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Mainstream, Vol. XLVI, No 18

New Dawn and Epochal Change in Nepal

Editorial

Tuesday 22 April 2008, by SC

Two years ago on April 24, 2006 King Gyanendra was forced to announce the restoration of the Nepalese parliament he had dissolved in 2002. This was, as aptly noted in these columns, a remarkable success of the Nepalese people’s tenacious struggle against Gyanendra’s autocratic rule.

It was at that time written in these columns on April 26, 2006:

What we are witnessing in Nepal today is literally history in the making. It is really people’s power which is dictating terms... As the head of the country’s Cardiac Society underlined, “if the parties betray the people the people will hang them”. No doubt what has happened is a victory for the Maoists who had consistently demanded a Constituent Assembly—something which, thanks to the extraordinary vitality of the people’s movement, is becoming a reality in today’s Nepal. It is here that we need to quote Dr Arun Sayani, the President of the Cardiac Society of Nepal, once again: “Today the whole of Nepal is for a Constituent Assembly. So the Maoists should give up violence and join the peaceful process. What their armed struggle could not achieve in 12 years, people have achieved in 19 days.”

In fact Sayani had openly declared: “This is just the beginning of the revolution.” His incisive observations and assertions were published in a national daily in a contribution by one of its most perceptive correspondents.

If one carefully analyses the foregoing, one should not at all be surprised by the results of the just-concluded Constituent Assembly (CA) elections in Nepal that have handed out such a resounding victory to the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist). Those who are still unable to comprehend the outcome of the Nepal polls must go back to our own past: after the disastrous caricature of a “revolution” enacted by the sectarian adventurists in the CPI leadership in 1948-50 when the party was in shambles, it fared reasonably well in the first general elections in independent India in 1952 and the person who received the highest number of votes in the country to enter that Lok Sabha was none other than a Communist leader from Telangana (which was witness to a massive people’s struggle against the Nizam and for land rights), Ravi Narayan Reddy. Why? Because the electorate rewarded such personalities for their livewire contacts with the masses and taking up issues directly affecting people’s livelihood. The Maoists in Nepal must be credited with the same attributes (they are actually inspired by Peru’s ‘Shining Path’ revolutionaries), never mind what the stalwarts of the Government of India and the jaundiced Nepalese media practitioners, totally divorced from the public sentiments, sought to convey on the eve of the elections. They all have egg on their faces today.

The most pathetic spectacle is that of National Security Adviser M.K. Narayanan. He tried to interfere in the affairs of a sovereign neighbouring state by articulating the Government of India’s preference for the Nepali Congress (NC) just before the elections conveniently forgetting that such public articulation of preferences is totally forbidden in foreign affairs. This is not the first time that he has done so. Earlier he publicly pleaded for President Musharraf in the context of Pakistan’s domestic politics thus provoking strong reaction from the Pakistan People’s Party and forcing Benazir Bhutto, who was still alive, to come up with a sharp rebuttal. Even earlier he had bluntly stated that being the strongest power in the region India expected Sri Lanka to come to it for all its defence requirements and not approach any other country (meaning Pakistan). Such utterances on his part has made him a liability for the Government of India. In normal circumstances a person indulging in such acrobatics would have been removed. Since that is not possible because of the celebrated police officer’s proximity to 10 Janpath, he must at least be asked not to speak out of turn especially on matters pertaining to international relations where his exposure, experience and expertise are indisputably limited.

However, what is exceptionally noteworthy is that despite such outbursts from Narayanan, the Maoists did not overreact. As Siddharth Varadarajan has noted in the Hindu, It is testimony to the statesmanship of the Maoist leadership that it preferred quietly to convey its concerns about Mr Narayanan’s remarks to New Delhi rather than making public accusations of Indian interference.

No doubt Maoist leader Prachanda has been most sober and balanced as well as pragmatic while speaking of Indo-Nepal relations in the post-election scenario. But there is no gainsaying that India’s reputation (like that of the US) has taken a nosedive as far as Nepalese public opinion is concerned (and it is not in the least advisable to be in the company of the US in such matters). It would require painstaking endeavour by Indian officials and politicians, sensitive to the Nepalese public’s concerns, to repair the damage. There is no alternative to such a long drawn exercise if India’s image has to be refurbished in our neighbouring country. Such an exercise would have been promptly undertaken by the Congress leadership in the days of Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi. But then since those days the party has undergone a qualitative change in its character and aptitude and the juvenile politicos in the Left have proved to be thoroughly incompetent in conveying the urgency of undertaking such a task.

What has happened in Nepal is a popular vote against the monarchy, against status quoists colliding with the palace, against corrupt politicians indulging in nepotism and betraying dynastic ambitions, and for those wedded to people-centric revolutionary politics. To miss these fundamental points thrown up by the election results would be to totally misread the popular verdict. A Nehru or an Indira would have instantly understood this reality of today’s Nepal. One is not so sure about the present dispensation in New Delhi since apart from entrenched vested interests the pro-US lobby within it has acquired sufficient strength and clout of late.

The new dawn over Nepal which definitely heralds an epochal change—a revolutionary transformation—in the Himalayan state and offers the solid promise of a genuine peaceful revolution with the aid of people’s power is a source of immense inspiration for the common masses of India also awaiting such a transformation here in the near or distant future. In that sense the electoral outcome in Nepal constitutes the most positive development in our subcontinent in recent times and must be unequiovocally welcomed by all those who have the interests of the toiling humanity at heart and are prepared to traverse any distance to protect, preserve, promote and further them.

April 18 S.C.

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