get your mathematics correct.



6. who cares
a matter which maoist should look seriously;

according to wikileaks china called north korea spoilt child and wants unification of divided koreas.

i wonder what would china do to moaist if they continue to create problem in nepal. dont forget that once china was the only country that supplied arms to gyn bahadur to crush maoist. 



OVER SMART FOOLS WILL ALWAYS FACE ILL FATE. ITS JUST A MATTER OF TIME. 





7. shred

Now, its Prashant Jha from Nelpali times with Mission Impossible and Arthurs' analysis. Both are in very high grade. Arthur, you seems to be a diplomat! I read many comments from you with high calliber.

Still the main question remains same - Should PLA integrate to NA? In Katuwal case, whole nation become one to NA side (believe it or not - that happend) and result Prachand gave resignation - thats the truth!  

If PLA integrate to NA i.e 100,000 NA becomes 120,000 - what will be the moral of NA - NA/PLA or PLA/NA? As in the Palungtar meeting, one of its commander even threatend to its leader - the gun might point to its own leader as well - it clearly pushes the message why Maosists desparetely want to integrate with NA - result PLA is the hanging dagger for Maosist if they did not integrate sooner or later - if they didn't win this race!

 



8. Anonymous
Alternately: Will the Maoists settle for getting NOTHING they want? 

9. Arthur
shred #7, thank you for the compliment but I think I am too blunt to be a diplomat!

In asking the question "should" the PLA integrate with NA you are really asking "should" the peace agreement be carried out.

There are two armies in Nepal. Both sides would prefer that the other disappear and their own army remain. If you want a return to civil war then you can insist on that.

Since both sides did not want to continue the civil war, they agreed to integrate the two armies into one instead of destroying one of them. That was the agreement. How else COULD there be a peace agreement?

What remains is to carry out that agreement. Naturally the parties that have lost all popular support wish they had not agreed and wish they had won civil the war since the NA is the only thing that could "save" them from having to accept a Maoist majority government and becoming even smaller at the next elections.

But they are just dreaming. As Prashant Jha acknowledges, the Maoists are not going to give up the PLA and will insist on the NA being democratized and combined with the PLA as already agreed.

So they will all have to face an election whether they like it or not. Meanwhile the parties in the present "government" will simply go on looting for as long as they can get away with it while the majority against them gets bigger and bigger (and the minority supporting them gets more and more hysterical in their shouting about how they are "democrats" who want to preserve a feudal army and not face elections).


10. rishav
The Maoists are spoilt children who just demand and demand unrealistically.

They won't give up the threat of violence as they know without it people would rise up against them.

Maoist leaders are also scared of their PLA, and know ultimately they must dismantle it and rehabilitate these cadres. They can't say that they will be inducted into the security forces or rehabilitated so they need to bring these notions of democratizing the Nepal Army and combining the two forces as equals into a new force. What a load of baloney! What really does it mean to democratise an army, asking soldiers to vote on whether to fight or not. Wouldn't really be an effective force, but what the Maoists mean by the definition is to be under their control which ain't gonna happen.

I think things are turning against the Maoists, India won't support them any more, which has been brought to the attention in recent wikileaks re : the Then Indian Foreign minister Rao in conversation with a US government official, which we all knew any way. The parties are hardening their stance against them and the Maoist leaders are seen to become more divided on how they should move forward.

The focus should be bringing the Maoists into becoming a civilian party without the threat of force or need to have it's mlitia or paramilitary YCL. It's no point discussing the constitution if this is not resolved first.


11. Nirmal
I think Prashant has done a great job by clearly specifying where we are and how we are, in terms of political negotiation. But I don't understand how he could have easily thought that the problem is Revisionim Vs Agragaman. Can you mention us here even a single thing that makes you think that they are different from their counterparts which is not refutable? Even a single issue that makes you think that the Maoists are different sort of political animal which is here for progress? In front of all, it is being converted into an oligarch party with armed force, it only knows to function using threats, treating violence as a condom.
This is what the Maoists look alike. As a fake or a hypocrite in open and competitive politics. they think that we are still in the era of the typewriter that you are in competitive politics to say one thing and within party walls another, with foreigners one thing to change it with another thing with another, another, another. This, thankfully, is over. And if not ask Madhav Nepal he has no shame with his makune style, Daiva sangani nadaraune bhayechha madhav nepal, how he had gone round the twist, who was considered a decent politics until he was not the PM, in reality it was not the magic of the sait that his astrolog managed for him, it is the Maoists who is largely responsible for the most undemocratic and corrupt government of Madhav Kumar Nepal. The Maoists maneuvered every plot so childishly that they were even incapable to cash the popular discontent over this govt and had to abort their much hyped protests in the middle of the show. And again, they come to sell the publicity of revolt. With this makune Sarkaar they had a golden opportunity but they couldn't take profit, how will it be possible in 6 months? Baburam Bhattarai must be happy to know that his theory of controlled chaos seems to be functioning but as it is evident not in their favor. How bloody controlled chaos that he's envisaged for which is not working even for them, forget the people.

The non-maoists are the corrupt and incompetent lots, I agree I'd not desire such rotten apples even for my enemy. The majority of its leaders should be swept away from politics to maintain political integrity that a Nation needs to continue enjoying Democracy. But the Maoists are in no way an ideal alternative till the date. Sorry to disappoint Prashant but the Maoists was even flopped on their Robinhood style. Personally, I will hate Robinhood in politics but some people have beliefs on these things as the Maoists do, with their love to culture of cults.

 Hello Maoists! The typewriter is history that can not go up and down and saying different things in each place. We are in the era of the Internet, which after ten minutes everyone knows, and it is a danger to be looked as a fake or a hypocrite If you have double-tongue in open politics.



12. Battisputali
Prashant Summary/Critique
Interesting [very well informed] arguments:-

"...Intention is one thing and capacity, especially under the prevailing balance of power, another..
potential gridlock as a result of president-legislature battles...Maoists cannot push the[ir] model unilaterally in the CA..[on the army, they haven't] explained what further 'democratisation' of the NA means...The Maoist emphasis on 'first/prior rights' to locals over their resources is important, for the battles of the future are over resources and related displacement...but, what looks achievable [is] a quasi-federal system built up incrementally over years..."

I think this is a very balanced article. Prashant has more knowledge of Nepali Politics than any of us armchair commentators ever will. The assessment is quite optimistic as well except for the ending where he goes back to the Intention Vs. Reality problem in the Maoist Party.

Speculation/Rant
I am merely speculating here but a one-party ruled Nepali state seems highly improbable. Factors such as geography, ethnic diversity (divisions), settlement patterns, wealth inequality, resource scarcity, geopolitics may mean that no one group will have enough leverage to control the state for quite some time. Geography and ethnic divisions are the biggest worry if Nepal does go one party Maoist. As the comrades showed, mountains favor insurgents. The party's policy seems to preempt this problem by arguing for universal military training for every Nepali citizen above 18.

 If every citizen is made a part of the state and given a common identity as a soldier of the state, then the risks from ethnic divisions may be reversed . 
But again, going back to what Prashant said, the intention of order is not enough, one needs to have the capability to create order as well. Are the Maoists capable of stopping young officers from joining militias after they finish army training? Can a party that cannot keep its cadres in check keep an entire citizen army in check?



13. Anonymous
Our problem is that we are too much indulged in scholastic masturbation (oops, excuse me!) and "shashtriya" punditry (perhaps outward manifestations of the deep-seated "Bahunbaad" syndrome?) rather than standing firmly ("bhoo") on the ground reality. We love to play with "imported" jargon both in party manifesto and public discourses, we are obsessed with feeding the people with empty rhetoric and tall slogans. What does "democratizing" mean? What does "civilian supremacy" mean? What does "revolutionary reform" mean? What does "dominant nationalities" mean? What does "mainstreming" mean? Perhaps, we need to construct alternative discourses and narratives if we are to succeed as a Nation. Why don't our politicians and journalists talk about institution building, character building, e.g. self-disciplining and abiding by the law of the Land, becoming a 'model' citizen, learning from the native and indigenous values, doing shramadaan (voluntary) works, community building and networking among villages and cities, planting trees and protecting forests and water resources, respecting our elderly and forefathers, protecting women, children and the disabled, campaigning to eradicate illiteracy, conducting free health camps, boosting production of key staples, feeding the homeless, fostering "sadbhaav" (goodwill) in our communities, neighborhoods and workplaces, in another words, healing the soul of the entire Nation. Why our politicians, intellectuals, journalists are so much obsessed with worshiping "Prado", "Prabhoo" and "Power Houses"(foreign and domestic); and not engaged in fundamental civil discourses such as cultivating the attributes of "Self-respect, "Self-reliance" ("Swayambhoo"), and "Self-transformation" to live and prosper collectively as a proud Nation. Aren't the latter set of values truly foundational for any democracy and republic to evolve? Why our leadership has failed to instill self-confidence in our people? Enough of revolution, people want Change!!


14. Akhl
For the author :

Can Nepal think of having a Federal Democracy like Switzerland, wherein we have Cantons instead of states and ultimate power at canton level. Democracy till grassroots, and most importantly, being a land locked country, being a neutral state. Revolving leadership could be an issue but i still think it can be a solution for a progressive future. 


15. Funnynumber13:)
@ 13

"indulged in scholastic masturbation" :)

Isn't that what you just did in your post?


16. bHAICHA
Arthur should be declared persona non grata and deported from Nepal.
we all fought for Real Global l accepted democracy of 21st century in Nepal and not for his type of Monkey Tricks.,One party dictatorship with party cadre running business like in communist countries.


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(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)


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