Nepal Today

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

SAARC SECRETARY GENERAL DISCUSSES SOUTH ASIAN SUMMIT WITH FOREIGN MINISTER GHIMERE Kathmandu, 27 March: Foreign Minister Madhav Prasad Ghimere Wednesday discussed proposed SAARC summit in Kathmandu and other regional issues with SAARC Secretary General Ahmed Salem. The dialogue was held during a courtesy call on Ghimere. Nnnn INTERVIEW Bimalendra Nidhi worked as a key interlocutor as Nepali Congress representative in the four-party taskforce which drafted the 11-point deal on March 13 that paved the way for formation of Khil Raj Regmi-led election government. A close confidante of senior leader Sher Bahadur Deuba, Nidhi has been actively involved in settlement of outstanding disputes with the establishment faction. Mahabir Paudyal and Kosh Raj Koirala of Republica discussed upcoming polls, NC’s prospects and inter-party conflict with the veteran leader. (Note: Nidhi says Regmi govt. relevance ends only 15 December—the last deadline to conduct assembly polls.} NC is believed to be a divided house even as new CA polls loom large. What major issues are yet to be settled? The party had a single voice on the issue of CA polls and Chief Justice Khil Raj Regmi-led government. In a way, these two vital national issues have helped unite the party. The level of bitterness we had before has gone down considerably. But there are issues like formation of parliamentary board, appointing joint general secretary, nominating central committee members and forming work performance committee that need to be sorted out. These issues have proven to be rather intractable. How will you solve them now? If President Sushil Koirala and senior leader Sher Bahadur Deuba sit down for meaningful dialogue I believe they will be able to address all the problems. Each leader needs to respect the views of the other. Both the leaders seem to have learnt lessons and they seem to be working sincerely to bridge their differences this time around. If the two can see eye to eye, I am sure other leaders will happily follow whatever decisions they come to. Now that we are going to face the polls soon, we will have to settle interparty issues at the earliest. Only then can we devote all our attention on polls. The CJ-led government was elected with the purpose of holding CA polls by June. But the June date is looking increasingly unrealistic. Frankly, I don’t think there will be elections in June. This was one of the reasons why the taskforce recommended November/December as the alternative date. Yes, June is our first priority but in case we cannot make it in June, we will have to wait until December (end of Mangshir). If things had gone smoothly after the 11-point pact on March 13, if government formation and appointment of officials in Election Commission had not taken time, perhaps June election could have been possible. Given the slow progress on these fronts, polls could be deferred to December. There is a fear that if this government cannot hold polls in June, its legitimacy and continuation will come under serious question. This is a baseless claim. We have clearly stated in the 11-point pact that the government shall hold polls by December 15 in case it is not possible in June. Let there be no doubt, this government is mandated to hold the polls by December 15 and its relevance will not end until that date. But, yes, if it cannot hold polls even by December it will lose its relevance. CPN-Maoist and other disgruntled forces have started obstructing electoral preparations. How do you see these obstructions? It is not good to obstruct vital electoral tasks like voter list collection. Any political outfit—Baidya’s or some other group—should desist from such activities. But then it is equally important for the four parties to reach out to disgruntled groups. We should bring them on board for the polls. But none of the forces represented in the High Level Political Committee seems to have taken any initiative in this direction. Personally, I had raised this issue in the taskforce meeting. I had said it is vital to start dialogue with Baidyaji and Upendraji (Upendra Yadav) at the earliest. I had also said we needed to hold dialogues with Nepal Bar Association, civil society groups and all political fronts which opposed the 11-point pact. At the moment, Baidyaji has opposed the polls more aggressively. Obviously, we can sit down and discuss political issues with Baidyaji. But disruptive activities won’t do any good to them. As the current head of the HLPC, it is Pushpa Kamal Dahal’s responsibility to reach out to agitating parties. I don’t understand why he has shown no inclination to do so. There are speculations that UCPN (Maoist) is determined to keep CPN-Maoist out of the electoral process. I agree with you. I personally feel that Baburam Bhattarai and Pushpa Kamal Dahal are not sincere about bringing Baidyaji on board. I had even requested Dahal and Bhattarai to take initiatives. But they did not show any response. We need to start dialogue with Baidya and Upendra Yadav and bring them to HLPC, in accordance with the 11-point agreement. That said, we have no policy of isolating them. So far CPN-Maoist has shown no interest in being a part of HLPC. If we talk with them seriously, I think they will come around. How do you respond to the charges that the country is being run by a ‘four party syndicate’? This is a ludicrous allegation. Earlier they used to call us a three-party syndicate, now they have come up with a new coinage. When things do not move smoothly, they say it is because of four parties’ inability to arrive at necessary decisions. If we do not act they accuse us of not acting responsibly, if we do, they call us a syndicate and dictatorship. This is funny. The truth is that the four parties have taken up the responsibility to steer the country’s political course in a new direction. The four party unity is for a greater political cause. How would you describe the role of HLPC vis-à-vis the CJ-led government? HLPC gives its consent, counseling and advice to the government, when necessary. HLPC does not control the government, the constitutional provisions and laws do so. HLPC is a body formed to facilitate the government to carry out political tasks. It will create favorable environment to hold polls and deal with the challenges ahead. If the government had been political in nature, we would not need HLPC at all. NC had to suffer a humiliating defeat in Terai-Madhesh in the last polls. How would you evaluate the party’s prospects in the plains this time around? Support for NC is building up in Madhesh, especially after the dismal showing of Maoist-Madhesi coalition. People have become deeply disillusioned by Madhesi parties and Maoists. Madhesis do not consider Maoists a pro-federal party. I hold the same view. In fact, Maoism and federalism or communism and federalism are contradictory ideas. Madhesis have understood that Maoists cannot be federalists. The illusion among Madhesi people that Madhesi parties had forged an alliance with the Maoists to fulfill their aspirations is slowly dissipating. In last two years, they have seen that Madhesi leaders who signed ambitious deals with the Maoists failed to implement them miserably. Now people understand that Madhesi leaders supported UCPN (Maoist) only to reach positions of power. All this has made people in Madhesh feel NC is the only force they can rely on. They want NC to raise the issue of identity, federalism, inclusion, empowerment and proportional representation. If NC can clearly lay out its stand on democracy, federalism and inclusion and if the party selects the candidates who are in tune with the spirit of Tarai-Madhesh and who know the real problems facing the people, NC’s prospects in Madhesh are bright. I would say NC will get a sweeping victory in Madhesh. You have never lost an election from your constituency in Dhanusha. How hopeful are you this time? I have raised the issue of change. I am confident people will trust me. I have been constantly pushing for republic, federalism, inclusion, secularism and mixed electoral system by stepping on the platform of nationalism and democracy. I have been working for development and political awakening in my district. My voters are well aware of this. They know that I am doing all I can to advance their agenda in Kathmandu. People in Madhesh are in a mood to give NC one more chance. But like I said, it all depends on how NC leadership will capitalize on this advantage. nnnn


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