Breaking the habit

Monday was notable for two important political developments—King Gyanendra’s interview to the state-controlled media and the Nepali Congress Central Working Committee’s passing of the political proposal to drop constitutional monarchy from its statute, ending its 59-year-old commitment. On the same day, the CPN-UML held a press conference to make public the decisions of its ninth central committee meeting which adopted as its key slogan, “Let’s end autocratic monarchy, and establish total democracy through constituent assembly”. It also decided to move the pro-democracy movement forward towards a ‘democratic republic’. The Congress proposal, after its endorsement, which is likely, by the current general convention, will be part of its statute.

On the other hand, the King reiterated his stand that he is ready to talk to the political parties provided they clarify their positions on four areas—”terrorism, corruption, good governance and financial discipline”. The King sounded sometimes poetical and sometimes philosophical, and was visibly trying to catch the public sentiment by speaking the language of the common people. However, all political forces should be tested by what they actually do. Indeed, it is no time for any political force to try to score against another, as the country is passing through its most turbulent period in history fraught with disastrous consequences. The international community, too, wants the palace and the political parties to mend their fences, restore democracy and resolve the Maoist conflict. So it is time for them to rise above their limited interests.

But sadly, they appear to be diverging further, as reflected in the two parties’ latest decisions. The CPN-UML and the Congress now consider constituent assembly—an idea not favoured by the palace—perhaps the only way of resolving the ongoing conflict. Indeed, indirectly, both have not completely ruled out a limited role for the monarchy. In his interview, the King also rightly said that if the Nepalis quarrelled, others would take advantage. But the parties have accused the palace of breaking the tripartite compromise, as epitomised by the 1990 Constitution. The question arises, who should make the first move for reconciliation?