Rallies and rhetoricsRuling and opposition parties should now return to the negotiation table
There were a number of things that were interesting about the mass rally organised by the alliance of opposition parties on Saturday. First of all, it was different in nature from the last major assertion of power undertaken by the Maoists in May 2010 while in opposition. In 2010, the mood among the protestors was very militant. They imposed a shutdown throughout the Valley with the threat of force. Many aggressive cadre members acted as though the Maoists were going to capture state power. This time, however, the mood was much more conciliatory. There was very little inflammatory rhetoric on show. The UCPN (Maoist) did not impose a general strike. The general movement of people across town continued even as the rally took place. This demonstrates that the Maoists has matured in their tactics in recent years, and now recognise that causing unnecessary trouble to the public is not a good strategy. We hope that Nepali politics continues to evolve in a way where the opposition’s reliance on violent and intimidatory tactics steadily diminishes.
It was also interesting that the Maoist leaders sounded very different from only a few years ago. There was very little orthodox Maoist rhetoric on display this time. Rather, it was the presence of the diverse crowd representing various cultural and ethnic groups that determined the tenor of the event. Much of the mass meeting consisted of dances and songs performed by troupes representing the cultures of Nepal’s myriad communities. These performances helped transform the purely political nature of the event into a celebration of Nepal’s diversity. On one level, the event was a reminder by the opposition that they still had the strength of numbers to pressure the ruling parties into negotiating a constitution through consensus. On another level, the various performances at the event showed that Nepal is a country of diverse groups which aspire to be represented by the state.
Now that the rally is over, it is time for the ruling and opposition parties to return to the negotiation table. The large number of people evident at the rally demonstrated that the ruling parties need to take heed of the opposition. At the same time, it is evident that the opposition cannot push through a constitution of their own choosing. There is no option but to reach a compromise. It is heartening that informal negotiations have continued between the leaders of the parties in recent days. Various ideas have been floated about how to resolve the deadlock. With the opposition’s rally behind us, the parties should again take the negotiation process through formal channels, such as via the Political Dialogue and Consensus Committee, and make all efforts to reconcile their differences.