The ghosts of past failures finally disappeared and the three parties struck a deal that had been eluding them for four years. On Tuesday, the parties removed a final hurdle to broadly agree on all outstanding issues. But this agreement is driven by the sole purpose of avoiding a void on 27 May, nothing more.
In the name of a compromise, the parties have left gaping holes in the form of governance and state restructuring that have been the sticking points during negotiations. On governance, there is a fundamental divide between those who believe traditional parliamentary system did not work in Nepal because it led to instability, and those who think a directly-elected executive will solve that problem. The compromise agreed is a 'mixed model' which is going to cost this nation even more dearly in the near future.
If stability was the concern it would have made more sense to give executive powers to a directly-elected president or prime minister and make them accountable to parliament through strong checks and balances. This was not about stability, but rather about securing the ambitions of a few men at the top. In a country like Nepal, where rulers have yet to learn how to play by the rules, the 'mixed' model will only lead to a de facto and de jure power struggle.
On state restructuring, the compromise looks even more ominous. After poring over maps, the leaders arrived at a 11-state model based on multi-ethnic identity, but the entire exercise seems futile because they do not have the numbers to back their decision in the CA.
I spoke to Prithvi Subba Gurung who heads a cross-party caucus of Janajati lawmakers, and thinks this is a ploy to divide the Janajatis. He warned, "The leadership must not force us into an action that is going to leave everybody bitter." Even the Madhesi Front which was part of the agreement has now protested the inclusion of Jhapa, Sunsari and Morang in an eastern Tarai province, the exclusion of Chitwan from central Tarai and consolidation of Kailali and Kanchanpur into the proposed Seti-Mahakali region.
Overnight after the agreement, the 'Akhanda' movements throughout the country against large ethnic enclaves fizzled out, leading to speculation that this was all about saving electoral bastions of influential leaders, and not really about saving Nepal. The three Tarai districts in the east have traditionally been the stronghold of the Koirala family. Chitwan is home to Maoist Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal, while Kailali and Kanchanpur are the constituencies of influential leaders from three parties, like Sher Bahadur Deuba, Ramesh Lekhak, Lokendra Bahadur Chand and Lekh Raj Bhatta. Needless to say, all are non-Madhesis. The tacit support these leaders gave to the Brahmin and Chhetri samaj during the agitations proves this.
To be sure, besides concerns about ethnic confrontation, ordinary Bahuns and Chhetris took to the streets across the country because they had reasons to fear they would become second-class citizens in future ethnic enclaves. "This has been one of the weaknesses of our movement, we just could not convince our fellow non-Janajati brothers and sisters that we are only claiming our own rights, not trying to take theirs away. We would never want anybody to undergo what we ourselves have suffered for so long," Gurung told me. He blames the media for demonising the indigenous movement.
It was actually the parties who used the media to polarise public opinion to increase their own bargaining positions in negotiations, and when that failed they took the dangerous gamble of polarising the streets, provoking each side to neutralise the other. These are the seeds of social unrest that could plunge the nation into another conflict, the one with no ideological or political basis and driven only by deep hatred and intolerance.
After Tuesday's agreement, one side has vacated the streets, but what happened in Dhangadi last week shows how far the leaders are prepared to go to fulfil their personal and partisan interests. Nepal's problems are far from over.
Damage control mode
The losing game, RUBEENA MAHATO
We are too busy fighting amongst ourselves to notice what we have lost
After a people's war , BIHARI K SHRESTHA
We can have federalism if we must, but it is guaranteed to keep Nepal poor