What did “the people” gain?
The current state of affairs naturally begs the question as to what the Nepalese people have gained by bringing the Maoists into the “mainstream”? The absence of war, as we all know, is not peace. The party-leaders are comfortably ensconced in their ministerial berths with associated privileges while the people are left high-and-dry to face the city-dwelling guerrillas.
We have no services, no security, and no future to look forward to. The fates of 26 million Nepalese have been held hostage to the whims of a senile old man operating out of his bedroom in Baluwatar. Every little decision requires the attention of His Healthiness Prime Minister Girija himself in his Baluwatar Durbar.
As far as centralization of power goes, even Rana prime ministers couldn’t have done better, and yet we are told we have "loktantra!" The "lok" fends for itself while the leaders divvy up the spoils of the state, is all that "loktantra" has meant for us.
The existence of parliament is a farce. The parliamentarians haven’t been able to go back to their constituencies. Anytime any party organizes an event in the districts they’re chased away by the legitimized guerillas. So to say that “the people” are being “represented” is but a cruel joke.
In fact, the parliament only exists to rubber-stamp decisions taken by the top leaders of the eight-party oligarchy behind closed doors. If the army is to be accused of being a royal lapdog, then the parliament is no more than a poodle to the EPA’s corrupt and crooked leaders.
Most recently, of course, the tactics of the street has infiltrated into the parliament as well. As the parliament remains disrupted for months, Maoists must quietly be building up the case to eventually dissolve it as inept and pointless, a charge that cannot in honesty be denied.
They’re in no hurry to do this yet though, as they still need to use their poodle to legitimize their yet-to-come illegitimacies. But once the parliament has outlasted its use, we can depend on the Maoists to deepen the turmoil so as to convince the people that a parliamentary system will never deliver peace, stability or prosperity.
Make no mistake, the current chaos and anarchy is in the interests of no one save the Maoists. State failure was their original objective. Despite being in government now they only wish to use their position, by their own admission, to pursue their original goals. Hence, we’re further away from our goals (peace, stability, prosperity) and even democracy than we’ve ever been before.
The balancing ballast
It’s about time we faced it. The “peace process” is going nowhere. Even if the CA elections are held, even if they are held fairly, and even if the Maoists get their desired result i.e. a republic, do we seriously believe that we will have peace? The Maoists’ struggle—once limited to the jungles, and slowly receding—will continue all over the nation, and we’ll continue to suffer with it.
At a time when the rest of South Asia and neighboring China is booming, Nepalese will watch as brainwashed youngsters from the jungles mangle this country. We will watch as party cadres challenge each other in street-fights while “revolutionary” leaders drive away foreign investors and donors alike, as is already happening. By the time the Maoists (and let’s not forget the SPA) learn their lessons we will have been left far, far behind by the rest of the world including our neighbors.
Increasingly it is turning out that the king and army, for all their other flaws, were right all along about the true intent and nature of the Maoists. It is clear as day by now that the CA elections demand was just a trick. No party really wants it, and the Maoists have even admitted it.
In their own words, the Maoits don’t really care about the CA elections as long as they get a republic! The People’s War was never really about people’s sovereignty, just about parties’ power. The king and army had enough sense to see this. And they were also cautious that the CA elections could open more problems than it might resolve.
Suspecting the commitments of the Maoists, and divining the complexity of CA elections they had offered the alternative of holding parliamentary elections first, which if held, would have delivered a legitimate government by now. This would have instilled faith in the legitimate method of getting to government: through the votes of the people, as opposed to revolution from the jungles or streets. This method would have reinforced the concept of people’s sovereignty, not the might of little interest groups. The process of transforming the state could have proceeded much more smoothly through this route.
But the parties, goaded by the “peaceful-solution” beatniks, of course, fell into the Maoists’ trap. Turns out even Lenin had a name for such helpers: “useful idiots”. Nepal’s “idiots”, however, have proved not only Lenin right, but Gyanendra too. You can beat that man, Gyane, as much as you like, but it doesn’t change the fact that he was after all right about the Maoists.
In fact, he was right about the parties too. The parties don’t have it in them to resolve the Maoist crisis. They’ve given up way too much to the Maoists and got back way too little in return. After pleading to the people that they wouldn’t repeat their “mistakes” we’re back to the ugliest form of 1990s politics, the raison d’étre for the Maoist insurgency.
More than a year after Gyanendra gave up power yielding to the “SPA’s roadmap to peace”, we can finally be sure that such a roadmap never existed, it has not been chalked out in the one-year since, and it never will be. The only roadmap that exists, if any, is that of the Maoists. This nation is an 8-captain ship on its stormy voyage to utopia (read nowhere).
The fact that we haven’t sunk yet, and probably will not soon, ironically, is owing to the one institution whose demise is gaining ground by the day. The person of king Gyanendra may have screwed up, but the institution of monarchy is holding this nation together. Every time the wrangling captains are ready to sink the ship, the disciplining factor of so-called regressive takeover plays the balancing ballast delivering the ship through the tidal wave. The monarchy, as an institution, has been the check-and-balancing factor of Nepalese politics through these tempestuous times.
It is the monarchy that finally brought the bickering seven parties together in 2005, and it is still the monarchy that is keeping the SPA-M together now. Say what you want of it, there is no denying the invisible but instrumental role the monarchy—unintentionally perhaps—has been playing so far. It has served to bring discipline, responsibility, a sense of a higher goal, and yes, unity to our tirelessly belligerent, bickering politicos.
Until such a time that our parties and people truly understand the order of priority in national politics: “Nation, party, me; not the other way around” there will continue to be a role for the monarchy in this country.
The performance of the polity in post-Jana Andolan Nepal has been discouraging. More and more it is evident that the SPA-M was an alliance of convenience with no discernible agenda (on the SPA’s side) to deliver lasting peace to the people of this country (forget about development). The Maoists have capitalized on the break offered them. But their behavior provides no evidence of their commitment to pluralistic and liberal democratic principles, and even raises suspicions about their adherence to the parliamentary system.
This begs the question as to what were the bases for selling the mainstreaming-the-Maoists-through-safe-landing agenda? Was this view furthered on the basis of solid information, on the basis of fear, under foreign influence, or just plain prejudice, bias, ignorance, and greed for power?
A veritable question-mark hangs on the intent, responsibility, and credibility of the sections of Nepalese media, civil society, and intelligentsia who espoused the “peaceful-solution” route, as it is the Nepalese people who are bearing the brunt of this half-cooked, ill-examined, but vehemently espoused solution for peace. The quagmire this has brought us into could take many years to resolve while our neighbors steadily outpace us.
The utter lack of vision and repeated failures of the SPA make the monarchy seem as the more mature political actor, whose viewpoints should have been considered with more seriousness and respect. Though its image is tarnished and its future uncertain, there is no denying that it has been playing an instrumental balancing role in the tempestuous Nepalese politics.