When Expediency Collides With Propriety

If we want to get to the root of today’s malaise, we need to shine more light on what was actually agreed on that fateful day in April nine years ago.

By Maila Baje

Rumbles of realignment on the right and the left have instilled some specificity in the latest response of former prime minister Madhav Kumar Nepal to ex-king Gyanendra Shah’s allusion of a behind-the-scenes political deal in April 2006.

The Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist-Leninist (CPN-UML) leader and senior-most living opposition participant in negotiations with the palace now admits there had been a proposal to install a ‘baby king’, which he rubbished. In fairness, Comrade Nepal insists that the only thing that could be called a deal was the one between the monarch and agitating parties on transferring sovereignty to the people.

Expediency-ProprietyStill, his latest clarification poses new questions against the backdrop that republicanism, secularism and federalism were not on the agenda of the April Uprising. The concept of a ‘baby king’, enunciated by Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala, came way after Baburam Bhattarai’s spoke of retaining a ‘cultural monarchy’ and Koirala’s own articulation of the necessity of providing ceremonial space to the palace.

What is also beyond dispute is that the monarch restored the parliament and appointed Koirala prime minister on the basis of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Nepal 1990. Koirala, too, took the oath from the king on that basis and formed the cabinet that would negotiate a comprehensive peace agreement with the Maoists.

Thus, the subsequent sidelining of the king, the supplanting of the 1990 Constitution and the surfeit of sub-deals made on the basis of an interim basic law were the outcomes of political expediency. If the monarch felt he had been betrayed in any way, the national mood was not conducive for him to express his feelings. Any injustice could be addressed if and when the tide turned.

The mainstream parties and the Maoists continued to argue over who should get the real credit for bringing down the monarchy. Scant attention was paid to the imperative of devising a successor institution to the monarchy that could not only preside over a diverse state but also navigate the geopolitical pressures of an unstable neighborhood that was fundamentally susceptible to extra-regional dynamics. For the people, ‘new Nepal’ was not supposed to be limited to the emergence of new potentates.

Similarly, the argument over how many provinces Nepal should have proceeded before we could ever sufficiently debate whether Nepal needed to be federalized to mainstream the marginalized. The urge to identify Nepal’s Hindu identity within the narrow confines of the monarchy simply ignored how religion had established itself as a way of life.

With the political tides shifting directions, outcomes of expediency have now stood starkly before the imperatives of feasibility, legality and propriety. There is a semblance of seriousness in the political establishment – but only a semblance. On the right, the two Rastriya Prajatantra Party factions have initiated the process of unity, as have the two principal Maoist factions. The spur, however, is weak. Could a common desire to restore Hindu statehood be enough to unify the monarchist and republican factions on the right? Or have the internal fissures in each propelled their quest for proximity?

The Pushpa Kamal Dahal and Mohan Baidya factions of the Maoists, we were told, were ideologically incompatible and therefore worthy of separate existence. What happened during these past months and weeks that the third largest elected party is now working to reunite with the faction that boycotted the second constituent assembly election and still officially sees that body as an obstacle to a new constitution?

The Nepali Congress and the CPN-UML have been a conglomeration of factions ever since each realized the damage formal splits had inflicted on them. So their internal dynamics can play out less conspicuously.

If we want to get to the root of today’s malaise, we need to shine more light on what was actually agreed on that fateful day in April nine years ago.

Source: www.nepalinetbook.blogspot.com


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