The Maoist led coalition government has recently been receiving a spate of international visitors, including most recently the foreign ministers of our two immediate neighbors, India and China, amidst unsettling national security issues related to the political integration of the Maoist ex-militia into the national disciplined forces which suddenly has become a universal concern. It seems not only Nepali political parties, even our close neighbors, India and China, besides traditional friends such as the US, the EU and the UN are now awaiting a positive democratic resolution to this and other leadership issues in enhancing the democratic foundations of Nepal, by seeking an inclusive dialogue that must be concluded soon.
Nepal´s Maoists scored a remarkable victory in the Nepal CA Poll 2008, and what was most significant about it was that it left larger forces such as the Nepali Congress completely mesmerized and defeated. Today NC is again in the midst of another major leadership crisis where it seeks to mainstream its own democratic norms, amidst rising voices within and globally, such as here in the United States, calling for party reforms and the need to give the younger generation a more responsible voice ( a recent meeting in New York that I was invited to vindicated that impression to me.) At the other end, the Maoists are also exhibiting their true ‘democratic’ character by criticizing their party from within such as the two recently proposed versions of a Nepali Republic that was hotly proposed in competition by Prachanda and Baidya bifurcated supporters. Amidst such national politicking, a new social political revivalism is also taking place among the former moderate democratic forces led by Kamal Thapa from the Rastriya Prajatantra Party, which has shown increasing populist sentiments calling for the revival of Monarchy, if not the active leadership of ex-King Gyanendra on national issues. The UML in contrast continues showing its preference for a staunch center left leadership coalition government aimed at eventually replacing the Maoists, albeit with international moral and political support, if it can garner both!
Who will be victorious in this competitive political setting? What is most significant is while some such as the victorious Maoists are getting better every day using the carrot and stick approach, others continue reeling in the pain of defeat, such as the NC. Most Nepalis globally, including some prominent voices who have exchanged views with this writer in the last few months in the global Nepali diaspora, expect the Maoists to emerge as a single majority party in Nepal in the days and months to come, be it a democratic or a revived Panchayatist type republic. Nepal’s Maoists are also expected to continue working towards old sixties style centrist governance system with the 601 seat Constituent Assembly serving more effectively as a lame duck institution than able to move forward quickly in writing a new Constitution. However, there is also the burning issue in the Nepali academic community on the need to steer a new Nepali foreign policy based on strict Pancasila neutrality ( the guiding principle of yesteryear, reminiscent of the days of late King Mahendra, which the Maoists also whole heartedly subscribe to!)
Neither should one underestimate the new Terai parties set up to liberate the Terai folks given that the federalism debate has been left out in the open more for the academic and media community to pursue since Prachanda speaks less of it these days emphasizing more the word ‘republic’ . The Madhesi Janadhikar Forum (MJF) and Terai Madhes Loktantrik Party (TMLP) have, for instance, shown promises of doing better to evoke stronger Terai participation in national governance, but how? Well, it is more than a coincidence that late King Mahendra appointed Bed Nanda Jha, who headed the Rastriya Panchayat at one time, as his effective envoy in India without such debates ever having arisen! The Nepal Workers and Peasants Party (NWPP) the People’s Front and Nepal Sadbhavana Party (NSP) are also claiming to represent indigenous groups in the Constituent Assembly but their agenda too seems diluted.
Thus, the larger question that belies the current Nepali political undercurrent, is whether ex-King Gyanendra who has remained quiet so far, will eventually choose to return back at national center stage, this time with a loose democratic coalition that could surprise many seasoned Nepali political veterans. He has after all expressed his regret over the incidents that led to Jan Andolan -2 and the people have forgiven him, given the geo-political realities of the ex-Himalayan Kingdom and what lit the candle then. It is no strange coincidence these days, therefore, that an interesting political rumor is being floated in the Kathmandu diplomatic circle of the ex-Monarch’s eventual political accommodation through democratic populist leadership to effectively shape national affairs to impact a positive outcome. At this moment, Nepal might not be affected so much by the global recession, given the excellent arrivals figures of foreign tourists, but certainly most Nepali people look forward to some democratic political resolution to the current impasse, whoever chooses to lead, and many in the villages and urban townships prefer the ex-King to any other leader.
One should not forget, in Nepal’s past 12 year history, more than 10 years were spent fighting a civil conflict for the inclusive democratic rights of all Nepalis, which today seems more difficult to achieve. Thus, some reckon, the Maoists’ recent political sweep through the Constituent Assembly elections is a major democratic transformation whereby Leftist rebels have for the first time been inducted into a major democratic governance structure globally.
The truth is, various senior NC leaders have also been acknowledging at the same time that they failed to both muster and master the ´republican´ agenda in endorsing the Maoists agenda blindly not knowing that it could have just been a placebo pill or a political trick to rob them off their own former BPist line of thinking. NC was in fact better off carrying Monarchy on its back! The Maoists in essence by stating the word ´republican´ appeared to be hinting at more self-oriented nationalistic thinking in Nepali politics whereby they would be leading national affairs.
Most importantly, the Maoists had warned four months before the CA Polls that there was always the danger of an authoritarian takeover from within the former Seven Party Alliance, what they termed a democratic coup in the making led by Nepali Congress to return the ex-guerillas to the jungle. That fortunately did not happen and proved a passable joke.
However, the second prophecy of Prachanda still awaits its political realization. Namely, that Nepal could see the emergence of one powerful leader in the near future who would have the inborn Machiavellian traits of Janga Bahadur Rana combined with the peaceful, kind strength of a patient Buddha, someone who could protect the country´s national interests, democratic growth, territorial integrity, national sovereignty, and also mould the old cultural values with new social transformation. Was Prachanda hinting at someone special since he is now admitting these days that it is hard to defeat the old mind set which infuses the bureaucracy than fighting a guerilla war and he is not that figure? If so, that mystical figure must now brace himself to contemplate participating in democratic Nepali politics to lead a new Nepal. This must, of course, all happen within the constitutional framework and by devising a new constitution in the near future that the Nepali people can truly consider their own. No time must be lost in this effort for all democratic forces in Nepal to garner their support to an able leadership berth that supports the Nepali people’s true aspirations for democracy with vibrant economic growth and sound national security inherent to such a noble challenge. Let history repeat itself more wisely this time.
(Surya B. Prasai is an independent global strategic communications, media, and international development professional who writes frequently for this and other American and global media networks such as Google and Yahoo News Global).