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Power Shift Nepal

Sheshadri Chari

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POWER SHIFT IN NEPAL Seshadri Chari

The 2013 CA-II election has produced astounding results. The Nepali Congress staged a political come back with 196 (105 +91) seats, the CPM-UML has 175 (91+84) seats and the Maoists 80 (26+54) seats. The impressive victory of the Nepali Congress augured well for the renewed goodwill between India and Nepal. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent visit cemented the goodwill and promises to catapult the fruits of this mutual relationship to Himalayan heights.
The Maoist insurgency led by CPN-M began as a trickle in 1996 with armed rebellion in the western hills of the Himalayan Kingdom and expanded throughout the country in less than a decade. The Palace killings (Kot Murder-2) in 2001 put the Monarchy and all political parties in a quandary, thus discrediting the new King Gyanendra and the Nepali Congress which was ruling at that time. To make matters worse, in 2002, King Gyanendra dismissed Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba, ironically for not holding elections, and declared himself absolute Monarch. After series of government changes followed by a state of Emergency, he incarcerated all political leaders condemning their failure to reign in the Maoists, promised elections, led the army from upfront against the Maoist rebels and ended up killing more than 13,000 people.
However, in November 2005, nine months Gyanendra’s takeover, a Seven-Party Alliance signed a 12-point Memorandum of Understanding with the Maoists pledging to restore parliamentary democracy through political process, hold elections and draft a new Constitution. The MoU was signed in India with the support of the then UPA government, supported by the Left, which had sort of outsourced Nepal affairs to the Left parties and the Left leaning JNU ‘scholars’.
During this time various groups in the plains of Nepal called Tarai rallied under different “Madeshi” parties and became a significant political force drawing the Maoists, NC and the pro-Monarchy elements towards its support base. Ironically, the Maoists as well as the Madeshi parties used their sympathisers in New Delhi more often than relying on their own supports back home. They all appeared to be more eager to hold on to authority without facing the people’s wrath in elections.
Finally, on April 10, 2008, Nepal voted for nation’s first-ever Constituent Assembly election and on May 28, Nepal’s Constituent Assembly met for the first time and voted to abolish the monarchy, transforming Nepal into a federal democratic republic. The Maoists had evened the score with the Palace but in their exuberance, began to behave as new monarchs totally disregarding the commitment to the people. The new Constitution was a far cry as no one spoke about it even as Nepal began to reel under non governance, runaway inflation, 24x7 power outages, and extreme cynicism. The Maoists did not disappoint George Orwell.
For more than a couple of years all was not well in the Maoist camp. The tussle between groups owing allegiance to Prachanda, Baidya and Baburam Bhattarai spilled over to the streets of Kathmandu seriously threatening the peace process and the Constitution drafting, which was the main reason the CA was elected in the first place. The party’s highest forum was irretrievably split while discussing as many as eleven serious issues such as right to justice, right to property, right to social justice and political objective of the State but all the while the Maoist Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal, who was also the coordinator of the Problem Resolution Sub-Committee, habitually skipped all such meetings. Patently ‘Bourgeois’ characteristics like Intra party feuds and subterfuge became common in CPN-M which opposed its own government.
The task of drafting the Constitution was eclipsed by the petty party politics and sharing spoils of power. Due to instability four governments headed the CA in four years each contradicting one another and their own parties as well. Political consensus eluded basic concepts about governance and hence the CA became a tool in the hands of self serving power hungry individuals totally divorced from ideology or love for the country. As a result of this politics got badly fragmented giving rise to worst form of identity politics such as Tarai versus Hill, Madeshi versus Newari and much more.
After four wasted years, people were fed up of the CA which had not only overshot its term but lost credibility and people’s faith and also the court’s permission to continue which refused any further extension beyond 28 May 2012. Realising the futility of clinging to power, PM Baburam Bhattarai, called for elections for a new CA but other political parties refused to buy his democratic credentials and sought a different set up to hold elections. Eventually, a non-party government with the Chief Justice as PM was formed in March 2013 mandated to hold elections for another CA.

The CA-II result is a signal for democratic forces to unite and work for producing tangible results and not just engage in political semantics and ideological deceit. It is for the Nepali Congress and the CPM- (UML) to sink their differences and bring everyone on board, including the spoil-sport Maoists who have been throwing up tantrums after the drubbing, in order to produce a new Constitution, show good governance traits, restore people’s faith in democracy and end cynicism.
Nepal’s tryst with democracy began in 1990 and the polity witnessed many shades of governments. But by far the worst offenders have been the Maoists who not only destroyed institutions but wrecked the economy and seriously compromised the security and non-aligned independence of the country.
Increasing number of prime properties in Nepal are reported to have been pawned to outsiders especially fly by night operators from China who are said to have some element of backing by powerful strategists in Beijing. Incidentally, China reportedly was the first country to pat Nepal on the success of the CA Poll outcome and sure to fast forward its efforts in reaching out to the new dispensation in Singhadurbar to promote trade. The Nepali Congress led government will have to chart a new course and correct the balance of power equations, a task which the NC leaders are fairly good at. With a new set of leaders and younger elements coming up in the party, the NC should avoid the pitfalls they encountered during the days of Girija Koirala versus Deuba days. Senior leaders should opt for Constitution making and consensus building and leave day to day governance to the younger elements in all the parties.The Tarai belt has tasted blood and has found a right reason to be agitated and feel let down, first by the Monarchy, then by the democratic parties and lastly by the Maoists. The CPM-UML seems to have dented the Maoist base in Tarai but the Madeshi groups have established their influence and won good number of seats. The new government should include sufficient representation from the Tarai and Madeshi parties to assuage the feeling of alienation, real or perceived, to avoid another showdown and possible political, social and economic set back.

India has to play an important role in defining the future course of events in Kathmandu and New Delhi does not have the luxury sitting back and relax or outsource Nepal affairs again to some unemployed Left-wingers. Economic development of Nepal will be to the fullest advantage of not only the people of that country but for the entire northern India and the region as a whole.
(The author is the National Convenor of the External Affairs Cell of the BJP)

Chari Talks

Dr. Shyama Prasad Mukherjee: A legacy looking for a worthy recipient

Sheshadri Chari

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Dr Mukherjee was elected to the Constituent Assembly by the West Bengal Legislature and was the Industries Minister in Nehru’s Cabinet but resigned on April 15, 1950, protesting the terms of the agreement with Pakistan, popularly known as Nehru-Liaquat Pact.

In fact, Dr Mukherjee’s political thinking was independent of the thought process of the Hindu Mahasabha of which he was the president or that of the Congress. He was unhappy over Nehru’s handling of the Pakistan issue and the first cabinet’s callous attitude towards Hindu minority in Pakistan, especially the then East Pakistan. He discussed the idea of floating a political party with some of his colleagues in Hindu Mahasabha but was firm on his views of a “non-Hindu” party, very much as a parallel to the Congress and not a political party “exclusively for Hindus”. His original idea was to convert Hindu Mahasabha into a broad-based political party which would include non-Hindus as well, as members and desist from appeasement of Muslims under the garb of protecting the religious minorities. An independent India with a democratic Constitution that adopted adult franchise and rejected the idea of the separate electorate has no place for a Hindu party or Minority Commission, he felt. But his own organisation rejected his appeals and as a result, he quit Hindu Mahasabha in 1948.

Speaking at the founding ceremony of the Bharatiya Jan Sangh on October 21, 1951, Dr. Mukherjee reiterated his views that the Partition on the basis of religion was a grave error and that Partition must be annulled to firmly establish the Indian identity. But he refused to make the annulment of Partition a party agenda saying it should be a national resolve and not merely the agenda of one political party. Long after his martyrdom and the dissolution of the Bharatiya Jan Sangh, the Parliament of India passed a unanimous resolution on February 22, 1994, resolving to get back Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK).

The Bharatiya Jan Sangh was formed just a few weeks before the first general elections and had very little time or resources to fight all the seats. Dr. Mukherjee contested and won the South Calcutta seat securing 45 percent of votes against his Congress rival Mriganka Sur. During this brief period, he made his mark as a parliamentarian, brought together MPs from Ganatantra Parishad of Orissa, Akali Dal of Punjab, Hindu Mahasabha, three Jan Sangh members and several independents to form National Democratic Front. In order to strengthen parliamentary democracy, Dr. Mukherjee went many steps ahead and floated the idea of united opposition irrespective of ideological differences eschewing political untouchability. His party, Bharatiya Jan Sangh kept up this tradition. BJS won one third of seats in Delhi Municipal Corporation in 1957 and the next year elected a Leftist Com. Aruna Asaf Ali as Mayor with the help of Communists. BJS member Kedar Nath Sahani became the Deputy Mayor.

Dr. Mukherjee represented the highest form of fundamental Hindu ethos at its best—respect for all forms of worship (sarva panth samadhar), liberalism and humanness. In spite of his serious differences of opinion with Jawaharlal Nehru, it was Dr. Mukherjee, as Vice-Chancellor of Calcutta University, who invited Nehru to speak on “The discovery of India”. Nehru in his prison diary note of November 26, 1941, writes, “He (Dr. Mukherjee) has written again a very decent letter and I have agreed (to speak at Kamala Lectures). The subject I have suggested—Syama Prasad made a similar suggestion—is The Discovery of India”.  Dr. Mukherjee had written to Nehru that, “…all of us believe that India through her ages contributed an imperishable message of the freedom of the soul of man, which alone can save civilisation from destruction and elevate it to a higher and nobler order. At this critical time, you are one of the limited few who can worthily rise above narrow party considerations, appreciate different standpoints and hold out, amidst the crumbling heaps of modern civilisation the picture of a future India worth living in.”

Two years later Nehru, accompanied by Asaf Ali and Diwan Chaman Lal, went to Kashmir, without a permit, in June 1946 to defend Sheikh Abdulla against a sedition charge and was detained in the Uri Dak Bungalow. The British Viceroy in Delhi brought Nehru back to Delhi to join the negotiations for the transfer of power. Seven years later, after another transfer of power in J&K, Syama Prasad Mukherjee went to Jammu without a permit and was detained by Sheikh Abdulla but unlike British Viceroy, Nehru let Mukherjee meet whatever fate awaited him. Dr. Mukherjee had said at a public meeting in Jammu in August 1952, “I will get you the Indian Constitution or lay down my life for it.” The words proved tragically prophetic.

Can all political parties, especially the BJP and the Congress to ponder over their larger national agenda, bury differences and work as a united force to realise the collective vision of their icons? Sounds like a tall order? Not if someone can inherit the legacy of Syama Prasad Mukherjee.

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Chari Talks

Good Drama Bad Governance

Sheshadri Chari

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Delhi chief minister Mr.Arvind Kejriwal seems to be suffering from a pathological condition of confronting with any constitutional authority. His constant theatrics and instant dramatics has ruined his party’s credibility and chance of winning future elections

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Chari Talks

If Terrorism has no Religion what is the logic behind ramzan ceasefire ?

Sheshadri Chari

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If terrorism has no religion, how can ceasefire have religion? Ramzan ceasefire failure. It was a one-sided announcement by the GOI which was not respected by the terrorists. The GOI will have to serious rethinking on its policy towards fighting terrorism. Also, there is an urgent need to infuse fresh blood into teams that are entrusted with the task of taking care of internal security in Jammu and Kashmir or in Naxal-Maoist affected areas or elsewhere.

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