08 February 2006

Maoist leader unveils road map for change in Nepal

In an exclusive interview to The Hindu -- conducted recently over an hour and a half at an undisclosed location -- Prachanda hails India's "positive stand" against autocratic monarchy but wants New Delhi to abandon its 'two pillar theory' that Nepal's stability needs both multi-party democracy and a constitutional monarchy.

8 February 2006
The Hindu

Prachanda unveils road map for change in Nepal

Siddharth Varadarajan

Maoist leader hails Indian stand but calls for end to `two-pillar theory'

At an undisclosed location: Asserting that the democratic movement against King Gyanendra was now unstoppable, Nepal's top Maoist leader, Prachanda, called on the Indian Government to abandon its "two-pillar theory" and choose the one pillar of multi-party democracy over the "so-called monarchy" that had usurped all power in the country.

In an exclusive face-to-face interview to The Hindu conducted over an hour-and-a-half, the Maoist leader spelt out his party's "minimum political slogan" — the realisation of a "democratic republic" through the election of a Constitutional Assembly under international supervision. The Maoists, he said, were fully committed to multi-party democracy — the phrase he prefers to use is political competition — so long as it was under a "new constitutional framework."

"If the King says that I was wrong to have done what I did last year, now come on, let us sit across the table, and then he talks of a free and fair election to a constitutional assembly, then we will be ready to take part," Mr. Prachanda said. "Our minimum, bottom line is the election of a Constitutional Assembly, that too under international supervision... and whatever the peoples' verdict, we are ready to accept that. This is our bottom line."

He stressed that the Maoists' commitment to multi-party democracy — as practically enunciated in a major party meeting last August — is not tactical but the result of a lengthy ideological debate within the party over three years. "Our decision on multi-party democracy is a strategically, theoretically developed position," he said. "And we are telling the parliamentary parties that we are ready to have peaceful competition with you all." He agreed that it was natural for parliamentary parties to have doubts about the Maoists' intentions because the party has an army. "They ask us whether after the constitutional assembly is elected we will abandon our arms. We have said we are ready to reorganise our army together with the democratic elements of the Royal Nepal Army and make a new Nepal army." The Maoists' army was not the problem, he added. It was the RNA, which had been serving the country's "feudal lords" for 250 years.

The Maoist leader stressed that when elections for the Constitutional Assembly are held, the party would accept whatever verdict emerged democratically. "We are convinced people will choose a democratic republic. But if people choose a ceremonial or constitutional monarchy, we are ready to accept that too."

Mr. Prachanda said the Maoists had also suggested that the parliamentary parties reconvene parliament and declare themselves the legitimate government. "Two-thirds of the MPs are with the Nepali Congress, the UML and smaller parties. They should call a meeting and declare themselves the legitimate parliament and set up a multi-party government." The Maoists would not be part of that government but would support it. "And then you invite us for negotiations and we will come forward. After that, there will be a move to set up an interim government, and the main aim of that government will be to have elections for a Constitutional Assembly."

The King, he said, would be given an ultimatum to back down, failing which the monarchy would be abolished because it would be "illegal."

Although this route would quickly bring about insurrectionary conditions, he acknowledged that the parliamentary parties were not ready for this. "That is why we are also talking of a Constitutional Assembly elected under international supervision."

(Excerpts from the interview will be published in The Hindu .)

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