Republicanism : A foregone conclusion
It is rather frustrating to find our politicians confused on the real meaning of the constituent assembly (CA) even after agreeing to it unanimously. I have found only two persons very clear on it. One is CPN (Maoists) supremo Prachanda who demanded it and the other is King Gyanendra who rejected it. They know what it really means. The rest are a puzzled lot. CA means the Crown Abolition. In other words, republicanism. Most of the political leaders are still dribbling and dabbling about it. They are beating the bush for want of courage or some hidden agenda.
About a year ago, similar debate had taken place on constitutional monarchy. I had pointed out (TKP, August 29, 2005) that it was a dead issue. Those who continued to talk about it were either cowards, greedy or liars. At that time also, two persons were clear on this question right from the beginning — King Gyanendra and Comrade Prachanda. They were equally convinced that constitutional monarchy did not work, and was not good for Nepal. Both came out true in their belief because constitutional mon-archy is no longer an issue before us. The only difference is that the king lost and the Maoist leader won the game.
Republicanism is similarly no longer an issue. It is virtually a fait accompli as Dr Baburam Bhattarai had stated in 2001 after the palace massacre. What we are trying to do in 2006, after the historic Jana Andolan II, is to legitimise it through a peaceful endorsement by a constituent assembly. It is taken for granted in general and by the Maoists in particular that monarchy is a thing of the past and not of the future. Even Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba went on record saying that he would be the happiest man to see the kingship done away with. The CPN-UML is committed to republicanism. Jana Morcha Nepal is agog to see it happen at the earliest. The majority in the Nepali Congress is too in favour of abolishing it as it did in its document.
There is no serious objection coming from any country in converting Nepal from monarchy to republicanism. India has agreed to accept the verdict of the people of Nepal and thrown its twin-pillar theory of multiparty democracy and constitutional monarchy to the waste-paper basket. The Americans, British and other Europeans have towed the same line of approach to Nepal’s development. China is silently consensual on this issue as it regards it purely a matter of internal affairs of Nepal.
Internally, the Jana Andolan II has fully empowered the people of Nepal to decide the destiny of their country. The all-powerful parliament is exercising popular sovereignty on behalf the Nepali people. It has divested the king of all the legislative and executive powers. It has also cut the umbilical chord between the monarchy and the army. All the major political parties, including the CPN (Maoists) are on the same platform without any major difference on national issues, including republicanism. Then, why are we wasting time in getting a thing that is a foregone conclusion?
The parliament can go straightaway in declaring Nepal a republican state as it converted it into a secular state from a Hindu state. When it has already made necessary proclamations on legislative, executive, and security branches of the government, it can similarly do so in respect of the head of state. There is no point in waiting until the constituent assembly is constituted by holding elections, selection or co-option. The formation process of this body is going to be too long and too intricate, which is good for
none. Declaration of republicanism would be a great
relief to the king and the royal family of Nepal from mental and emotional torture they are undergoing through this phase of dilemma on continuance of monarchy.
It is ludicrous to find the political leaders, including the Maoists, warning the people against a possible conspiracy to restore the power of the palace. What would the king and the royalists do if not try to make a comeback when they are left in tact and free to act? If you have no guts to use the supreme power you have gained from the palace, you have no right to complain against the palace if it tries to regain it. Why can’t anyone understand such a simple logic in the power game we have seen in our country for several decades? Make sure what you want and do it right away.
Nepal has to move too fast in terms of economic and social developments. People got peace and now they want development. The young people need jobs and it is no easy task to create them. We need to devote our full attention to these problems. We should, therefore, not get bogged down in political complexity for too long. It creates greater and greater complications. The people’s movement has solved all unsolved political questions of the country. Those who think it has not are still blind to reality. The constituent assembly will come in its own time. But the parliament does not have to wait that long to elect a president.
Shrestha is co-ordinator, Volunteers Mediators Group for Peace