For unreconstituted Raajsansthabaadis, an invitation from the Office of the President Himself to attend the Ganatantra Divas tea party at Shital Niwas is ironically a fun event. As luck would have it, it falls the day after the most ignominious day in Republican Nepal’s history – May 28th. Since 2010, that date has seen repeated political circus of Loktantricksters shamelessly bending every which way to make a mockery of the interim constitution, as a result now in thorough tatters, to justify prolonging their rule sans morality. In May 2010, their people-given mandate expired as they failed to draft the constitution. Throwing all political ethics to the wind, under the Madhav Nepal-led UML-Kangress leadership, they self-extended their life, and their humiliated faces were a sight to behold next day on Ganatantra Divas.
A month later Madhav Nepal government resigned but continued as caretaker for seven months, a global record of sorts. Eventually Jhala Nath Khanal of the same party forged a coalition government with the Maoists. Come May 28 of 2011, they still could not frame a constitution and self-extended the CA’s life by another three months. The downcast faces of the Loktantricksters were a sight to behold on that year’s Ganatantra Divas. This deadline too expired in confusion by August when Khanal resigned and Baburam Bhattarai became PM after the morally unsavory Dhobighat deal only to again self-extend the life of the CA by another three months. By November the Supreme Court had to step in and say that this circus had to end and the CA could not be extended by more than six months.
That was duly done on November 29, but there was not a snowball’s chance in hell of the warring parties rising above their petty self-interests to draft a constitution. They shamelessly tried to amend the tattered interim constitution to self-extend its life by another three months when the Supreme Court again stepped in to say that the the “doctrine of necessity” cannot be applied for ever, and asked the CA to decide what should be done if the constitution could not be made by the stipulated date of 28th May 2012. On that day, not only was there no constitution, but Baburam unilaterally ended up dissolving the CA which did not receive from its members even a dignified death: it could not convene for a last sitting to hand over sovereign power to any outfit looking anything even half-way legitimate. On Ganatantra Divas next day, the loud-mouthed Loktantricksters claiming to have come into the pages of Nepal’s history as knights in shining armour to build a New Nepal were a sight to behold!
Their shamelessness continues to keep Nepal in an impasse. Baburam would not resign, and the President had to step in to declare that the government was a caretaker that could not take any important decision. In desperation, Prachanda proposed in June 2012 to resurrect the dead CA as was done sans political ethics in April 2006 with the third parliament elected in May 1999 and term-expired in May 2002. Mercifully, everyone (including the international backers of the Loktantricksters) realized that this bit of illegitimate chicanery would be difficult to justify on revolutionary grounds this time around. Applying very little pressure, they got the now morally spineless Loktantricksters to agree to a sitting chief justice to lead an election government on 14 March 2013. The faces of the Loktantricksters were again a sight to behold on that year’s Ganatantra Divas. Only this time around, it was not the King calling them ‘asakshyam’ (i.e. incompetent to rule): by unconstitutionally allowing a sitting chief justice to form an election government, they had self-certified themselves incompetent to hold free and fair elections by rising about petty partisan interests.
One would have thought that on this year’s Ganatantra Divas, after a fairly peaceful election for a second CA, the Loktantricksters would be seen with some sense of pride and gravitas; but no, it was not to be. Six months after the elections they still have not been able to nominate twenty six members of the CA that the government has to nominate from among nationally renowned personalities as well as under-represented marginalized groups. The Supreme Court has again had to step in to say that they until they do so, all actions by the CA will remain illegal. They have shamelessly shown that they engage in “briefcase corruption” with senior police promotions. They have also conducted the most unsavory spectacle with the nomination of judges to the Supreme Court, essentially destroying, besides their own, the reputation and standing of Nepal’s judiciary as well. And on foreign policy, the visit of prime minister Sushil Koirala to the inauguration of Narendra Modi as India’s new prime minister was a humiliating disaster and a lost opportunity to promote bilateral relations at a political level and away from the hands of third rate spooks.
Let us discuss the decline of the judiciary first. The seeds of judicial corruption were laid in the 1990 constitution with two fatal genetic flaws: its chapter on the judiciary was drafted as a ‘wired job’ ToR so that only chair of the drafting committee could become the new chief justice. It was also so structured as to allow him, when he became chief justice, to dismiss all old experienced judges and pack the court with yes-men of his choice. The current chief justice is only following the example set by his predecessor much acclaimed by the Bar and the politicians, which consequently has meant that neither of them had much of a leg to stand on in meaningfully thwarting the appointment of judges with questionable pasts. The other flaw was the system of having a judicial council that, while on the face of it seems designed to bring forth that much abused word ‘consensus’, in reality allows the chief justice to retain all the power while taking no real responsibility for judicial administration. The system allows for a dispersal and dilution of accountability and hence allows for the kind of unsavoury and near meaningless “parliamentary hearing” we just saw.
The other squib event, Sushil Koirala’s Delhi visit was really a diplomatic tragedy. Here was a prime minister whose political career has been that of a faithful party clerk averse to taking any decision himself, going to meet a new Indian leader known for his decisiveness. It was a disaster waiting to happen and it did. Furthermore, if Narendra Modi represents anything, he represents a victory over dynastic politics. The message Sushil Koirala ended up giving by taking along with him, not a senior member of his coalition partner the UML, not some senior member of his own party but his clan princelings Shashank Koirala, Bimalendra Nidhi and the less than reputed Sujata Koirala was just what the new Indian masters would not have liked to hear. It was almost as if he was bent on insulting Narendra Modi’s victory by saying, “Look, dynastic politics is alive and well in Nepali Kangress whatever you may have done in India, and I want you to bless these new generation scions.” Friends from Delhi eager to see a new and improved chapter in India’s relations with its neighbours and Nepal in particular have been aghast! The diplomatic disaster could be seen in the body language during the meeting with Modi as well as in the utter ignoring of Koirala by the Indian media in contrast to leaders from other SAARC countries.
Ganatantra Divas tea party at Shital Niwas on 29th May 2014 was a damp affair, not just because of the rain but with the glum faces of all the deflated Loktantricksters present. One can hope desperately, but not really expect this lot of “back paper” Speaker and CA to deliver anything meaningful and inspiring for a New Nepal.