It’s slowly being established that federalism, secularism and ethnic states are the last thing people want. Correspondents returning from field-reporting testify to this. It’s not surprising that people demand schools, health posts, drinking water, electricity and food supply from their candidates, the bare essentials that have been in short supply for decades. What must be discomforting for the votaries of federalism, however, is the growing fascination of voters for gai—election symbol of Rastriya Prajatantra Party Nepal. The situation is such that people have begun to sing praise of royalists, and say the republicans will push the country into another crisis. Reports from Far-West to Kathmandu Valley to rural hills in Ramechhap and Dolakha show a big chunk of population wishes to cast their PR votes in favor of gai, hence the slogan Ek bhot dailai, arko bhot gailai (“One vote for a candidate you like, the other for the cow”).
This despite the fact that Kamal Thapa-led RPP-N is firmly against gains of 2006 People’s Movement: Federalism, republic and secularism—the three changes mainstream political parties like to describe as the biggest achievements of New Nepal. RPP-N wants to reinstate monarchy and, in a way, reestablish political order of the 1990s. Why this fascination for a “regressive” force then?
RPP-N stayed away from the process of republicanizing the country from the very beginning. It was not in any post-2006 government and is thus not accountable for misrule and anarchy witnessed in recent years. Successive republican governments’ failure to control skyrocketing inflation, curb corruption and impunity have made people doubt if the old regime might not have been better. This has given the royalist force a strategic edge over other parties. Besides, political parties’ inability to settle federal issues and their failure to draft a constitution has added credence to RPP-N’s claim that federalism, republic and secularism should have been decided through a national referendum, not through CA.
The idea of reviving monarchy may not have found many takers but Thapa’s aversion for federalism—which federalists have been presenting more as a design to divide country into several principalities, having failed to present it as a tool for effective decentralization and devolution of power—has broad support. The supporters include many from NC, CPN-UML and RPP, all of whom have officially endorsed federalism.
More than 80 percent people in Nepal are Hindus. Even agonistics feel bound by religious practices. It is not uncommon to spot men and women joining hands in reverence or pressing them to their hearts to pay homage to Gods and Goddesses while passing temples. Thapa has cashed in on this sentiment by spreading threats, real or imagined, of proselytization. Thapa’s use of symbols of Panchayat nationalism has reinforced the same theme. He does not forget to garland King Prithvinarayan Shah’s portrait, invoke Hindu deities and speak of national unity and territorial integrity in every public function. His professed regard for Prithvinarayan Shah has earned him many more supporters than critics. Ever since Nepal government erroneously scrapped Prithvi Jayanti—Prithvinarayan’s birthday which was marked as national unity day until 2007—as national holiday, Thapa has been demanding Prithvi Jayanti be declared a national day. This has gone down well with the vast majority of people who regard Prithvinarayan Shah as the father of modern Nepal and get nostalgic while commemorating unification campaigns. To discredit the unifier, many believe, is to insult ourselves. Thapa’s choice of election symbol, cow, regarded as incarnation of a Hindu Goddess, had added to the Hindubad credentials of his party. Needless to say, his oratory skills are an additional advantage.
Be that as it may, the staunch royalist has a shady side as well. Thapa was one of those politicians who did just about anything to remain in power. After the entrenchment of the coalition culture in 1995, Thapa was in virtually every government holding an influential ministry. One day he would side with RPP’s Lokendra Bahadur Chand, next he would switch over to Surya Bahadur Thapa’s camp. He is said to be responsible for splits in the mother RPP. Perhaps frustrated with wavering loyalties of his own acolyte, Chand had called Thapa a man of musa prabritti (man bearing a mouse’s characteristics). The new moniker had become quite popular in the late 1990s.
A common maxim has it that once a mouse gets into a ship, it cuts hole through the bottom floor, sinking the whole ship. But before the ship gets completely submerged the mouse makes a quick escape. If Thapa had not been a real nuisance, perhaps Chand would not have used such a demeaning metaphor to describe one of his disciples. Even more troubling is his record as Home Minister in King Gyanendra’s cabinet, as Thapa is held directly responsible for atrocities committed during the April Revolution. The Rayamajhi Commission had clearly implicated him for suppressing the movement. Thanks to leniency of successive governments, he did not face trial. After he made it into the CA with four seats, it seemed he was absolved of all his wrongdoings. Today Thapa claims his party will secure the most seats under PR system in the new CA. Will it, really?
The prospect is not out of bounds. RPP-N will definitely become a larger force than it was in old CA for sure. But how bigger? After Rastriya Prajatantra Party dropped monarchy, royalists in this camp have shifted to RPP-N. Members dissatisfied with RPP’s decision to embrace federalism may vote for RPP-N. Another constituency of RPP-N comprises NC and UML supporters who still have strong reservations on federalism and secularism. If CPN-Maoist’s antagonism with UCPN (Maoist) is as strong as it appears, some Baiyda followers could vote for cow if they are unable to foil election. CPN-Maoist leaders have publicly said they share RPP-N’s views on nationalism. The only forces that seem firmly opposed to RPP-N today are ethnic outfits, UCPN (Maoist) and some Madhesi parties.
In Nepali politics even forces once discarded as “regressive” and “status quoists” have made resounding comebacks. Kamal Thapa’s mother party is an example. The party of former Panchas secured 18 percent of popular votes and sent 19 MPs to the parliament in the 1994’s midterm polls—just four years after the end of Panchayat era. By 1997 we already had two Panchayat prime ministers as government heads. Politics revolved around RPP during the mid and late 90s and it remained instrumental in government formation until 2004.
This could be true in case of RPP-N in the upcoming polls. If Hindu nationalist Narendra Modi becomes the PM in India after the 2014 general election, it will add to RPP-N’s confidence. If this happens, RPP-N could have a bigger than expected impact on constitution making and government formation. It may drop monarchy to become more accommodative (many believe Thapa and co are paying for Gyanendra’s favors by sticking to monarchy). Then it will push for taking federalism and secularism to a referendum. It is possible that some sections of RPP, NC, UML and anti-federal parties like Akhanda Rastriya Party and Chitra Bahadur KC’s Rastriya Janamorcha Nepal will join the bandwagon.
Where will it all end? It could take politics back to 1990s sans monarchy. I foresee no immediate threat of revolt as long as the new regime can heed to people’s demands for jobs, good governance and development. That’s a big if though.
The rise of the RIght could never last too long as it is based on all the wrongs put together in one paper basket. How could they ever understand Federalism when they do not even recognize the existence of the rights of the various different ethnic groups in the country. It would be directly in contradiction with their philosophy of One Man Rule and One Race hegemony. Hinduvta advocates like Shiv Sena superhero are nothing but wishful thinkers who are full of hypocrisies. Secularism can never be
Looking at the historical records of Nepalis’ ahistorical nature, it is not at all surprising that Kamal Thapa leading the country back to the 1990s politics in the post-election scenario in 2013.
According to one such historical record, after the death of the Qeen Kantavati, Rana Bahadur indulged into a mad orgy of desecrating temples, destroying gods’ statues and mistreating Bhramins. Then he left the palace and power for the self-chosen Swaami-ji’s life in Varanasi. But th
It is a mixtur of it all...we do not want the place to go down any more, we are familiar with the good maobadi, we know who killed the King and where Bddha was born.
Nepal is a great country lacking infrastructure, cooperation is the thing not compatmental thinking. Maobadi will be right wing and vce versa, all are crazy about money and not delivering...
People are never stupid. I would vote for a streetdog.