|| The nation’s mood after the second People’s Movement of April 2006 was one of unbridled euphoria. After a little over six years now, the atmosphere is one of sullenness. Recently, many people in Nepal were glued to their television sets to watch the recorded interview of former King Gyanendra Shah conducted by journalist Prem Baniya.
The next day, Nepali newspapers emblazoned the interview not because of the popular backlash or the political recovery of the former King, but due to people’s frustration with the current state of political, economic, social and security problems of the country. Political infightings, failure to promulgate the constitution, economic stagnancy, differences in federalism issues and law and order problems have engulfed us and added to people’s disillusionment.
During the course of the interview Gyanendra Shah said, “The seven political parties that were agitating on 24 April 2006 had agreed to retain monarchy.” Some political leaders, including Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai, reacted predictably to this statement. All of them called Gyanendra Shah “a liar” and labeled his statements baseless. They also challenged Shah to make the document public. Bhattarai went a step further and warned Shah that the government would withdraw all the facilities that the state has accorded to him, if he continued with such propaganda.
Emboldened by the crowd that had come to meet him during his three-district religious tour, Gyanendra Shah, during the course of the interview, said the people’s palpable disenchantment with the current state of the country was a clear indication of their desire for an alternative setup. Throughout the interview, he focused on the failure of the current government and emphasized the need for a solution to bring this chaotic situation to an end.
At a time when the government is just a caretaker one, and serious political differences continue to exist between various parties, it is natural for Gyanendra Shah to point a finger at our political set-up and emphasize on the failures of democratic governments. And given that the current chaotic situation is likely to continue, the voice of the former King would grow louder and will perhaps be heard even more often.
Currently, Gyanendra is a regular Nepali citizen, who had once held the high office for less than five years, during tumultuous circumstances. Though he now claims he might have the copy of the agreement of the then agitating political parties about retaining monarchy, he should in fact have raised this point when various political parties, before the elections to the Constituent Assembly, were discussing transforming the country into a republic. He, however, didn’t utter a single word when he was stripped off all his royal powers and facilities. Thus, the prime minister may not be wrong in saying that Gyanendra has been trying to benefit from the current political situation when political parties are in disarray.
However, apart from threatening to withdraw all facilities available to him, Prime Minister Bhattarai should also have warned Gyanendra that he could even be put behind bars if he continues to disseminate wrong and baseless messages to people in the veil of religious tours. Mere withdrawal of facilities will not make any difference to the former King. Rather, it may elevate his standing at the moment.
His dream to serve as a guardian of the country as a King shows Shah’s impatient wish to restore monarchy. This dream can easily be shattered if political parties get their act together and strive for a better tomorrow. Unity and consensus among major political parties on national issues, economic development, and law and order situations are the imperatives of the present day.
When the CA, which was supposed to deliver a constitution within two years of its election, failed to deliver even in four years, people started losing faith in political leaders. Had there been a constitution to guide the country, inter- and intra-party clashes would have been considered as signs of the evolution of a democratic system.
Given the government is a caretaker one and differences between parties persist, it is natural for Gyanendra to point finger at politicians and emphasize on failures of democracy.
However, despite all these odds, we must appreciate the fact that Nepalis are still marching towards democracy. We are still hoping that the caretaker government of Baburam Bhattarai would soon pave the way for a consensus democratic government that would forestall the possibility of any kind of return to a totalitarian system.
It is a matter of utter shame that Bhattarai continues as prime minister, even after the President has tagged the present government as a caretaker one and when the clamor for his stepping down is growing with each day. But for a communist, there is no word like shame. Lies and doublespeak seem to be the philosophy of communism while ruling a country and the UCPN (Maoist) in Nepal is applying the same tactics. UCPN (Maoist) has repeatedly exhibited that it can’t tolerate any challenge, not even a robust political debate.
Democracy can survive only when there is rule of law. It cannot take root in a country plagued by political, economic and social chaos in the present-day Nepal. Once known for its promising democratic transaction, Nepal is now on the brink of destruction after the dissolution of the CA and the power grab by the UCPN (Maoist).
Given the present political, economic and social scenario, the seeming tranquility in Nepal seems like a farce. Political convulsions have already rocked the country for more than four years now and if the chaos persists, many voices like that of the former King’s will be heard. Any ray of hope, for now, seems distant.
The author is former foreign secretary