We had put forward some questions to political analyst Shrish Shumsher Rana on contemporary Nepali politics. Excerpts of the remarks by Rana as given below:
Q. You have been advocating the restoration of the 1990 constitution. Can your dream come true when those political parties carrying the belief of restoration of a Hindu kingdom are divided into many small groups? Shouldn’t they be united for a noble cause?
A. To recall, the bevy of journalists that questioned me on how I felt as a minister upon assumption of office must have been surprised when I answered that I was unhappy. Asked why, I replied that His Majesty had wanted that the seat be occupied by an elected representative.
Please remember that the king was asked by the elected prime minister to dissolve parliament. Please recall also that the king was deprived of a consensual response by parliament in resolving the constitutional crisis created by elections failing to take place after parliament was dissolved for the purpose and after the major parliamentary parties pursued separate interests in coming to government after which the king sought to conduct elections within two years asking all parties to cooperate for the purpose in order to salvage the constitution. The parties instead coalesced in the streets agitating for the restoration of the duly dissolved parliament.
To recall, again, after the success of the agitation and the king acceding to the demands for the restoration of the parliament, I was approached again for my reaction. There is an AP clip on You Tube that shows me responding. I said, the king having been made to fail in his constitutional effort to protect the constitution, as per demand of the parliamentary parties, acceded to restore the duly dissolved parliament; It is now up to the parliamentary parties, as stakeholders of the 1990 constitution, to preserve the constitution.
Events after that clearly demonstrate that these very parties who charted the 1990 constitution failed to protect it. Indeed, I have repeatedly been saying over the years that, in doing so, they violated fundamental principles of constitutionalism and democracy through the brute strength of their organizational monopoly of the system in cohorts with the terror tools brought into force by the Maoists and with the active cooperation of their foreign sponsors.
For this independent sovereign country, restoration of constitutional continuity is not just a dream, it is a necessity.
Subsequent events since then leading to the state of current national disarray should make obvious the results of such political impudence on the country. Any attempt at correction should thus go back to the point where constitutionalism was violated. This should have been obvious.
As far as your question regarding a united response goes, I would first point out that the need to go back to the 1990 constitution was perhaps deemed an unseemly dream by organized politics and politicians aware of the political clout of the major political parties that indulged in unconstitutional excess with promptings of ambitious leaders and their external mentors. Of late, changes in the neighborhood seem to have made the thought of a Hindu kingdom a possibility, more so a Hindu state. I would merely dismiss this as another aspect of political indulgence. The constitutional crime is in tampering with and then tearing the 1990 constitution with impunity. The excesses that have been committed on the state ever since is a result of this impunity. The federal, secular republic was forced on the people of Nepal by organizational monopolies and external prompting with dubious constitutional credentials ands elections were hurriedly conducted to positions that were still legally undefined in order to give the appearance that the constitutional process was completed by the endorsement of peoples participation in the political process augured in by the change. The leaders of political parties that brought this change have thus been proved above the constitution. As long as this state of affairs is allowed to perpetuate, politicians will indulge in the ‘possible’ in their exercise oof power as has been demonstrated over the decade at the cost of the state.
The cost stares us in the face and effects us all. It not only affects Monarchists and Hindus and opponents of federalism, it also affects the workers of the political parties whose centralized leadership enforced the change on the people. The remedy is to restore constitutionalism in the country and not to add to the deterrence by allowing politicians to be above the constitution and rule of law. Until the people are aware and mobilize themselves accordingly, short circuits of any kind will prove inadequate. Unity among the people is required here. Better sense will prevail if this is to occur.
Q. The government having two-thirds majority has already completed one year in office. It has given the slogan of “prosperous Nepal and happy Nepali”. However, in action, even the leaders in ruling party say that the government has totally failed in all fronts. What is your assessment?
A. Very centralized political parties with individual-centric leadership have ‘fast-tracked’ upon the people a federal constitution not only without adequate homework but also fast-tracked elections to representative bodies without legal terms of references thus disabling the traditional deliver of goods and services to the country’s citizens. The costs of, firstly, disabling long standing structures and, then, of creating new ones and then, again, of enabling the new structures are manifold and increasingly burdensome. This should have been easily predictable to a knowing leadership but was evidently ignored at the promptings of extraneous sources with nefarious designs. I have been saying that this system is not designed to work but, instead, collapse to the cost of the country. That the people feel the burden of the costs and governments too is nothing surprising. The problem is that the politicians who are at the helm of affairs will be reluctant in admitting this scheme of things because they are at the moment above the constitution and have been monopolizing it at will. It is their prosperity that has been insured, in effect.
Q. The general public are not satisfied at the role of NC, the main opposition party, in parliament. How do you see the future of this oldest functioning political party and how do you see the future of Nepali democracy?
A. As long as democracy is to be defined by politicians who place themselves above the constitution through the strength of organizational moneys, muscle and media with the backing of non-national forces, it will merely mean an endorsement of political impudence and unaccountability. The Nepali Congress has merely fallen victim of its own ploy. Its numbers in parliament have reduced it to an ineffective parliamentary opposition but it is large enough to announce its presence in the streets. However, it has robbed itself of an identity distinct from the government party by partnering the change with the government party since, ideologically; it had stood for constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy. This is not a parliamentary system in my eyes. I was brought to believe that an elected parliament elects the prime minister. In our case K.P. Oli was nominated prime minister even before parliament was summoned to elect the prime minister. The NC partnered the unconstitutional move to render a constitutional monarch unconstitutional. To boot, they did this prior any change in their own charter on the basis of which a democratic political party draws and governs its cadre. In fact, this party which for long has been laying claim to being the sole champion of democracy has since many decades now been part of the problem of Nepali democracy if any public accounting on a non-partisan basis is to be done of its actual behavior. It is another matter that it is aware of the political advantage of its advocacy of democracy. Suffice it to say that this advocacy drew democrats to its fold who are actually exposed by the many flaws of its leadership since the restoration of multi-party system in the country. Its revival in strength will depend on how it mends its ways and the mending will depend much on how it will correct the glaring deviations on constitutionalism and constitutional monarchy that has contributed to the current drift of the nation.
Q. It seems, Nepal has become the playground of the foreign powers. Why have foreigners become so active in Nepal?
A. Believe it when I say that foreigners have always been active in the country. It is what measure you allow foreigners to be active in your country that will determine the foreigners’ role in the country. Countries pursue their national interests everywhere. This recognition appears lacking in our case as does the fact that we pursue our own. And so we must find ourselves asking ourselves what is our national interest and what interest should our politics serve.
Your question appears to suggest that our politics is not serving our interests in which case we should be asking ourselves why. So much analyses these days center around Nepal’s geo-strategic location but this was something Prithwi Narayan Shah had talked of way back in history. One good silver lining these days is that the extent of political excess has forced us to rediscover the basic foundations of the nation as such. In the process we are not only admitting that populist politics has not strengthened these foundations but, instead, corroded it. Then it is politics we must correct. In a democracy it is the people that must do the correcting. Unfortunately organized politics seems to have placed this onus on the political leadership of our political parties who have evidently thrived in this role with the active prompting of foreigners. The only solution thus is to seek alternatives to this scenario and this is when the people come out of the politicians’ clutches. But it is the politician that has been allowed to concentrate the good people seek as monopoly. In the Nepali case, this is why eyes turn towards the monarchy that has traditionally provided non-partisan nationalist leadership. This is exactly why our politicians, with the active prompting of foreigners, shunted the monarchy out.
As solution to current problems Nepali intellectuals are grudgingly turning towards the monarchy as a possibility. Unfortunately partisan upbringing has for so long sought and enabled their participation in blemishing that institution that they must put qualifiers to that institution which otherwise should be sacrosanct,
As example, public opinion spurred by partisan politics to a large extent also supported by the international mentors here and goaded by our partisan media declared that the king did wrong to chair a government with the promise of protecting the constitution and national unity through elections which the then elected government was unable to hold. That there is no unison among our leaders, opinion makers and the media as yet on what the king should have done instead speaks much on the politicization of the monarchy by our politics which champions the thought that the king must be above politics.
To recall, an elected prime minister who had dissolved parliament for elections asked the king to extend his tenure on grounds that he was unable to hold the elections. The king went public, since parliament was dissolved, and asked the political sector on a consensual choice for a government that was to conduct the elections. The response was neither consensual but instead was ridiculed with accusations instead. Recall also that, in the presence of leaders promoting themselves for the post of prime minister, the king, after placing to leaders from the dissolved parliament to conduct the illusive polls also, in his last bid of choice for a solution from the dissolved parliament,re-appointed the last elected prime minister who could patch up a cabinet representing a majority in the dissolved parliament. It was only when that cabinet was so divided on settling the cause of he elections not being held ( the Maoist insurgency) that the king invoked article 27 (under which he was the protector of the constitution and the symbol of national unity) to chair government to hold the constitution. Recall also that a semblance of unity among our political leaders emerged not in Kathmandu but in New Delhi along with the insurgent Maoists to launch and agitation opposing the elections. The foreign nexus lies here and this is much discussed today.
Q. It seems, the government is confused on its foreign policy. What will be the consequences of such confusion?
A. When our domestic politics is so riddled with confusion – if we can call it that – how can we expect a foreign policy without confusion? Foreign policy is merely an extension of our domestic politics. We invite foreign interests and intervention in our constitutionalism and even endorse it and we demand a foreign policy bereft of such interests? It is merely past legacies of an independent foreign policy that keeps us expecting a foreign policy that pursues national interest. Successive governments must, for domestic consumption, attempt a façade of exercising an independent foreign policy. In actual fact this system has so narrowed its options for independence that a cover up here in performance is glaring.
That its effects have cost the nation dearly is obvious. We must even attempt to hide our definition of our sovereign citizen behind a convoluted bureaucracy unable to trace the source of parliamentary amendments of the constitution.
That such confusion prevails at time of severe distortions in the international environs makes our political indulgence doubly dangerous. It, firstly, renders dubious the credibility of our politics and politicians among an international community that is tense in an environment poised for change. Secondly, it weakens further our foreign policy tools and thus our overall capabilities in pursuing objectives through our foreign policy.
All this is being done at time when the world is changing. This is both costly and dangerous.
Q. At a time when our leaders of the day are claiming that they have already achieved political goal and this is the time to make Nepal a prosperous nation, just recently, we saw series of bomb explosion in the country including in the Kathmandu Valley claiming life of one innocent citizen. Is the nation heading towards yet another bloody revolt?
A. The revolution has not concluded for many a politician who has seen the convenience of agitations and foreign support to extort and exhort a deprived population to wreak political change in this increasingly vulnerable country. What goes by a constitution today easily attests to this and what is being done in the name of constitutionalism and democracy readily conveniences this. We have been waiting too long for political order and stability while the present is permeating with the existence of rapid fluidity rendering political promises ridiculous. The streets are heating and the threat of violence real. Systemic performance is imploding while the threat of explosions accelerates. All this among an external environment poised for change. This makes dangerous chemistry. This is all the more reason for urgent corrections. This is why we must go back to where we have erred. As much as I don’t think that the 1990 constitution is adequate solution, it is from where the corrections should begin for sake of constitutionalism.