Baburam Bhattarai, senior Politburo member of the United Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) said on Thursday that after 16 rounds of trying to elect a new Prime Minister, the old process was abandoned and a new one would be initiated, so that a consensus was reached soon.
Dr. Bhattarai, who is in the city to deliver the third Anuradha Gandhi Memorial Lecture on Friday, told a press conference that in spite of being the largest party in Nepal and having a legitimate right to form the government, it lasted for nine months.
Admitting that the Maoists had been encircled and isolated, he said now the choice of Prime Minister would be reached by mutual agreement. If there was no consensus after ten days then there could be elections. He said the new process would be initiated soon and that discussions were underway.
Dr. Bhattarai also expressed apprehensions about a military coup in case the process to form a government and draft a Constitution was not finished by May 28 — the deadline for the Constituent Assembly, which was given a year's extension after the end of its first tenure.
The United Nations Mission in Nepal (UNMIN), which was supposed to monitor the integration of the Nepal army and the People's Liberation Army, as yet incomplete, is scheduled to leave on Saturday.
Dr. Bhattarai said there was the danger of the peace process breaking down. The armies must be integrated as was decided under the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. The Mission was supposed to monitor the management of arms and armed personnel of the two armies on the lines of the Agreement, among other issues.
He also reiterated the Maoist position that the 1959 Indo-Nepal treaty must be replaced with a more regulated system. “We want to change the open border and we have to have a regulation. We need a new treaty between India and Nepal. The border stretches for 1,800 km and has three open sides,” he said.
Refuting concerns that a tightly regulated border with entry points or visas would hamper tourism, he said that could easily be facilitated. The Nepalis faced problems with the open borders in the sense that the economy goes underground and one-third of the country's trade becomes illegal. This means a huge loss to the government, he pointed out.
He said the Maoists were trying to institutionalise democracy through a Constitutional process and find their own model. “We know only Parliamentary or Westminster style of democracy but that is one of the models, not the only model,” he said. In Nepal, they hope to give more representation to women, the backward sections and hoped for support from India. “We are discussing very positively to evolve a model of democracy suited to Nepal and draw positive and negative lessons from India and the rest of South Asia,” he said.
Referring to Indo-Nepal relations, Dr. Bhattarai said there was a lot misunderstanding regarding Maoists and fears that they would spoil relations with India. There is also the view that Maoists should be debarred. He dismissed such fears and said: “We have no intention of spoiling relations with India.”