The UCPN (Maoist) is preparing to intensify protests within the Constituent Assembly and on the streets, as the January 22 constitution promulgation deadline approaches. The opposition party also urged the ruling coalition to suspend its plan of settling contentious issues through a vote in the CA arguing that the document of far-reaching consequences should be drafted on the basis of consensus among the major stakeholders. The opposition’s immediate priority is to delay the CA process as long as possible so that the ruling parties’ plan to bring out a preliminary draft of the new constitution within a week could be foiled, leaders said. If the deadline is averted, party leaders say, it would be easy to deal with the new circumstances. Inside the CA, the party plans to keep its alliance with the Madhesi parties intact and hold discussions with other forces to convince them that they should not resort to voting to decide contentious issues. Outside the CA, the party has formed an alliance with the breakaway CPN-Maoist and Janajati groups and organizations to bolster its position through street agitation. The party is against the idea of preparing a questionnaire on the disputed issues for clause-wise voting in the Assembly. As the CA chairman intends to form a special task force to prepare the questionnaire, the party said it would not accept the move. “It’s the responsibility of the Political Dialogue and Consensus Committee to forge consensus or prepare questionnaires on the issues,” said UCPN (Maoist) spokesman Dina Nath Sharma. The PDCC led by Maoist leader Baburam Bhattarai failed in the past to find a way out.
A meeting of top Maoist leaders, however, concluded that they should be prepared to counter the strategy of the ruling parties as they plan to use their majority in the Assembly to decide issues as per their principles. But there are different schools of thought inside the UCPN (Maoist). Some leaders like Krishna Bahadur Mahara are for allowing the ruling parties to promulgate the constitution while they could register their note of dissent. CPN-UML leader Madhav Kumar Nepal also suggested Maoist Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal that he could allow the drafting process to go by registering his party’s note of dissent, the model adopted by the UML in 1990. Leaders including Janardan Sharma and Gopal Kirati say that the party should quit the CA. Chairman Dahal and senior leaders Bhattarai and Narayan Kaji Shrestha stress that they should remain committed to the CA process. Shrestha has publicly said that protests would not be justified at this point as they do not have any concrete goals. The party has 80 seats in the 601-member CA. The main opposition hopes that due to pressure from the international community and President Ram Baran Yadav, the ruling parties will re-think their plan of settling contentious issues through a CA vote.
The party is encouraged by the statement of the UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs that the political leaders in Nepal should conclude the constitution drafting process through compromise, flexibility, and inclusivity. A team of Maoist leaders led by Lila Mani Pokhrel is meeting the heads of diplomatic missions and foreign ambassadors to seek the support of the International community to block the voting process. locking horns - UCPN (Maoist) to intensify protests both inside and outside the CA - PDCC should be given the responsibility of forging consensus or preparing the questionnaire - Immediate priority to delay the process so that the Jan 22 deadline is averted - Some leaders in favor of allowing the drafting process with a note of dissent - A team of leaders meeting diplomats to garner support - Party hopes NC, UML will not start the CA process due to President’s call for compromise - Party encouraged by top UN official Jeffrey Feltman’s call for compromise