Nepali Times
BIHARI K SHRESTHA
Guest Column
Rebuilding democracy


BIHARI K SHRESTHA


Aforest user group in Rolpa recently withdrew the few thousand rupees it had in a Libang bank and bought polythene pipes. It wasn't immediately necessary, so why did they buy pipes? Just a few days earlier a neighbouring forest group had lost all its Rs 40,000 savings to Maoist extortion. Converting cash to pipe was a hedge against plunder.

Such episodes are far from uncommon. So much for the 'popular support' the Maoists are supposed to have even in their proclaimed heartland. Despite the recent Maoist-seven party deal, therefore, the rebels have yet to win the hearts and minds of the people.

One logic of the 1990 People's Movement was that once Ratna Park is filled with agitating Kathmanduites regime change follows. For the last three years, this is the feat that disgruntled politicians have been trying to repeat without success.

To add to their woe, one or more of their constituents occasionally allowed themselves to be lured away by ministerial berths. It was indeed this obsession with money and power during the dozen years of their incumbency that devastated the country and birthed the Maoist rebellion. The silent majority felt relieved when King Gyannedra stepped in on 1 February.

Indeed, the compulsion for the politicians to make money was hardwired into the kind of 'democracy' we adopted. Given the widespread illiteracy and poverty votes were bought in winner-takes-all elections. This forced most politicians to resort to corruption, despite the sacrifices many of them made in the build up to the popular uprising in 1990.

These politicians now confess having "made mistakes" but, addicted as they have been to minting money, they stop short of proving to the people how they wont be corrupt again. And with the same tainted faces around, people refuse to converge on Ratna Park and have withheld support despite the parties referring to themselves as "representative political parties" in the 12-point pact.

With no help coming from the Nepali people, the politicians went a-begging in India only to play right into the hands of the Maoists. But judging by their utterances lately, they seem to be having second thoughts and itseemed they just wanted to use Maoist bogey to scare the king into submission.

But the Maoists are laughing out aloud because they got the parties to agree to just about everything they wanted: 'abolition of autocratic monarch&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;', 'forming an all-party government', and 'holding elections to a constituent assembly'. Bingo.

Given that it was mostly NC cadres who were slaughtered by the Maoists during the last ten years it is anybody's guess what price they will again have to pay should their leaders backtrack on the deal. It has been an act of sheer foolhardiness for the NC to have embarked on such mindless adventurism, especially when Girija Koirala has never been known to love communists and had even reneged on an agreement two years ago refusing to endorse fellow alliance leader Madhab Nepal to become prime minister.

In a recent seminar in Katmandu a participant lamented "we are so far from God and so close to India". While India continues to torment Nepal with problems such as Bhutani refugees, border dams, Maoist safe havens, etc it now seems poised to further tighten the noose particularly after King Gyanendra's recent successful bid to have its regional rival, China, inducted as observer in the SAARC.

Nepal has now arrived at the same position as Cambodia during the Vietnam War when King Narodom Sihanouk had demanded international guarantee for his country's sovereignty, neutrality and territorial integrity. The Americans refused. Nepal now must seek just such a guarantee at least from its immediate neighbours India and China so that we can reinvent a largely corruption-free democracy that can live in peace with itself.


LATEST ISSUE
638
(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)


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