TOPICS : Widening gap between King and parties

Yadav Khanal

For all his liberal-sounding call to the political parties to join him in constructive dialogue intended to resolve the country’s mounting problems, the parties have turned a deaf ear to King Gyanendra’s address given at a function held at Tribhuvan University on May 27 to felicitate him. Nepali Congress president Girija Prasad Koirala, while addressing a public meeting in Kathmandu on May 27, said that as of today the people want nothing less than full democracy and, if need be, even a republican order. He also dismissed the much hyped-up address of the King as merely a ceremonial, customary, and meaningless exercise. In the midst of all this, there is the news of the government seeking to control the press. The Press Council, with Dr Tulsi Giri as its co-ordinator, was reported to have been preparing a draconian law that would curb press freedom in an unprecedented way. The parties, student bodies and the Federation of Nepalese Journalists have already started raising their voice asking the government to drop its proposal of enacting such a law.

This development has thwarted all possible chances of a dialogue between the King and the political parties. The parties find it hard to believe that talks with the Monarch would bear any fruit when the government wants to amend the Press and Publication Act to stifle democracy. Worse, the presence of Dr Giri and Kirtinidhi Bista, another vice chairman in the Council of Ministers, has further piqued the leaders of the seven parties, who see in the duo the ghosts of the defunct Panchayat system. Similarly, the emergence of some of the old names that figured in the shelved Mallik Commission Report for having committed excesses during the last days of the Panchayat era, has caused much anger among the people.

The ever-growing credibility gap between the King and the parties has only aggravated the situation. There are people who believe that the King is going to stick to his guns and that he is working to meet his announced three-year schedule said to have been crafted to bring back order and peace in the country. On the other hand, the parties are determined to carry on with their anti-regression agitation. In other words, both sides are confronting each other eyeball-to-eyeball, thereby having serious repercussions on the country’s public life. This is an unwanted situation, which renders any rapprochement between the two sides a near impossible proposition. The US, the UK and India want to see order and tranquillity based on the democratic system being re-established in Nepal. But unless the palace and the parties become flexible, nothing good is going to happen in the country. However, it appears highly doubtful if wisdom will ever dawn on the two conflicting sides. That also seems why the long-drawn Maoist problem is getting more complicated by the day. In the light of this disheartening situation, it is desirable that both the embattled sides take a lenient view of things instead of sticking to whatever they think to be the right stand.