Declaration 2063 : Proper place to proper parties
The parliamentary Declaration 2006 is indeed a landmark in the history of Nepal vesting the sovereign power on the people. But it is only a headway towards real democracy embodied in the concept of loktantra in the new political scenario. The real loktantra is yet to be established. The House of Representatives made a unilateral declaration on May 18 assuming the sup-reme power of the state not different from the one the King did in October 2002 and February 2005. The only difference is that the parliamentary proclamation is backed by the people’s power whereas the royal proclamations were based on the strength of the security forces. Nonetheless, all of them were self-imposed and self-assumed.
The declaration was epoch-making in the sense that it has clipped all the legislative and executive powers of the king that he had usurped from them. More important than that is the divorce it clinched between the monarchy and the army. Monarchy remains a part of the state but no longer of the government. It has no role to play in the governance of the country, except holding the swearing-in ceremony of a new prime minister, that too if he/she (prime minister) chooses to do so. It was indeed an exciting sight to observe the jubilant parliament making a history in transforming the state from a personal property to a popular asset. Although the House of Representatives was packed, there were two persons conspicuous by their absence. One was the king at the exit point and the other was Maoist supremo at the entry point. The House obviously downsized the former and outsized the new entrant by adhering to the latter’s agenda.
The House should, therefore, be more conscious of the invisible presence of the decisive forces of Jana Andolan-II than the visible ones. It has been empowered by default and not by fresh popular mandate. It contains faces the people hate to see. They have no choice but to give the benefit of doubt to the existing membership like they had granted to the king in 2002. They can cut the lucky members of the House to size as they did to their lucky king. Luck depends upon performance and not upon the windfall as the king got in 2002 and the House in 2006.
It is, therefore, necessary to give proper place to the proper parties. Theoretically, it is the seven-party alliance (SPA), which is in power. Constitutionally, it is the House, which exercises real power. But practically it is also the CPN (Maoist) and the civil societies which are equal shareholders. If the SPA recognises them in that capacity, the latter should get proper place in power structure. The Maoists and the civil societies should be included in the cabinet, if not in the House of Representatives.
Technically, it is true that it is the SPA that launched the anti-king agitation. So its partners deserved the first priority in the government and they got it. There is no problem in it. But if they behave as the monopolists of power they can face consequences like those of the absolutist king. How the people could go hostile was evident from the public anger over Sher Bahadur Deuba on the issue of the supreme commander-in-chief of the army. It is clear that even a slip of tongue can cost the tongue itself. It is wise to be aware of the fragility of their popular power base and act accordingly unlike the king who refused to take cognisance of this palpable reality.
There is no way to doubt the intention of the SPA leadership to usher the Maoists in the government for long-term peace. But time is a big factor and that is running out. The Maoists have openly admitted that they are under great financial pressure to meet the expenses of their liberation army. Instead of holding talks with them and addressing this problem, the ministers are sermonising them not to indulge in forced donations. Should they use provocative language and hurt the Maoists by asking them to request the government for help? Instead, they can offer the Maoists temporary assistance to tide over their pressing need. Or, the government can hint to a friendly country amenable to the rebels to rescue them from the current ordeal.
Good intentions are not enough. They should be translated into actions to prove their merits. The democratic government should better learn a lesson from the king who failed to convince the people that his intention of taking over for three years was good. If peace breaks down due to delay in getting the Maoists in the government, it will be the government to be blamed. In case of restoration of violent conflict, the people will rise not against the Maoists but against the SPA government. It faces a danger of being swept away by yet another popular movement directly backed by the Maoists and subtly supported by the state security forces. If the security forces can change their loyalty overnight from Narayanhiti to Singha Durbar, they can also do so from one occupant to another occupant of the Singha Durbar.
Shrestha is co-ordinator, Volunteers Mediators Group for Peace