"We have set an example by moving from bullet to ballot"
It’s not often that a prime ministerelect drives halfway
across town to meet a journalist for an interview. But that’s Prachanda, the 53-year-old Communist whose demeanour hides the fact that he is Nepal’s prime minister-in-waiting. He moves around in a heavily-protected Mahindra Scorpio with his guards drawn from the notorious Red Army as well as the Nepal Police. Despite winning only a third of the Constituent Assembly seats, the man instrumental in overthrowing Nepal’s 240-year-old monarchy is confident of dictating the politics of the world’syoungest republic. He spoke to me for more than an hour for Seedhi Baat on Aaj Tak channel. Excerpts:
Q. How did an underground leader like you manage to form a multi-party government in Nepal?
A. This is a new political model that we are trying to set up. We had decided in favour of a multi-party system some eight years ago. We are trying to evolve and change it according to changing times.
Q. Am I talking to the new prime minister or the President of the country? Will you still carry on with your violent ways?
A. Now that we have begun the peace process, resorting to violence is out of question. Until the provisions of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) chief PrachandaConstitution are laid down, you can call me the new prime minister.
Q. Who will have more power — the President or you?
A. The President will just be a ceremonial head. The executive powers will remain with the prime minister.
Q. Why don’t you appoint Girija Prasad Koirala as the President?
A. I have political and moral issues with appointing him as the President. We want a leader of his stature, who can bind the Assembly, represented by 25 parties, in a single agreement. He has to play an important role in doing that.
Q.Your party holds just one-third of the total seats in the Assembly but people say you are still very rigid.
A. Our stand is clear. We want to move together with the rest of the parties to form a Constitution. But as the largest party,we definitely have our say.
Q. Nepal is a country with a 99-per cent Hindu population. So why do you want to include the provision of a secular state in the Constitution?
A. Nepal accommodates people from all religions, castes and creed. Though Hindus are a majority, we have a considerable population of Buddhists and Christians. My only point is that the state should not interfere with religion.
Q. Why do you want to keep outfits like the Young Communist League alive?
A. Ever since we began the peace process, we have put the Peoples’ Liberation Army (PLA) cadre under state control. We plan to organise an orientation programme to address their problems.
Q. Have you lost faith in the Army?
A. It is not about faith. All this while, the Army had been loyal to the monarchy. Now that we are a republic, there will be changes in the Army too.
Q. Which economic model will your government want to follow?
A.We won’t follow the model of any nation. We will develop our own philosophy of a mixed economy. We can neither ignore the demands of globalisation, nor give in to them blindly.
Q. It seems you want to distance yourself from India. Why else would you review the Indo-Nepal Treaty of Peace and Friendship of 1950?
A. I don’t want to stay away from India. In fact, we want to build good relations. Nepal has changed a lot. So to keep pace with the changes, we need to change the treaty.
Q. One of your party leaders recently visited China, which gave an impression that you are close to it.
A. It’s not true. How does a small trip to China matter? Politically, we will maintain equidistance. We share geographical, historical and cultural relations with India which we can’t ignore.
Q. Will you allow your land to be used for terrorism against India?
A. Never. However, we will maintain good relations with Pakistan.
Q. The Maoists have been a troubling factor in India. Do you support them?
A. The way we have moved from the bullet to the ballot, we have set an example for the rest of the world.
Q. Would you request the Maoists in India to adopt the ballot?
A. I can’t ask them to do so but what we have achieved has given a strong message not only to Maoists in India but to those elsewhere in the world.
Q. Will your government order an inquiry into the Palace killings of 2001? Will you keep the King alive?
A. The fate of the King has been sealed. We had been considering the option of a graceful exit for the King which has finally been accomplished.
Q. You are keen to build close ties with India. But BJP recently passed a resolution saying that your government poses a threat to us.
A. We are not a threat to anybody. We want to build relations with India and with BJP too. We are planning to hold talks with BJP leaders L.K. Advani and Rajnath Singh. We want India and all its parties to support our new model of peace process.