Aditya Man Shrestha
The current situation in Nepal is so tricky that it can give a sense of victory to everyone in conflict. Start with King Gyanendra. He can feel elated by a sense of triumph in reasserting his personal power under Article 127 in appointing and dismissing the prime ministers of Nepal. No matter what political jargon like â€œreinstatement,â€ the new Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba might use to counter it and clean up his tarnished image of â€œincompetence,â€ we are under the same rule of 127 that establishes the supremacy of monarchy. The beauty of the situation is that even Deuba can derive a sense of victory on his appointment as the prime minister of Nepal after 20 months of his unceremonious dismissal.
Look at the Maoists. They are winning on the political front by getting their crucial demand of a constituent assembly widely endorsed. The strong support the district presidents of the Nepali Congress have voiced for the constituent assembly is music to Maoist ears. Equally strong is a ginger group in that party spearheaded by Narahari Acharya to go for a constituent assembly. The Nepali Congress (Democratic) has adopted it in its political agenda. The CPN-UML has accepted the constituent assembly as a viable option to resolve the political crisis in Nepal. The smaller political parties have long since approved it. The Maoists have, therefore, a point to feel equally triumphant.
Is the CPN-UML lagging behind? Certainly not. It believes it has climbed to the position of strength in the formation of the new government headed by Sher Bahadur Deuba. Its leaders are right they can make or unmake the new government. The Rastriya Prajatatra Party and other parties are waiting to join in after the UML takes its seat. However, the CPN-UML leaders are wrong in bargaining over 51-point agenda with a prime minister who has no mandate of the people and, therefore, no power to make commitments on vital issues. Even the RPP has something in the new situation to feel proud of. It wanted Prime Minister Surya Bahadur Thapa to resign to pave the way for forming an all-party government and he did. That is something the RPP can claim to be a psychological victory. Moreover, it can have a say in the new cabinet and formulation of policies and programmes of the new government. It is of no small value to the RPP, though it has not won the premiership for its president.
There is no doubt that the new situation is conducive to breaking the political impasse since Thapaâ€™s resignation. The gulf between the King and the political parties has definitely narrowed down. There is enough room for the foreign powers to derive a sense of satisfaction and victory. It is a familiar refrain from India, the US, Britain, Germany, France and other European countries that the King and the parties should come together to address the Maoist problem. To a large extent, it has been fulfilled and their endeavour has not gone waste. They can congratulate themselves on this count.
The only side losing in this national game is the people of Nepal. They are losing peace of mind and security of their life. They are losing their property, business and industry. They are losing the source of their income and livelihood. They are losing regular and adequate food and medicines. They are losing their sisters and brothers. They are losing their sons and daughters. In this process they may be losing what is so far left over. The other tricky issue is that the state looks like breaking down. Every morning you tune in to the FM radio or flip over the daily newspapers, you feel few nuts and bolts of the state machinery taken out. The schools have closed down and millions of students loiter around. The teachers suffer the worst being collectively abducted, harassed or thrown out of job. The transporters are not far behind in undergoing the trauma of the blockades and shutdowns. Business is going downhill and scaling down its operations.
The Maoists might not be militarily successful in defeating the state. But they are successful in badly disrupting the civil administration. The district civil authority is confined to the headquarters. Since the implementation of the unified command, the security matters have gone under the control of the army. It is the army personnel and not the civil administration that has come forward in delivering services in the villages. The fact that the army has to take the responsibility for frequent health camps, distribution of citizenship certificates and food grains is indicative of the virtual collapse of the civil authorities.
When a civil administration fails, naturally the army has to step in. In security matters, it is the army which has taken over under the unified command system. We are now observing slow stepping in of the military administration in the civil functions. It is believed that the military personnel, unlike in the past, are better trained and more competent with wide exposure to the world than the civil service of today. According to one former prime minister, the army has far more impressive and competent officials than their counterparts in the civil administration. That could act as a provocation as well as an attraction for the armed forces to step into the civilian duties and responsibilities. The anarchic situation obtaining in our country is fast inching towards that goal. Shrestha is coordinator, Volunteer Mediators Group for Peace