Angle of repose

Some political parties and politicians have put forward the concept of fronts or morchas. The CPN-Maoist has floated the idea of a Republican Front with a view to bringing within its compass those in favour of a republic, including people or organisations not affiliated to any political party, or even individuals from non-republican parties. Similarly, some groups are taking tentative steps towards bringing into existence a “Broader Democratic Front”. This seeks to bring together rightists and, if possible, perhaps, even centrists. This front, if it materialises, would campaign for “ceremonial” monarchy during the CA polls, and would, arguably, have the support of some foreign powers that appear to be backing the pro-monarchy agenda. The first front attracts those who see the monarchy as the main hurdle to a lasting solution of the crisis whereas the second front is likely to consist of mainly those who are now insisting on disarming the Maoists before the CA polls.

Every individual or party is free to form, join, or stay away from, any front. The formation of such fronts would, however, mean a polarisation of the political forces. The idea is not bad in itself, as it would make the campaigning two-sided and more focused. The parties could come out openly with either of these planks, even if they do not agree on other key issues, but agreement on these would make the idea more feasible. Prime Minister and Nepali Congress president G P Koirala recently ruled out the possibility of the NC joining a republican front, saying that the Congress would go to the people with its own statute and agenda. Sher Bahadur Deuba, president of the NC-D, has followed suit by rejecting the idea, adding that a “democratic” party could not form a republican front. But at the same time, Deuba hinted at the possibility of the formation of a separate front of “democratic” parties. The CA polls, with or without a referendum, mean that individuals who vote or the parties who participate will ultimately have to take sides.

But Deuba, like Koirala, appears to confuse democracy with “ceremonial” monarchy, as their statements tend to suggest, wrongly insinuating, knowingly and unknowingly, that a republic is not compatible with democracy, at least in Nepal. Both these notions are ill-founded. Democracy may or may not coexist with either, depending on whether the polity concerned has the fundamental hallmarks of democracy. Secondly, it would have been much better if the NC and the NC-D had come up with formal stands on this issue of fundamental importance. The CA polls, if the month agreed by the SPA and the Maoists is any guide, is only seven months away. It is, however, far from clear whether the “democratic” fronts some pro-palace political groups are trying to float would somehow fit into the scheme of a potential “democratic” front mentioned by Deuba. Or, for that matter, could any party which did not take part in the Jana Andolan II? Clarity on the part of the political parties would at least spare them the charge of opportunism, apart from making it much easier for the sovereign people to make up their minds.