Though reconciled to the fact that Nepal would not be able hold fresh Constituent Assembly (CA) elections by the agreed deadline of mid-June, India hopes the Nepal government would step up preparations for November elections.
In an agreement that paved the way for Chief Justice Khil Raj Regmi to lead an interim election government, Nepal’s four major political forces had pledged to hold polls by June 21. But with the Election Commission making it clear that polls were not possible due to “technical reasons”, and the government not announcing election dates, India has now said June elections are “not doable”.
An official source told The Hindu, “We knew it would not happen in June, but no one was saying it in Nepal because they wanted to slowly prepare the ground for postponing it.”
But India is keen that elections happen “at the earliest” since that would create political stability. Delhi also feels that the longer elections are delayed, the more “extreme right and extreme left forces”, inimical to democracy and Indian interests, would “gain ground”.
Nepal must step up efforts to hold polls by mid November, and if not then, the “outer-limit was mid-December”, an official source, speaking to The Hindu, said.
Officials are closely watching recent moves by the CJ-led government to reach out to agitating parties. “We are encouraged that the government is holding talks, and hope all stakeholders would participate in polls.”
In a clear allusion to the radical Maoist faction, led by Mohan Vaidya ‘Kiran’, sources indicated they would not like any party to “disrupt” polls, but instead join the “democratic system”.
India also hopes that the technical issues regarding elections are sorted out soon. “Issues like updating voter rolls, distribution of citizenship certificates, announcing election dates are important. In light of a recent judicial verdict, political parties also need to decide on whether it is possible to have fresh constituency delineation based on 2011 census.”
Acting on a request from Nepal, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has asked Indian Election Commission whether it would be possible to supply electronic-voting machines.
Fearing their poll prospects, Nepali parties are perceived to have been less than enthusiastic about elections. But this, in the Indian assessment, may change. “The parties know that the only way for them to return to power is through elections. We hope they will soon generate pressure to hold it early.” Also, New Delhi emphasised that it did not have any “preferred outcomes” in the polls.
On a related note, Indian officials said they were not worried about Maoist chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’’s recent visit to China. The Maoist leader had wanted to come to India first, but dates could not be worked out. Sources told The Hindu that Beijing’s consistent message to Nepali political players has been to “maintain good ties with India”, and Beijing could not be a “replacement” for New Delhi. A similar message is understood to have been relayed to the Maoist chairman during his visit.
Mr. Prachanda is expected to be in Delhi “very soon”, with mutually convenient dates being worked out. He will meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during the visit.