By Maila Baje
These days, Nepali Congress President Sher Bahadur Deuba is increasingly worried about the future of democracy in Nepal. It must be a source of immense satisfaction to the former prime minister to be able to turn the tables on his political adversaries.
Sure, you could argue that failure to relinquish the leadership of the Nepali Congress after having led the party to its worst electoral defeat is no great service to the cause of democracy. The reality that the party’s internal dynamics have more to do with Deuba’s survival is too discernible to allow it to detract from the point of this post.
The democracy-is-underthreat cry has lost much of its rallying power because Nepalis recognize all too well its aftermath. Everyone tends to use it as a ladder to power and immediately kick it away lest someone else should aspire to ascend. Today, the notion that itself may be imperiled by its politics has begun creeping on the population in a foreboding if not fatal way.
If a government enjoying a two-thirds majority, unencumbered by neither the opposition nor the more ominous restraints of the military or monarchy, cannot be seen as upholding its basic constitutional responsibilities, the people are compelled to search deep within their souls for the purpose of it all. When the government pretends it is succeeding in its job and becomes intolerant of everyone it considers a critic, the people are correct to be afraid.
Clearly, the Nepali Congress, the military and the ex-monarch cannot do much individually. Deuba knows that it would be easy to repudiate Girija Prasad Koirala and rehabilitate Bishweshwar Prasad Koirala in the party’s official platform today because both men are dead. What he comprehends better is the far greater challenge of managing the living Congressis adhering to the rival legacies.
Thus, Deuba would like the military or the ex-monarch to make the first move. The latter two institutions are more circumspect, having had far more time to learn the lessons of the 2005-2006 fiasco. External stakeholders – those who set the current process in motion as well free-riders – are too busy grappling with their own contradictions to draw confidence in any credible preemptive/ reactive posture.
This overall climate of distrust plays to the advantage of Khadga Prasad Oli, Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ & Co. How can this be authoritarianism when Nepalis know what full blown communism has left in its wake around the world? If fear of what may happen next is allowed to reverse a process so many have invested in for so long, what else do Nepalis have that they have not tried and tested?
The Oli and Dahal factions – along with the assorted sub-cliques – in the ruling Nepal Communist Party can continue their rivalry as the frantic news cycle tries to keep up at the same time with natural, manmade and other tragedies.
If our NCP leaders are smart, they will desist from pushing Nepalis to the point where they begin to wonder whether the current experiment in democracy and our accumulated experience of nationhood may be mutually exclusive. As for the rest of us, alas, we have to contend with our collective tendency to overestimate the wisdom of our leaders.