( This article can also be found on gorkhapatra.org.np )
A very short experience with political pluralism in Nepal has made our peaceful transition so difficult. There are brief moments when Nepal could enjoy democratic freedom. The foremost was in early 1950s in the immediate aftermath of the collapse of almost a century-old autocratic regime. The most conspicuous period of democratic experimentation occurred in late 1950s when Nepal successfully organized general election allowing multiple parties to contest in a free and fair manner. History has evidence that a political party that still is one of the three major parties of Nepal had gained a comfortable majority to run the country.
An impartial review of the functioning of the political parties in the wake of parliamentary election leading to the formation of a majority government reveals bitter lessons for us , which though relevant even today are hardly paid any attention. This is the classic dilemma for Nepal that hard-learned lessons are just ignored. It is a fact that then king Mahendra would not have succeeded in snatching the political freedom won by the Nepali people through a peaceful revolution in 1950, had the political leaders been sensible and farsighted not to be engrossed in petty self-interests. Political leaders’ wrangling for their personal interests provided an excellent opportunity to an egoist monarch, a scenario with very much resemblance to current Nepal.
Are our so-called leaders showing no sense of remorse for failings any more sensitive to their responsibilities? No single knowledgeable person in Nepal would say yes. More frustratingly, some of these disgraced leaders in the last Constituent Assembly election have been heard threatening the public saying that if they do not accept what they decide , who else will come to Nepal from abroad to deliver good governance. They seem to suggest that the Nepali people have no any alternatives left to supporting the maligned and corrupt leaders. This shows how indifferent they have become to the aspirations of the Nepali people.
Against such disappointing background lurks the future of the Constituent Assembly. We are now forced to listen to memorized lectures by political leaders who have a mysterious agenda to prolong the tenure of the Constituent Assembly. They want to continue enjoying perks and privileges at the expense of taxed money. They offer no convincing logic except repeating the mantra of building consensus and promulgating a new constitution and ending protracted peace process. If the government cannot take a full-fledged shape even within two and a half months how can we persuade our friends in the foreign community to come and invest for speeding up Nepal’s development. Our inability to keep our own house in order by developing consensus on major issues has led Nepal to become less credible in the eyes of the foreigners.
This has a resonance to a recent function held in Washington DC sponsored by Non-Resident Nepalese (NRN) based in America where they have had a useful discussion on the need for assisting Nepal in building national capacities. That function was attended by Nepali ambassador who struggled to convince the host government to remove travel advisory not to scare the American tourists. Ambassador Sharma may have his bureaucratic compulsion to appeal like this which is no less relevant when we are celebrating Nepal Tourism Year 2011. But more disappointingly the incumbent American ambassador as one of the speakers of the same function retorted by saying that to serve the security interests of his fellow Americans he would find it difficult to withdraw the travel advisory that discourages travelling to Nepal.
The above event speaks in volumes about how precarious the security situation of Nepal is. There is no Home Minister in the country for more than two months. Incidents of bomb explosions and killings are reported frequently which are more quickly learned by those outside Nepal where the viewers are not constrained to stay in long load shedding hours.
Such scenarios in the country have already cost us dearly at the multilateral forums though some of us may be boasting of the Least Developed Countries’ current chairmanship, which is not because of our electoral victory but due to a rotational deal struck many years ago the present UN team took over the charge of the Nepali mission. This scribe had argued through op-ed columns of this daily for our New York mission’s effective planning and campaigning for winning the post of President of the UN General Assembly (66th session). The disastrous outcome of that once-in-life candidature losing election to Qatar, a tiny Arab nation, has stunned all and more so because nobody has taken any responsibility for the humiliating loss so far.
Questions arise why one after another event brings us disgrace in the congenial atmosphere of political freedom to gain which thousands of Nepali sons and daughters have sacrificed their lives. In current democratic dispensation in Nepal the people should have been enabled to realize their legitimate aspirations more successfully. It is because under political freedom human assets including religious, ethnic minorities, women, and migrants are not squandered. In fact, lack of economic opportunities and outlets for genuine grievances has been a fundamental factor to push the Arab populations in the Middle East to rise against their establishments, where one dictator after another is removed from power. There should be a strong message from Arab spring to every ruler that people’s power should never be underestimated.
None can guarantee that there will be no more people’s uprising in Nepal only because monarchy has been bid farewell, the bastion of authoritarianism. Will the new generation sit passively forever and watch the ongoing melee in whose continuation the major political parties are overwhelmingly responsible? The patience of the Nepali people is getting thinner and before they revolt again let us hope that sense prevails among the political parties to pursue consensual politics and accordingly deliver on their promises of peace and constitution.