The political adventurism initiated by the 12-point Delhi Deal between the current crop of Loktantrick oligarchs and their foreign handlers has gifted us in Tikapur the second big mass violence since the Gaur massacre in March 2007. Despite Khadga Oli (in obscene haste to don the prime ministerial mantle) complaining that it was “impossible to give sunshine as well as rain” with their draft of the proposed constitution, it has not been forgotten that these very oligarchs had promised over the last decade whatever any loud voice asked for – sunshine, rain, frost or the fog of federalism – just so that they could stay in power with their snouts in the public coffer troughs. Now those who were promised the moon are demanding the impossible and the oligarchs together with the 2005 ‘civil society’ that goaded them on are cowering or slinking away from public glare bereft of any moral authority. Even popular politicians of the Kangress and EhMaLeys that emerged in the wake of the 2006 colour-coded street protests have been exposed – with the Chari and Ghainte encounters – as mere gangsters far from the ideals of democracy and open society. True to the Nepali adage (jetha mama ko ta bhangra ko dhoti…), if this be the ideals of democracy within the parliamentary ‘moderate’ parties such as Kangress and EhMaLeys, need one say anything further about the murderous, violence-espousing Maoists?
One feels a sense of pity for these oligarchs; and their current state is best captured by an old Soviet Russian joke about two cowboys, Bob and Jack, who were trotting along silently across a hot and featureless prairie. Just then Bob happened to see a pile of fresh coyote droppings and bet Jack a hundred dollars he could not eat that. An idle cowboy mind is of course a devil’s workshop and Jack, bruised in ego that his abilities could be so challenged, jumped off his horse, whipped out a spoon and ate the pile of shit. Bob gave him a hundred dollars and they both continued trotting on under the hot sun. Then Jack spotted a fresh pile and similarly challenged Bob. Not to be outdone, Bob jumped of his horse, polished off the stinking mess and took a hundred dollars from Jack. A little further on, Jack seemed to have a moment of enlightenment and asked his partner, “Hey Bob, don’t you think we did all that for nothing?” The oligarchs of the big three parties must be asking themselves the same question with respect to the impractical and ‘counter to Nepali history, culture and national identity’ notions of federalism, secularism and republicanism that they borrowed from without in 2005, and today are reaping the anarchic whirlwind.
About a month back, the oligarchs carried out a hasty consultation with the people on their highly contradictory and poorly written draft, more as tokenism than with any genuine desire to hear what the people had to say. But the people did turn out in surprisingly large numbers and gave their views in what turned out to be a mini-referendum of sorts. Three things that the people said caught the oligarchs by surprise and completely demolished the myth they had been propagating, which is that they represented the voice of the people. The vast majority demanded Hindu identity, directly elected executive, and no running away by the CA from the responsibility to delineate and name the federal provinces. While there was little by way of knowledge or resistance when secularism was surreptitiously inserted into the draft interim constitution, for the majority of Nepalis the subsequent actions of fundamentalist Evangelicals seem to have crossed from irritation to insult and have provoked the backlash. Nationwide surveys from 2004 onwards show that, while the demand for a Hindu state remained constant between 57 and 60%, in the last two years it has jumped up to 71%.
The public also wanted to see a directly elected executive, whether a prime minister or a president. This has serious repercussions in designing a constitutional framework since it means that the British and Indian inspired Westminster model that failed Nepal in 1957, 1994 and 2002 has to be done away with and replaced by something more akin to a French, American or Russian model. None of the oligarchs have any idea or understanding of what that means, and care even less to begin a debate on it. The reasons why the public made this demand seem threefold. First, the oligarchs promised fundamental changes to build a new Nepal which is not possible if the governance framework is going to be just the 1990 model minus the king. Second, they were fed up with the oligarchs deciding by themselves in secret consultations with foreign powers who would be prime minister or president and thus repeating the musical chairs fiasco of the 1990s. The Nepali public seems to feel that they should be consulted and they should elect their executive chief. Third, a view seems to prevail, at least among the cognoscenti public that a directly elected Nepali chief executive would be less prone to blackmail by foreign powers and would bring better political stability.
It is the third demand, i.e. that the CA and the big parties therein that sold the public the notion of federalism, has no right to shirk from its responsibility of settling the issue by shifting that job to an undefined commission in the undefined future, that forced the unprepared oligarchs to cram in a few days homework they should have done in the last seven years and which has now boomeranged and hit them in their faces. Not only were they unprepared conceptually to handle this impossible task, they failed to understand that there is little support among the majority public for political federalism even though everyone is demanding decentralization, which is something completely different from federalism. Having promised the moon to everyone, they were bound to fail, and they did fail.
Where does the blame for this mess lie? Certainly the oligarchs, but then that is merely beating a dead horse. Who in Nepal currently believes that these carpet baggers are leaders of any worth, let alone visionary statesmen? Not really the EhMaLeys because they have shown themselves to be a party of rank opportunism that goes whichever the way the wind blows. They went with the king in 2004, against the king and with the Girija-Prachanda alliance after 2006 throwing all principles to the wind. The Kangress under Girija has to shoulder much of the blame because the party that commanded a majority dissolved the parliament in 2002 only to go back and immorally as well as unconstituionally join it in 2006 (with the singular example of political integrity shown by Krishna Prasad Bhattarai and P. L. Singh who refused to enter the resurrected parliament). It was an act of personal ambition, opportunism and the debasing of inner-party democracy, a sad fall for an old party claiming to be the vanguard of democracy in Nepal.
The biggest share of the blame, however, must go to the so-called civil society of 2005 and the partisan journalist class that supported the Loktantricksters in all their shenanigans and even today refuse to speak out against the misuse of power by the oligarchs. They refuse to censor the party when their leaders, including Girija-handpicked Kangressis such as Amresh Singh openly incite racial violence in western Tarai. They also refuse to speak out when senior party figures nakedly show themselves to be ‘owned’ by gangster dons. That class must take the blame for bringing this unaccountable and corrupt lot to power, and backing them even when their actions are indefensible. They are currently clamouring for any semblance of a rag of constitution even a fatally defective one, to cover their own moral nakedness, no matter how violent a future such an unacceptable document portends for Nepal.