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Not forming HLPC will lead to confrontation: Haribol Gajurel

The December agreement between Nepali Congress, CPN-UML, UCPN (Maoist) and Madheshi parties, which envisions, among other things, forming a High Level Political Committee (HLPC), has become a bone of contention now. While NC and UML have ruled out forming any political body outside CA, UCPN (Maoist) Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal has threatened to obstruct House proceedings if ruling parties don’t address his demand. Why such hard stance when parties should be working on war footing for timely statute? What is the relevance of HLPC when Maoist party heads by far the most important CA committee, Committee for Constitutional and Political Dialogue and Consensus (CCPDC)? UCPN (Maoist) treasurer Haribol Gajurel, who is also a close confidante of chairman Dahal, defended party’s stand in a conversation with us.

Why do we need to revive HLPC at this hour when statute drafting process seems to be going toward positive direction?

Formation of HLPC is related with broader constitution and peace process. At a time forces outside CA have ruled out possibility of dialogue with CCPDC, need for HLPC has become even more important. We need to bring dissident forces, especially CPN-Maoist, into constitution process because it is an important stakeholder of peace process. Mohan Baidya camp is demanding a broad round table conference. They could come to a negotiated compromise if we have a platform to accommodate their views. Even Prime Minister Sushil Koirala is positive about it. HLPC can be a credible body to accommodate Baidya’s demand.

But this can be done without HLPC as well. CCPDC has been reaching out to dissenting forces itself.

You need to look at it from another angle. Congress and UML agreed to revive it and signed a four-point deal toward this effect. If they were not to implement the deal why did they sign it? Besides, we are yet to complete peace process for which we need to bring forces outside CA, especially CPN-Maoist, into confidence. Once we have HLPC it will create moral obligation for Baidya faction to join it. Again, we are trying to revive HLPC not to impose and dictate its terms in the CA but facilitate the CA in peace and constitution process. It won’t be authoritative body to impose its decisions. We are yet to form Truth and Reconciliation Commission which is not possible without bringing in Baidya faction on the board. Besides, Baidya faction has made it clear that they won’t revert to armed struggle. This is the right time to accommodate them in constitution process. HLPC can do so.

If so, why are Congress and UML vehemently opposed to it?

That’s because they want UCPN (Maoist) to remain eternally fragmented and weak. They do not want UCPN (Maoist) and CPN-Maoist stand together. UML is more afraid of this prospect because it fears united Maoists could erode its base. UML is looking at this issue purely from partisan lens. It is not concerned about broader national impact of not reviving HLPC. They should understand that HLPC is about giving a dignified role to leadership that fought ten year’s ‘People’s War’ and led the country toward federal democratic republic. For the moment, let us forget who should lead HLPC. But how justifiable is it for Congress and UML to backtrack from the agreement of which they are the signatories? We can discuss who should lead HLPC but it is disingenuous of them to rule out reviving it altogether.

Some compare your demand with UML’s demand for endorsing President from the CA.

There is no comparison between these two issues. UML is in such a position that it cannot push for endorsement of the President. It allowed President to present government’s policies and programs in the parliament. In a way President has been endorsed by the CA. Thus UML is no longer in a position to say CA II does not recognize the President. It should not have allowed the President to declare government’s programs, if it wanted his endorsement. Ours is a different issue. We are asking the signatories of the deal to implement it because it is yet to be implemented.

But is not it unfair to threaten to obstruct the House at this crucial hour?

We are yet to do much for completing the peace process. For example, we are to form TRC but we have not even formed recommendation committee. We have recommended members from our side. Even NC has done it. But UML is recommending such names about whom consensus cannot be forged. If this continues, we won’t be able to form TRC, which means major task of peace process won’t make any headway. We have been very flexible in almost all issues so far, even to the extent of ruling party leaders accusing us of not playing proactive opposition role. But we cannot remain passive when peace process itself faces uncertain future.

You said earlier that HLPC is not going to be an authoritative body. Why do you need a body that is neither authoritative nor constitutional?

This demand for HLPC is not new. We had HLPC even in the past. Besides, HLPC is needed just in case the Parliament reverts to old ways of forming and toppling the government. This prospect has started to become visible now. If this happens, constitution and peace process will be seriously affected. Therefore we need a political body not to allow the process to be derailed half way. HLPC should be viewed from the perspective of political need, not in terms of constitutionality. It will play meaningful role at both national and international levels for statute drafting.

Won’t it undermine the role of sovereign CA?

In politics you should not look into everything from the perspective of legitimacy and constitutionality. If you may recall, Parliament was restored following the People’s Movement in 2006. It took several crucial decisions. Should we call those decisions unconstitutional and illegitimate? Sometimes we need to do what is politically needed rather than what is constitutional. Our main goal today is to make CA a success and complete constitution and peace process. We had included the provision of HLPC in four-point deal precisely for the same purpose. Now Congress and UML say it’s not needed. Such attitude will lead to confrontation between ruling and opposition parties.

It is said Prachanda wants to head HLPC so he can undermine Baburam Bhattarai’s role in CCPDC.

By presenting such ridiculous arguments Congress and UML are trying to take confrontation path. HLPC is the collective demand of the party. It has nothing to do with what an individual leader thinks and what will happen to his or her role.

What can be the meeting point then? On what conditions will you give up HLPC demand?

Congress and UML should bring a clear road map to bring Mohan Baidya-led Maoist party into constitution process. Even now there is a deadlock in forming TRC. HLPC would be the right platform to resolve such deadlock.

What if they don’t? What will you do?

It all depends on how Congress and UML respond to our legitimate demands. Either they should convince us that HLPC is not needed, or admit that they made a mistake by signing the deal. They should tell us and the people why they agreed to form HLPC in December and what transpired in between not to implement it now. Otherwise, they cannot ignore our demands. We have made it clear that HLPC is not going to be above the CA, it will play reconciliatory and facilitative role in constitution and peace process. Congress and UML are trying to deny us the role that they themselves had agreed to accord.

You have just returned after attending the party meeting. What is the latest development?

It’s a kind of informal meeting. But it has been very inspiring and positive. Top leaders (Pushpa Kamal Dahal, Baburam Bhattarai and Narayankaji Shrestha) seriously discussed internal dynamics, issues of national and international politics, CA’s functioning and other things. Most importantly, the top leaders have admitted their shortcomings. They have become ready to find a common ground and move on together. This meeting could take us to the process of reconciliation similar to the one Chungbang conference had done in 2005. Of course, top leaders deserve thanks for this positive development but Congress and UML’s recent attempts to sideline us has played a key role in bringing the top leaders together. This meeting has also set a stage for top leaders to resolve their differences. There is a realization among top leaders that only united and consolidated UCPN (Maoist) will be able to withstand ruling parties’ highhandedness. The meeting agreed to reach out to all forces and work together in constitution making. It also discussed reaching out to Mohan Baidya faction and laying ground for coordination and possible unity. On the whole, the meeting has paved the way for taking the party and country’s politics toward the right direction.

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