Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Vijay Chalise, editor of Gorkhapatra interviews Chairman Prachanda:

The last question which the Indian journalists had asked CPN-Maoist Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal alias Prachanda went like this, "Some Indian journalists wrote in their articles that your personality stands out when you are referred to as "Prachanda" instead of "Pushpa Kamal Dahal", what do you personally feel? Responding to this last question, he said that he liked being called "Prachanda." But Prachanda also gave the reasons for his answer. "The name Prachanda encompasses the entire Nepal, all classes, castes, regions and gender. Some aura of tradition comes from the name `Pushpa Kamal Dahal' like it comes form Girija Prasad Koirala and Madhav Kumar Nepal.

Hence I like the name `Prachanda' not because of its established meaning but because I wish to move towards progress. Some people these days have stopped using my nom de guere `Prachanda' and I feel that this is very reactionary, but I do not know its underlying meaning, why are they doing so? The following is the excerpts of the interview taken by Vijay Chalise, editor of Gorkhapatra with Prachanda:

Some national and international status quoist forces seem to be bent on stopping the `left' parties, especially the CPN-Maoist from forming the government, and under the same maneuverings there are moves being made to appoint Girija Prasad Koirala as the Prime Minister once again. In the given situation, till when will the next government be formed?

Some forces from within and outside the country having reactionary and status quoist tendencies are not still happy with the outcome of the Constituent Assembly elections. The people voted overwhelmingly for the CPN-Maoist, a force that has always stood by forward looking change, which the status quoist forces have failed to reconcile with. Hence different kinds of conspiracies are being hatched not to allow the CPN-Maoist form the government. Had some other party, excluding the Maoists emerged as the largest party in the CA then the government would have been formed within a week. The Nepalese at large well know this reality. Presently efforts are underway to keep the status quoist in power both from within and outside the country. If attempts are made to retain the old faces in the government then it will not be acceptable. The next government should be formed as per the aspirations of the popular will, if something else is tried then it would only invite an accident. But the Nepalese will ultimately emerge victorious. The next government will be of the Maoists as mandated by the people.

The politics of consensus that went strong for three years has come to an end following the presidential elections and the political game of the majority has started. Does any possibility of the Maoists leading the next government remain in such a situation?

Politics of consensus virtually ended after the amendment of the interim constitution. As far as the formation of government in the leadership of the Maoist is concerned, it is not true that its possibility has ended. The majority can side with the Maoists from some quarters. The meeting of the 25 parties was held some days ago. Those who voted for the other side voiced at the meeting that they were no more in that alliance. As around twenty to twenty one parties have echoed their voice that the next government has to be formed under the leadership of the Maoists, there are ample grounds for it to lead the next government with the support of the majority.

You mentioned that 20 to 21 parties were in support of the Maoists. Going by the mindset of the other parties in the past days, does it look likely that they would allow the Maoist to prove majority?

This is as one can understand a game. Our party has been assessing the past parliamentary politics as an anti-national, anti-social and dirty game. This is the reason why we made it clear that we had been morally pushed to the opposition following the presidential elections. We hence frankly admitted that we did not have any stakes in forming the next government. This has given the message that we are different compared to other political parties. We tried to convey the message that the norms and values of the CPN-Maoist are different than the other parties. But if we have to play a similar game of dirty politics, we will not join the government but will remain in the opposition.

Won't your decision to remain in the opposition shadow the mandate of the CA and won't it obstruct the constitution drafting process?

There are two parts of the CA. First is the process of drafting a new constitution and the second is the legislature that should look into the day to day running of the government. The CA does not have ruling and opposition parties. The process of drafting a new constitution always moves ahead in the CA. All parties have equal role and responsibility to draft the constitution. Whenever the legislature parliament meets, only then will the House have the opposition and the ruling parties. Hence I do not feel that our decision to remain in the opposition would adversely affect the constitution drafting process.

Although the CA has to facets, won't the political wrangling in the legislature parliament have an impact in the constitution drafting process?

Just because any party decides to sit in the opposition in the legislature parliament one should not have the notion that it would affect the constitution drafting process. But the reality is such that if the government is not formed as per the popular mandate of the people, then the constitution drafting process could witness hitches and even be impeded because of the political disputes among the parties in the legislature parliament. Some form of mental state would certainly surface when the Maoist choose to remain in the opposition. Since the CPN-Maoist is the largest party in the CA, the constitution cannot be drafted without its active participation, what should we call this, can this be described as the positive strength of the Maoists? This is a big issue. There has to be two thirds majority to pass each Article of the Constitution, the backing of the Maoists is needed even to include the commas and full stops in the Constitution. Hence the Constitution cannot be drafted without the support of the Maoists. All this clearly reveals that those who have the impression that they should sideline the Maoists at the moment are inviting conflict in the nation.

One breed of politicians has been terming the Maoists preparations to lead the next government as "totalitarianism. " They have been claiming that they had to cobble together a new alliance to teach the Maoists a lesson. How have you been looking at such maneuverings?

When the Nepalese fought for their rights in the yesteryears, they were dubbed as terrorists. Those who wiped out tens of thousand of people are here with us today. We joined the peace process, contested the elections and became the largest party by getting overwhelming support of the people. If attempts are made to dub us as totalitarians at this juncture then those who make such charges give out the odour of the despotic rulers and reactionaries of yesterday. It all appears that those who had consolidated their position by appeasing the ousted monarch have been trying to put on his cloak. Although the then monarch had to march out, his henchmen are trying to behave like him which will not be tolerable to the people. The CPN-Maoist waged a struggle for the last three months not to become a totalitarian force but to uphold the people's mandate. The CPN-Maoist is a party that believes in politics based on norms and values. Those who have been dubbing the Maoists as "totalitarians" are out to push the nation into a grave crisis.

You have mentioned that you would only join the government if the other parties concede to your three pre-conditions, but the Nepali Congress and the CPN (UML) have been declining to abide by them, how can we expect to have consensus politics in this situation?

The conditions we put forward ought to be understood this way. We called the meeting of the 25 parties. Of them nearly 20 to 21 parties voiced that the Maoist should lead the next government. It was only after this that the Maoists put forward the three pre-conditions in order to move ahead in a different way amidst the changed political situation. The political situation has changed after the presidential elections. Thus we asked the three parties to clarify whether their coalition was only for the elections or would it also go further ahead. If it is such that their alliance was forged to take ahead, then the situation would be such that the Maoist will have to remain in the opposition. We did not mean to instruct the three parties to dissolve the alliance. All we told them was that they should clarify the nature of the alliance. If they want us to form the government then our programmes and policies for the next two years should be reflected in the commitment paper to be signed by the other parties that wish to join the Maoist led coalition.

There has been some reshuffling in the structure of the ruling coalition in India, and the Indian communists have withdrawn the support they had extended to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. It is said that the new coalition in India does not want the Maoist to rise to power? Is it that the political parties in Nepal are obstructing the Maoists from assuming power with the motive of fulfilling India's interest?

I do not feel that just because the communist withdrew their support to the government, there would be a total shift in India's foreign policy. Irrespective of whichever party has come to power in India, be it Congress-I or BJP, stability in its foreign policy has already started showing. The thing is that Nepalese politics has always been guided by Indian interest and maneuvering. Some political parties chart out their policies according to the wishes of India. This is not a new phenomenon but something which has been there since a long time. The Indian establishment has helped the parties in Nepal to put the 12 point agreement in place and accordingly backed the efforts of the parties to hold the elections to the CA and move ahead in the peace process. Hence I do not feel that the peace process would be derailed this soon. But the manner in which the CPN-Maoist came up with its plans and policies on the issues of nationalism and loktantra, they must have somehow doubted whether our party could move ahead in its own way. Hence the four month long lingering that has been taking place on whether the Maoists should form the government is not because of the Nepali Congress, the CPN (UML) or India only. There is a subtle difference between the class opinion and political opinion between the Maoists and the foreigners. It is because of this difference that they have been weighing what they need to do if the Maoists were to be allowed to form the government. But I would like to make it clear that the CPN-Maoist does not move ahead at the instruction of any foreign power. Our strength is the people of Nepal and we will always uphold their aspirations.

Integrity of the Nepali people is the main agenda of the Maoist. We will not forge any alliance with any force by subsiding this.

The left parties enjoy almost two-thirds majority in the Constituent Assembly, but the power always seems to be under the control of reactionary and rightist forces. As a leading communist party, why has CPN (Maoist) not been able to take them into confidence?

There should be dominance of the left parties in all the matters, including the formation of government and selection of leadership. Before the CA elections, we painstakingly worked for moving ahead by forging unity among the left parties. We made the same efforts even after the elections. But, an anomaly is that we, the communist forces, failed to be united during the presidential elections. Analysts and readers should understand what positive and negative aspects were there during the presidential elections. All the leftist forces are not communists in behaviour. Some leftists have carried out anti-national activities. When the street movement was going on, some so-called leftist forces joined the royal government by saying that there was no more regression. Other leftists said the regression was partly corrected. Many people have misconception that all the leftist forces are equal. We need to alert the Nepali people against such misconceptions. Under the guise of leftists, there are ultra-rights. Why did they reject our call to forge unity among the leftist forces before the elections? Who showed the foolishness in believing that the valley was under their control in the elections? Following the elections, why was our effort to forge working unity among the leftists for electing the president and forming a new government dampened? Why they forged alliance with the rightist and ultra-rightist forces will clearly show who they are. So, we should understand the definition of communism and know the real communists.

Despite the election of the president on a majority voting system, there was consensus among the political parties in the election of the Chairman of the Constituent Assembly. Does this indicate that the parties have realised that there is no alternative to consensual system?

I do not think that the parties have fully realised this. There would have been consensus in the elections of the President and Vice-President had there not been any debate regarding the candidates. Because of the candidate's personality, there was consensus in the election of the Chairman. This has indicated that there can be political consensus on specific issues if all the parties realise that country is in need of it.

It is said that Nepal's politics is influenced by foreign pressure. Does the President's election prove this?

It has widely been felt that there has been foreign interference in Nepal's internal politics. In the later phase, the interference has increased fast. There was foreign interference behind the delay in the formation of the new government and the way the election of the President was held. Leaders of some political parties have the tendency of pleasing foreigners. The thought of reaching a consensus just for electing Girija Prasad Koirala as the President from the Nepali Congress or making Madhav Kumar Nepal the President from the CPN (UML) is not a Nepali thought. It is also neither the thought of the NC nor the UML. Anybody having common sense cannot have such a thought. When we proposed Ram Raja Prasad Singh as the presidential candidate, Dr. Ram Baran Yadav and Ramprit Paswan were declared the candidates overnight. We had been holding consecutive dialogues with the UML. We asked them to give the candidacy of a Dalit, somebody from the ethnic or indigenous community, Madhesi or a woman instead of Nepal to make the post inclusive. Had the UML proposed the name of Paswan at the very outset, we would have easily agreed. But why didn't the UML propose his candidacy in the beginning, this is something to look into. Now I doubt whether Nepal's name was proposed at the behest of foreign powers. What stopped the UML from proposing Sahana Pradhan's name to which we had given a nod earlier.

The 15th SAARC Summit is taking place in some days and there aren't any possibilities of changing the caretaker government. It was only on Saturday that it was made public that caretaker Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala is representing Nepal in the Summit? What are your comments?

It is a fact that a conspiracy is being hatched to prevent the new Maoist led government to take part in the SAARC Summit. Had the Maoist led government participated in the SAARC, then the address of the PM would certainly deviate from tradition and would be entirely different. I had regular meetings with the Sri Lankan Ambassador to Nepal and the Sri Lankan Foreign Minister. They extended their invitation to me to participate in the Summit and even asked for my photograph, but I could not give my photograph, as it was not clear whether the political standoff would fizzle out. I had however prepared my address, which was quite different and encompassed the burning issues of Nepal. I feel that I was stopped from heading the new government and participating in the Summit as it was feared that a new message would be disseminated to the world through my address.

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