History is evidence that whenever there is a prolonged political deadlock, an autocratic ruler has emerged. The political instability after the death of King Rana Bahadur Shah gave the birth to Bhimsen Thapa who installed an autocratic regime for 31 years. Junga Bahadur Rana came to power following the Kot massacre on the eve of the palace conspiracy, and his autocratic regime remained in power for over a hundred years in Nepal. The debate over the Constituent Assembly election and the formation of an elected government carried on for eight years after the first popular movement of 1950, and taking advantage of the prolonged transitional period, King Mahendra imposed the autocratic party-less Panchayat system for 30 years in Nepal.
It has been six years since the second popular movement took place in 2006 and while the CA election was a success, other aspects of the peace process have been stalled. The failure to evolve a consensus on major issues like state restructuring and governance models have brought the country to a standstill and the deep-rooted mistrust/misunderstanding and ideological differences between political parties have added to this stagnancy. If this deadlock is prolonged further, there is a possibility of some autocratic rule emerging to fill this vacuum. So, democracy must be institutionalized at the earliest in Nepal.
As an understanding, state power gets transformed if a consensus could not be established in the basic agenda of the democracy. Autocracy generally does not come suddenly; it is a psychosomatic phenomenon which affects the minds of the people slowly and steadily. The rise of a personality who can cash in on the sentiments of the people cannot be stopped if the mood of the people is not correctly read by politicians. The outcome of such an event will be devastating for the society and for its evolution as a sustainable democracy. Similarly, political consensus cannot be achieved if one party claims the sole credit of fighting for people’s liberation and others presume that the present settlement of disputes has happened because of their efforts.
In the present context, one cannot believe that the Maoists and the Nepali Congress (NC) can arrive at any consensus. In order to have a better understanding, it is imperative to know each other’s bottom line. NC leaders clearly know the Maoists will never give them the benefit of doubt. Because of this, NC leaders were hesitating to integrate Maoist ex-combatants in bulk. This stance should not be considered as degrading the standard of the ex-combatants. The ex-combatants are well motivated militias, groomed for political struggles with a definite ideology. The national army comprises professional soldiers with national ethics and values.
The illegal possession of public and private properties by the Maoists is a complex issue that needs to be addressed. Like freedom to expression, possession of wealth through legal means is also a fundamental right of a citizen provided by the constitution of the country. The issue of scrapping the paramilitary structure of the Young Communist League (YCL) is a practical issue for Maoists, rather than a theoretical problem, which the party is unwilling to address. Further, the establishment of Ichchhuk Cultural Academy—an organization of volunteers of the CPN-Maoist party—will produce a large number of cultural combatants as per its Chairman Mohan Baidya’s statement to protect the deteriorating feeling of national independence, which may further complicate the situation in Nepal.
Maoists’ compulsions are mainly related to their ideological base; hence if they had failed to integrate the ex-combatants, the decade long Maoist rebellion would not have got the status of being a ‘people’s war’. Hence, the Maoists are pushing the integration process. If the seized properties are returned, it may go against the interests of the proletariat or the marginalized group on whose support they reached these heights.
In reality, Maoist leaders are not in a position to move freely without having the protection of their selected loyal YCL cadres. As a fact, the political understanding for consensus should be basically between the NC and the Maoists since this animosity is more beneficial to those elements that are not in favor of a democratic Nepal.
If the political deadlock in Nepal is prolonged further, there is possibility of emergence of an autocratic regime emerging to fill the vacuum.
This lack of consensus among political parties to agree on some contentious issues needs careful analysis. There is an acute ideological difference basically between the Maoists and the Nepali Congress. UML also has some differences but at times, adopts a meddlesome character for its advantage. Madhesi parties are self centric and power hungry. Pro-royalist parties are also uniting under the banner of a democratic alliance. All political powers are mostly trying to get some space and hold some position, which they want to retain forever.
The logical end of the peace process, including the promulgation of a new constitution is a challenge the political parties must step up to face. Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai’s declaration of fresh elections for a new CA is mired in controversy right now and other political parties accuse him of using this as a tool to remain in power.
A majority of Nepalis accept the fact that the earlier consensus was broken once Bhattarai dissolved the CA. Absence of consensus on major issues of power sharing, state-restructuring as well as the governance model and the overall failure to promulgate a new constitution will inherently lead the country towards becoming a failed state. And, in such a scenario, a new autocratic rule may just emerge.
The writer is a Ph D scholar in conflict management