KAMAL RAJ SIGDEL, THE
Despite differences of opinion within the party and hard public posturing, a proposition to agree with the government on extending the Constituent Assembly tenure "under a condition" is gaining momentum in Nepali Congress.
The condition is there should be some “concrete progress” in the peace process, especially in the integration and rehabilitation of its combatants.
Some senior NC leaders said the party could support Prime Minister Jhala Nath Khanal’s proposal to extend the CA for a short time, possibly six months. “Since it is impossible to complete the peace process within the reaming one month time, NC may support CA term extension provided the ruling parties, especially the Maoists made concrete progress in integration and rehabilitation process and expressed commitment on completing remaining issues,” said Sushil Koirala’s close confidante Bal Bahadur KC, who is also a member of the Sher Bahadur Deuba-led taskforce assigned to prepare party's position on peace process.
The concrete progress, according to NC leaders, could be things like fixing the number of the combatants to be integrated, starting the regrouping process, handing over of the combatant’s weapons, and implementing past agreements. “Besides the commitment and some progress in peace process, there should be a convincing explanation how the extended time could be used to complete statute writing process,” said KC.
But the leaders are still not clear what would be the alternative if the no such “concrete progress” is made. "If Maoists don’t make any progress on the peace process, especially the integration and rehabilitation, the way they have failed to implement most of the past agreements, there is no point in extending the term of this government in the name of the CA," said NC leader Ram Sharan Mahat. Though Mahat said he was hopeful of Maoists making a positive move, he did not like to comment on what would be NC's stand if things did not progress as expected.
There are, however, also differences among leaders on how much progress must the Maoists make because NC has little to bargain before agreeing on extending the CA term. "The CA term will be extended anyhow, but it would be meaningful if it is done after agreeing on key contentious issues of the pace process and basic framework of the new constitution," said Narahari Acharya.
The “conditional” extension -- which is one of the three main options floating in the party -- looks more plausible for some NC leaders given the Maoist party's newly floated interim strategy to focus on peace and statute. “If things don’t move to the positive direction, the other voices, such as for fresh mandate, will grow stronger,” said youth leader Gagan Thapa.
The other two options floating in the party’s informal discussions are: One, as mentioned earlier, to go for fresh polls, and two, to forge a new power equation or a presidential rule. While there have been public statements advocating for fresh mandate, the option of presidential rule is just a fringe voice and has not come out openly.
NC’s influential leader Bimalendra Nidhi, for instance, thinks a fresh people’s mandate is the “only alternative if the constitution is not promulgated within the stipulated timeframe”.
While there are some who see the possibility of forging a new power equation under NC leadership (this time Deuba) with Maoist backing after May 28, a section close to establishment are cynical about Maoist ‘U-turn’. They warn of any camaraderie with the Maoists stating that the U-turn is just another strategy to grab power.
(First published at: http://www.ekantipur.com/2011/04/27/top-story/nepali-congress-for-conditional-extension-of-ca-tenure/333126.html)
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