BY MAILA BAJE
While the left’s struggle to reconcile the lingering contradictions resulting from its enigmatic unity has grabbed much of our headlines, the right, too, finds itself in a complex contest to maintain relevance.
The three Rastriya Prajatantra Party (RPP) factions appear to understand the urgency of unity but cannot fathom how to do so. That part of the political spectrum is still top-heavy with leaders who performed best during the partyless years. All these years later, they still don’t seem to have figured out ways of working together. (Not that you can really single them out for blame, given the general malaise across our political parties.)
Some on the right see a future only in going full-fledged republican, perhaps even allying with the Nepali Congress. But, then, not many in that camp can really be sure that the main opposition party is going to stay put ideologically.
Others on the right counsel closer alliance with the former king, arguing that their tepidness in advancing the cause of the monarchy has cost them public support.
Amid the general bewilderment, RPP-Nepal president Kamal Thapa is personally confounded. Having suffered two successive splits less than a year after a much-hyped amalgamation in November 2016, Thapa is said to privately blame ex-king Gyanendra for the ruptures. Thapa, therefore, isn’t exactly persuaded by the logic of allying with the former monarch, who, for his part, has been reaching out to leaders lower on the rung.
Among the leaders of the two other RPP factions, Prakash Chandra Lohani is fully committed to a restoration of the monarchy, while Pashupati Shamsher Rana is almost there. Although Rana is under pressure from some younger colleagues and loyalists to unequivocally recommit to republicanism, a large swathe of the rank and file recognizes that a republican right is tautological in Nepal’s context.
Even some of his worst critics readily admit that Thapa has done a remarkable job holding aloft the banner of the monarchy and Hindu statehood in our decade of secular republicanism. So it is not unnatural for him to wonder why has been so consistently undermined by Nirmal Nivas.
Look at things from the ex-king’s perspective. He most likely agrees that Thapa has been a great messenger. But here’s the catch. The messenger trying to become the message is bad enough. Thapa hasn’t been entirely candid about restoring the monarchy and Hindu statehood.
Are they both part of a single agenda, co-equals, or separate elements? In the latter case, which comes first? Or does political expediency dictate the order of precedence each day? Who, then, decides what is expedient and when? Thapa may be the country’s leading monarchist, but he is not the monarch, is he?
From Nirmal Niwas’ standpoint, the monarchy can’t return just because the ex-king or a few people here and there want it to. It is up to the people to decide whether the institution may still have relevance. If the series of steps between 2006 and 2008 through which the monarchy was abolished were not so tainted, the issue of relevance would have been settled by now. The political legerdemain masquerading as constitutional legitimacy can’t conceal this: Deep in the recesses of our collective psyche, there is a recognition that, should worse come to worst, an antiquated and maligned institution still might be available.
Thapa may have hit on something when he spoke of the wisdom of working with the Nepali Congress. Many in the main opposition party want to blame president Sher Bahadur Deuba for its current plight. But what the party doesn’t want to do is publicly recognize the loss it has incurred by abandoning constitutional monarchy as part of its guiding ideology.
It would seem easy for the Nepali Congress to reverse course in view of B.P. Koirala’s Two Necks in a Noose Theory. Before resuscitating the wisdom of the dead, however, the living would have to repudiate their past. Nepali Congress leaders can protest all they want that the decision to ditch the monarchy was taken in haste by Girija Prasad Koirala. Through their silence, they lent him their support.
When Gagan Thapa, our generation’s most prominent republican in the Nepali Congress, described the current government, and not the ex-king, as the greatest threat to the nation, he certainly wasn’t taking a circuitous route back to monarchism. That assertion, coming from where it did, could provide the basis for a much-needed national conversation.
If the recently unified communist party is a threat to the nation, what are those warning us going to about it? And how do they intend to do that. Merely by changing the leadership of the main opposition party that can’t craft a coherent message to replace the one it had? Or unifying disparate elements on the right whose agenda is no less muddled?
Surely, Nirmal Niwas is not the only place anxious for answers.
Ruction on the right
BY MAILA BAJE