Monday, December 30, 2013

Verdict for democracy

Nepal’s election results are hardly unexpected. The Maoists have been relegated to third position and many Madheshi and fringe parties have met their diminishing fortunes. Under both the direct vote and Proportional Representation systems, the Nepali Congress, led by Sushil Koirala, took the lead, followed by the CPN-UML, headed by Jhala Nath Khanal.

The political verdict is clearly in favour of a stable coalition. Evidently, the course correction has been directed against the UCPN (Maoist), who failed at any broadbased maneuvering to make the constitution in recent years. The disenchantment with the Maoists, thus, must be seen in the long-term context.

Unprecedented fall

The rise and fall of the Maoists as a political force in Nepal is unprecedented—their acceptance into mainstream society grew with the end of the ‘normal monarchy’ in the country and subsequent political developments, in which the mainstream political parties were on a weak track. Even then, the way in which the Maoists rose to political prominence, despite their notoriety for violence, was quite unusual.

The spectre of decline was certainly known to Pushpa Kamal Dahal and Baburam Bhattarai but they seemed to remain steadfast in not moulding their ideological principle for local conditions and moreover, to live out its spirit. So, the blunders were not single-handed. In the changed scenario, the Nepali Maoists turned into a classic example of adhering to a custom-made ideology from a foreign land.

In the 1960s, something similar happened in India when a genuine radical upsurge met with an awful fate, following the incorrigible sycophancy of communist leaders in fancying the Chinese style of ‘hit and run communism’. Some even went so far to declare ‘China’s Chairman as their Chairman’.

Consequently, the radical movement dwindled in India, though the oppressiveness of the state and corporates has increased multifold over the decades. The Maoists in Nepal should think of the bigger picture and start doing things, rather than denying the aspirations of the common folk. And on a personal front too, they have to show integrity with principled political commitments, which, sadly, is notably absent in their current mode of action.

Albeit, emigration is reaching painful levels of exodus among young Nepalis but the poll results have represented their will. Certainly, they wish for a stable nation, with enough capacity to absorb the needs of every citizen. As of now—from India to Tibet to the Arab countries—the state of average Nepali migrants is a matter of concern for any thinking mind. Alas, no thou-ght or action has really been made on this haunting issue!

NC and UML

This is a historic chance for the Nepali Congress (NC) and CPN-UML to draft a pro-people constitution and create a functional government. As representative of the peoples’ will, these two political parties should not fail this time, because improved democratic processes will only promise better times ahead.

More on the socio-economic line, increased inclusion of different under-represented communities should be among the top agenda. Now these two major political parties have to carry the will of the people at large—as the activism of regional outfits in the Madhes and other parts of the country have lost their allure. But it is crucial for the NC and UML to respond and address the genuine demands of these groups.

Missed opportunity

The election result is remarkable for rejecting the ‘federalisation drive’ of the Maoists but keeping hope alive for socio-economic transformation. This was a response to the previous political configuration, which was largely opportunistic. If things improve, we will not see ethnic conflict mar the syncretism of this ancient land.

As the recently held CA election had existential rigour for Nepal’s democracy, it is truly unfortunate to see India’s inept response. India’s foreign ministry has again missed a chance to do damage control for earlier blunders by offering gestures of support to Nepal, which holds more significance than the other countries where top leaders don’t mind travelling to without reason and wasting valuable national resources.

Still, if not the Indian establishment, the mass of Indians think much more actively about their special neighbour. There lies the strength of bilateral relations between two countries; otherwise, official double standards from both sides could have hampered this relation long ago.

The time is right for immediate action from the new incumbent in Kathmandu. They will have focus on pressing goals. This time, leaders have to act or fail like the Maoists. The choices are easy to make but consistently following up on them will be the real acid test. But for now, reading the election results on a positive note would not be too risky.
-Atul K Thakur
(Published in The Kathmandu post,on December07,2013)

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