Monday, November 28, 2005

Phone Talk With Madhav Nepal, Hridayesh Tripathy

I just got off the phone. Two days back I had called a whole bunch of them: Madhav K. Nepal, Arjun Nar Singh KC, Lilamani pokharel, Amik serchan, Dr.Minendra Rijal, Hridayesh Tripathy, and Narayan Man Bijukchhe. But I had not been able to get hold of any of them. They were all out of town for political work.

Today I called two of them: Madhav K. Nepal and Hridayesh Tripathy. I was able to get hold of both of them.

Madhav Nepal was concerned that some Nepali organization in the US had come out opposing the 12 point agreement between the seven parties and the Maoists and was getting a lot of media coverage. I informed him that was a minor organization I had never heard of. "There are Mandales also in the US, but they are few in number." I just emailed him the NAC statement that came out in support.

Nepal was pleased with the recent statement from Seantor Leahy. He said it would be really helpful if other Senators, Governors and prominent US political figures similarly put out statements. He also wished there were similar statements from prominent UN people.

He complained the regime had gone out of its way to obstruct recent UML rallies.

"If there is a military crackdown, that would be a violation of international laws, and you all should be seeking ways to get lawyers to take the king to the International Criminal Court, because as head of the government, it would be his direct responsibility," Nepal said.

He said people in the hundreds of thousands are going to show up for the rallies down the line. Both the UML and the Congress have elaborate programs. The fear among the people has been dissipating. We are woking to get 400,000 people out in Janakpur, he said.

I asked about fundraising at this end. He was not against the idea, but the transparency part was not a good idea, he said. It would not look good for the seven parties to present a budget. If we were to set up a joint bank account, the government will likely seize it, he said.

But his major emphasis was on getting moral support.

I asked him about the House reinstatement issue. I asked if all seven parties were solidly behind it. He said there was no disagreement, and the UML was behind it for unity. But he said there were problems. The UML would prefer a national conference to be the starting point. But it is okay with a reinstated House as the starting point. If the House is reinstated, those who want to retain the 1990 constitution might gain the upper hand, the king might get to play games through parties. But the House revival issue is not an issue of contention between the Congress and us, Nepal emphasized.

I asked who the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister will be when the all party government is formed. He said that has not been decided yet, and that the UML will not hold the coalition hostage on the issue. Our struggle is for democracy, not for a chair. I asked if that means it will be Girija Koirala. Nepal said Koirala has himself said he is not eager, that he has held the chair many times, and his health is also failing.

I expressed my gratitude to him and to the seven party coalition for all it was doing.

Then I got to talk to Hridayesh Tripathy. I spent quite some time with him in the years before I came over to the US. He is sharp and funny.

I asked him also about the House revival idea. He called it a departure point. He said that was a way to make sure the king does not get an excuse to openly step outside the constitution. But he emphasized a movement tends to be dynamic in character. As it gathers strength there could come a point when the seven parties might ditch the House idea and seek another. Those decisions can not be taken now.

I asked if the House is to be revived, how would it come about? His answer: the movement will. This is not an issue in legality. This is to be a political decision. There is no need for total clarity now. During the course of the movement, things become clear as per the developments.

He kept emphasizing the point that a movement is not a static thing, it is dynamic. It is not like an architect drawing the plan for a building. There are too many variables along the way. It is not possible to have all the clarity at this very moment.

I asked who the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister will be in the all party government. He said that has not been discussed, and that it is not important to discuss that now.

"Nepalis have the tendency to want all or nothing," he said.

He called the February 8 elections "an acid test." If the king can successfully conduct elections, the parties are going to find themselves in a tight spot from the global powers.

I asked if there were any plans to do what got done in Ukraine last year. No, not yet, he said. The impression I got was right now the emphasis was to warm things up. People are slowly coming out in the open. There is this buildup. You have to go with that flow. You can't get too far ahead of the people.

Then we talked about the recent 12 point agreement between the Maoists and the parties. He said it was but an outline for a lot of serious homework that still needed doing. In another 10-15 days the Maoists and the parties might still get in dialogue mode. The problem has been a lack of trust. The most important thing is that trust is being built. That is the achievement.

Tripathy no longer thinks in terms of the four point agenda of the seven parties that came out months back. To him now there is this 12 point program between the eight parties. The four point agenda has been digested into this new document.

"This is not the work of the indoor revolutionaries," he said.

I asked if the palace has shown any signs of reacting positively to the agreement. The king is abroad, and we really don't intend to pay attention to the servants, he said.

Then I asked him about the moral and logistical support the Nepali diaspora can extend to the movement. He said most of the work to do with the movement is political in nature, it happens at the level of ideas. Logistical support is not exactly in high demand, he suggested.

This was my first conversation ever with Nepal. But with Tripathy I have a history. There were times when I sensed some anxiety in Tripathys' voice, as he felt more comfortable with me. I brought up the topic of there being two standing armies when the country goes through a constituent assembly. Old institutions will fall, new ones will take shape, he said.

The bottomline is both Nepal and Tripathy played a key role in bringing forth the 12 point agreement. This is not the end product. This is but a framework for trust building. This is the first time the Maoists have formally agreed to a multi-party democracy. They have to be commended. It could not have been easy.

Another bottomline is the seven party coalition leads the movement and Nepal and Tripathy both are key people, the rest of us are in support. They are doing the very best they can under extremely difficult circumstances. We have to exhibit a lot of patience with them, especially those of us at this end in the US.

I hope to talk to both and to others down the line. I just opened up a channel of communication. And I am not going to be reporting on all conversations either. My work is not journalism. What I am doing is political work.

In The News

BBC 103 FM returns to airwaves NepalNews
CPN-UML warns Govt. of ICC action
Issue passport to women without discrimination: SC
US criticizes the govt’s raid on Radio Sagarmatha
Their Majesties inspect Nepali peacekeeping force in Burundi
Journos, activists take out rally; 'Radio can resume its transmission': Minister Shahi
56 parties registered at Election Commission
Radio Sagarmatha moves SC against govt action
Britain cautiously welcomes alliance-Maoist pact
All four Radio Sagarmatha journos freed
US denounces govt crackdown on media in Nepal Outlook (subscription), India
Our loss in Nepal Daily Pioneer, India
Dipta Shah: The 12-Point Agenda – A Summary (press release)
Let the monarchy pass into history Economic Times
Political Pact With Maoists Could Checkmate King Inter Press Service (subscription)
Talk to Maoists at Your Level: Nepal Tells Dist UML Leaders Himalayan Times, Nepal

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