Excerpts of interview with Chakra Prasad Bastola, Central Working Committee member of Nepali Congress and former Foreign Minister. He also represented the government in last year's peace talk with the Maoists.
Do you think power plays by the political parties and the monarch has aggravated the political situation in the country?
The political parties' behaviour is full of contradictions. They should have been prepared to prevent 4 October, or at least they should not have fostered mistrust between themselves and His Majesty. They should have found common ground where both could work together and move forward.
We failed to make our position clear to the king on time. Protests came like an afterthought, which didn't have the same impact had we been definite and clear at the right time. That became our [the political parties] biggest weakness.
How do you think a power balance is possible at this point of the time?
Girija Prasad Koirala's stand offers plenty of space for dialogue between the monarch and the Maoists but there has to be a positive response. The Nepali Congress is not against the constitutional monarchy, neither is it against democracy and the constitution. Of course it might oppose an individual trait in a king. If a king's personality and character is against the spirit of the constitution, the people will ask the monarchy to reform. There is always mistrust between the people, political parties and the monarchy. Perhaps the political parties might not have reacted with so much frenzy when the monarch became a little more active had it not been so. There are positive signs in recent political events, but these are all too often overshadowed by negative ones.
Is an absolute monarchy a possibility at present?
It is possible. What we should consider are people who do not support any political parties. They could be a political force in the future. If the existence of a parliament could not prevent the uprising of the Maoists, how can absolute monarchy prevent other groups from storming the political arena? While the parliament offered an outlet, an absolute monarchy will remove any such opportunities for dissatisfied sections of Nepali society.
Do you believe the monarchy is ruining the credibility of the parties to become more powerful?
Weakened political parties make the monarchy looked stronger and more active. The lack of a parliament leaves only one system still functioning-monarchy. The difference in attitudes between the late and the present king might have fanned people's suspicions about His Majesty deliberately trying to discredit political parties.
But I believe the king's next move will depend largely on how we perform. There is a political consensus about protecting the achievements of the 1990 People's Movement, but even key players like the Nepali Congress and the UML have failed to garner an agreement on how to go about it. If we cannot resolve this issue, we should not complain solely against the king.
In the event of any major political vacuum, the king will certainly step in. We must have enough faith in the constitution to use it more effectively. The UML have shied away from creating programs for us to work together, yet they demand an all-party government. We cannot risk demanding something not guaranteed by the constitution because it may force the monarchy into a corner. We should be confident in the king's assurances about his commitment to democracy and constitutional monarchy.
You represented the government in the failed peace talk with the Maoists. Why do you think they walked out of negotiations?
I think it was part of a cunning strategy to agree to talks and walk out before any resolution. The situation is totally different now. They have already achieved what they had wanted and what they could. I don't think they'll opt for a victory over Singha Darbar. If they are smart enough, they won't push for the supremacy of the downtrodden. In this situation, they don't have any other war to win.
Is there a chance they might talk directly with the king?
If that happens, I'd put it down as another strategy. Our stand should be one that seeks a solution, whoever they negotiate with. Babu Ram Bhattarai has demanded a roundtable talk between the king, the pro-parliament parties and the Maoists. In the last parliament we clung to power by whatever means necessary, which hampered the possibility of talks with the Maoists. If the king adopts the same attitude then all the old mistakes will be repeated.