By Harsh Dobhal
25 September, 2007
This week, Maoists have resigned from the government after most governing parties opposed their demand that the monarchy be abolished before the elections scheduled in November. They have clearly accused PM Koirala and his Nepali Congress of trying to protect King Gyanendra and have warned to start a new “people’s revolt” for the abolition of monarchy. Maoists were quick to gather that conservative elements in political parties are gathering together. Other coalition partners contend that the decision about Nepal’s future political system should be decided by a special assembly after the November elections.
Having suffered for decades at the hands of a brutal, Royal Nepalese Army, armed police and king’s other security forces, the people of Nepal rose in millions during the April revolution last year with a clear objective in mind: abolition of the centuries-old monarchy.
Despite American, Chinese and Indian chess games of diplomacy, the people of Nepal succeeded in putting their stamp on history and the king was forced to retreat and give up his absolute and unlimited powers. As in all revolutions, there was always the danger that the forces of reaction would regroup and old hawks of Nepali politics will try to have their way.
After over a decade of underground struggle, Maoists came over ground, disarmed and joined the government with the Seven Party Alliance. They put forward a series of unprecedented proposals for the restoration of true democracy, the disarming of the militia and drafting of a new Constitution. It was a brave decision by Maoists to outline the roadmap for a brave new Nepal.
Maoists, as much as the people, were always clear that monarchy should have no place in Nepali politics, that the country should be immediately declared a Republic. They never had any doubt that Nepal needs a general election, having abolished monarchy where the most marginalized – the dalits, the adivasis, madhesis, vanvasis, women, minorities and other weaker sections – will have adequate representation.
At that time the move was seen as an end to their armed rebellion and this little, beautiful Himalyan nation appeared to be on the threshold of a new era. This week, Maoists have resigned from the government after most governing parties opposed their demands that the monarchy be abolished before the elections scheduled for November.
They have clearly accused Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala and his Nepali Congress of trying to protect King Gyanendra and have warned to start a new “people’s revolt” for the abolition of monarchy. Other coalition partners contend that the decision about Nepal’s future political system should be decided by a special assembly after the November elections.
The Maoists had earlier joined the interim government in April 2006, after signing a peace agreement with the government. The new developments simply signify the fact that Nepal’s politics has been slowly but steadily lapsing into complacency from such momentous changes that were paving the way for not just consistent and lasting democratisation of the State but also its secularisation from a declared only Hindu State.
Maoists were quick to gather that conservative elements in political parties are gathering together. However, these forces would be compelled to come to negotiation with Maoists as the tide might rise once again. Maoists may have lost some ground after April Revolution of last year, but they have enough base to win back that ground. And they know it, for otherwise none is going to be as hard hit by new developments as Maoists who had laid down their weapons at a time when the mood in Nepal was upbeat.
The crisis that had been gathering over Nepal howsoever surreptitiously during past few months bode ill for the Maoists. And, they had no option but to take a strong decision to quit the government. Koirala had sadly been missing this till the Maoists decided to part away with his dispensation. Even if the country goes to polls on November 22, the appeal of the Maoists would be powerful, as they have raised more basic issues than merely electing legislators. So it is in the best interest of the government and the people to see as to how the Maoists’ participation in not just polls but the political process is won back.
India has come under Nepalese ire, for Koirala has been blamed of toeing New Delhi’s line. Yet, the fact is that the Manmohan Singh Government is grappling with its own crisis where the Left is miffed by it over the nuclear issue and it lacks the kind of cohesion that it had until last year when the Nepal crisis was solved.
India can facilitate in solving a crisis in a neighbouring country like Nepal, but it can only ill afford to dictate anything to any one. The move by Maoists has raised fresh questions about the peace process and stability in Nepal. Will the feudal, pro-monarchy forces and their external patrons come together for maneuver? Does the political mainstream of Nepal now belong to these elements or to radical forces?
Is the spirit of the April revolution still lingering in the hearts of Nepalese people? Are some of the parties engaging in a conspiracy against the peoples’ aspirations and demands? The answers to these and many other questions will unfold in coming weeks and months.