Former Nepal prime minister Pushp Kamal Dahal, known to the world as ‘Prachanda’, was in India recently. The leader of CPN-Maoist, who had led a decade-long armed movement in Nepal before joining mainstream politics eight years ago, had been invited by New Delhi for consultations on the ongoing peace process and the writing of a new constitution for Nepal. In a freewheeling interview with Kalyani Shankar, Prachanda talks of his role in the peace process, of Maoism, of the mistakes he committed as prime minister of Nepal, the lessons he learnt and what he expects from India.
At one point of time you were known for having anti- India and pro- china views. How did you change?
In every communist group there will be an anti Indian sentiment. At that time all leaders were educated in that and so was I. Now I have realized that there are two giant neighbors and in our national interest we should have good relations with both India and China. We have to balance both. I think I have become a mature politician, (laughs)
Are Maoists relevant?
I think they have proved it from becoming a party of insurgency to a party of competitive politics. In this democratic process they have got the public support. The transformation was really difficult. It was easy to be insurgents than handle this whole system of competitive politics. It is more complicated, more difficult and more challenging.
When you became the Prime Minister, the whole world watched you. With all that goodwill how did you fail?
I think one of the basic things was that we were having very little experience as to how to handle this competitive politics. We were having very little experience in government. We began the transition with compromise with other parties. G.P. Koilrala and I were the signatories of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA.) After I became the leader of the largest party I should have given the presidency to G.P Koirala but we thought we were the largest party and did not let him have the presidency. There was this sort of subjectivism and it was a mistake. Then I took action against the chief of army at that time. After three months, he would have retired. But I was in a hurry and that action boomeranged on me. I had to resign. These kinds of mistakes were there. I am matured now and trying to take the synthesis of all the positive and negative things. Next time I will not commit such mistakes.
Do you ever regret that you had left the militant path?
Marxism and Leninism taught us to think in philosophical terms. The whole international situation, regional situation and our national situation will not permit us to do so and we will have to judge all the changes that had occurred all over the world. The basic motto is to serve the people. We have to understand the reality.
Mr. Prachanda, you said Nepal is in a delicate phase of transition in terms of peace process and also constitution making. What is the hitch and how can you overcome them?
Yes, Unfortunately Nepal is passing through a very long transition period and it has created so many difficulties and challenges in drafting the constitution. One unique issue is that Nepal’s constitution making process is directly linked to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA). Therefore it had created so many difficulties. Although there are many ups and downs, twists and turns ultimately we came to a compromise and we came to a consensus and drafted the constitution. The preliminary draft has already been finalized and now public hearing is going on. Although due to various problems it became late but I am very much hopeful that we will be able to declare the constitution and conclude the peace process. I think we will be able to complete it within a month.
How are you so confident?
It is because there is an understanding among the major political parties. Altogether the strength of these 4 major political parties is more than 90 per cent in the Nepal Constituent Assembly. We are trying it address some of the genuine issues of Madheshi and other people, particularly the boundary issues of the provinces and we are trying to create a positive atmosphere.
Are you confident of 100 per cent consensus on this?
We are trying our best and I am having continuous interaction with people who have some reservation in this preliminary draft, particularly with the Madeshi leaders. Before the 12-point agreement I had alliance with Madesh and Janajathi and I was the convener. Therefore I do not have any difficulty in having positive interaction with these people. In fact they are asking me to lead the process to declare the constitution with boundary issue resolved. Therefore I am hopeful.
Is this the process for you to come back as prime minister again?
Right now I am not thinking about this. I am trying to sort out the constitution making process. My priority is only to declare the constitution and to be the prime minister is very secondary issue and I am not thinking about that.
How difficult was it to achieve this federalism from monarchy to democracy to a federal character?
We are having four basic issues in the new constitution – One of the new features of the constitution is federalism -to transform the unitary society and unitary system into a federal system. It is a big jump and therefore it is a challenging job. The second thing is the republicanism; I think we should institutionalize it in the new constitution. The third is inclusiveness. It means proportional representation in all the state organs and even in the representative institutions. We have already decided that 33 percent of women will be in the legislature and that will be the necessary provision. . Without that it will not be legal. This is also a major achievement. . Therefore this one is also a major achievement. We are trying to have the same thing for oppressed community. The fourth one is the social justice. Only development will not satisfy the necessity of society. There should be asocial justice and development. There should be a balance between these two.
You met our leaders. What is the advice you got from them? In what way do you think India can help Nepal?
The whole peace process had begun in Delhi. India’s support was important and now we are going to conclude this process. We are again in Delhi and I am in discussion with different political parties. The response I got from your Foreign minister when I met her on Wednesday was that India was in favor of early declaration of Constitution and maximum consensus should be there. She committed India’s wholehearted support for it.
One last question. Is there a possibility of revival of monarchy?
No, That is not possible although some people think so. It is 100 per cent impossible. I don't think that it can happen.
A shorter, edited version of this interview appears in print