Yuba Nath Lamsal
Ultimately it is the general populace that suffers the most when nation’s politics goes erratic and ceases to function on the basis of universally accepted democratic rules, norms and values. When democratic values and norms are trampled, it creates the situation that only leads to dictatorship. This is exactly the situation that had paved the way for the rise of Hitler in democratic Germany and Ferdinand Marcos in Philippines.
Germany’s Weimer constitution was one of the most democratic constitutions in the world. But under the same constitution, Hitler rose to power and unleashed his Nazi holocaust, a blot on the history of human civilization. The rulers in Germany infringed upon democratic and constitutional norms and values one after another under different pretext, which ultimately invited a great disaster on human civilization. Similarly, Ferdinand Marcos of Philippines was the most popular politician and a democratic icon in the beginning. However, power corrupted him so badly that he was later known as one of world’s worst dictator to be ultimately deposed by the same people, who had once rallied behind him. This is because people who went to power and exercised state authority tended to behave and act like divine authority forgetting their own past history but also ignoring and bypassing political and democratic norms and values.
Nepal’s democratic experiences and exercises also tend to meet similar fate that we frequently met in the past. Our leaders often talk tall about moral and democratic principles, values and norms. But once they go to power, they forget their promises and values they championed and bent on acting like a dynastic dictators or military administrators. This is the reason why the Nepalese people had to fight three decisive battles for democracy in 1951, 1990 and 2005. The parties and others often blame the monarchy for the failure of democracy in Nepal. This claim is, to a large extent, true because it was always the monarchy that trampled democracy and imposed authoritarian rule in Nepal. But the behavior and activities of the parties, too, are responsible for giving opportunity to the monarchs to play against democracy in Nepal.
The history of Nepal’s democratic polity is relatively young. It is only 63 years since we Nepalese people started exercising and experimenting democracy way back in 1951. After having been under the century old Rana’s family rule, Nepalese people rose against the oligarchic tyranny and were able to establish multi-party democracy in 1951 to be trampled by the king within ten years or in 1961. The decade-long period of democratic Nepal from 1951 to 1961 was marked by a height of instability and frequent change of governments with parties and leaders fighting badly against one another. The parties and leaders had little or almost no experience of democratic governance and they could not fully cope with the new democratic dispensation. Had it been for merely a couple of years after the establishment of democracy, it would have been tolerable. But the parties kept on repeating mistakes and bent merely on partisan and personal benefits and blaming one another. Most of the parties were used by the monarchy and some diligently offered their services, willingly or out of ignorance, to the monarch to play against democracy. However, the largest political force the Nepali Congress, which had led the 1950 revolution, failed to grasp the situation and its consequence and also could not bring other democratic political forces together for the cause of democracy, stability and development in the country. Instead, the Congress leaders themselves got bogged down in a nasty power struggle within the party that ultimately led to the split in the Nepali Congress. The commander of 1951 revolution, Matrika Prasad Koirala, not being able to retain his leadership and upper hand in the Nepali Congress in the leadership rivalry with his younger brother BP Koirala, chose to split the Nepali Congress party and aligned with the king. Despite winning a landslide ( two-thirds) victory in the first ever parliamentary election for forming its own government headed by BP Koirala, Nepali Congress was unable to curtail and contain king’s ambition and power that ultimately turned out fatal not only to the Nepali Congress itself but to the country, people and the nascent democracy.
Emboldened by fraction ridden politics and lack of unity among democratic forces, king Mahendra disbanded the democratically elected government of the Nepali Congress and its prime minister in less than two years in power. This was a black day in Nepal’s democratic history that continued for three decades in the name Panchayat under direct rule of the king only to be brought down through a popular movement in 1990. The political change in 1990 that restored multi-party democracy, too, saw highly partisan politics in Nepal mainly between two forces the rightist Nepali Congress and the communists or the CPN-UML. Saddled on power through popular vote in the first parliamentary election after 1990 political change, the Nepali Congress adopted ultra capitalist and rightist economic policies that disillusioned the majority of the poor people. Although, the CPN-UML was elected to power in the second parliamentary election, this party, too, failed to offer genuine alternative policies, except some cosmetic and minor populist programmes. In the meantime, a radical communist party launched an armed insurgency against the state with its declared policy and objective of establishing a one-party republican communist state in a model China did in 1949 led by Mao Zedong under the banner of the Chinese Communist Party. The monarchy that had lost power in the wake of popular movement in 1990 found the state of mayhem caused mainly by the decade-long armed insurgency that had virtually taken control almost 85 per cent of the country’s territories a good ground to take back the lost power. King Gyanendra finally chose to gamble by again taking over power marginalizing political parties, which proved costly not only to Gyanendra himself but to over 240 year old institution of monarchy itself. Gyanendra’s political misadventure of 21st century provided a ground for agitating parliamentarian parties and the insurgent guerilla group or the Maoists to join hand and launch a decisive battle against the monarchy that ultimately dump the 240 year Nepal’s Shah monarchy into the trash of history.
This is how the present state of republican system was ushered in Nepal which is in the phase of formally being institutionalized. But the state of uncertainty, confusion and skepticism still loom large in Nepal’s political horizon. The last six years following the Jana Andolan II have virtually gone wasted as we saw no concrete political achievements on institutionalizing the achievements of the popular uprising. There were two fundamental tasks to be accomplished during the last six years. These two central tasks included formally concluding the peace process and promulgating the new constitution incorporating all the achievements and agendas of Jana Andolan. But our parties have failed in both of these tasks. The peace process is half-baked, while the constitution writing process has just re-started. But the parties that are supposed to settle these issues at the earliest are at loggerheads on non-issue of government formation and the ministerial portfolios. This is a glaring example where our parties’ priorities lie. This may be an indication that they are not willing to give a country a constitution within the period they have promised.
As priorities of the people distracted, people’s worries are multiplying. People have already suffered multiple burdens and problems owing to instability and anarchy. If the bizarre state of politics was not settled at the earliest by resolving all the contentious issues and giving the country a new constitution based on national consensus, the country’s future is bound to be doomed permanently. In such a situation, people may rise again to revolt against the present political actors and look for an alternative force and system. The political parties are, therefore, required to visualize this scenario and act in a responsible manner. But the way the Nepali Congress and the CPN-UML are behaving and acting by bypassing other forces and parties both within and outside the Constituent Assembly, they are not willing to give the country a new constitution to be acceptable for all sections and sectors of the country but merely want to enjoy government’s perks and positions by sharing power. It seems power is the fundamental driving force for these parties but not the people and the country. This state of situation may invite yet another storm in our politics.