Loktantra Day on Tuesday was supposed to be a celebration, but it warned us about the danger of replacing one form of dictatorship with another.
Self-professed young communists hurled missiles at a speaker and tried to storm the stage. They nearly turned what was supposed to be a commemoration of freedom into a farce. The Maoists are clearly not yet ready to enter the arena of competitive politics.
Wanting all or nothing, preventing those with dissenting views from expressing them and using the threat of violence to get their way proves this leopard hasn't changed its spots.
Across the country, Maoist cadre are already on the campaign trail and their refrain is: "Vote for us in the election or else we will go back to war." In Hetauda this week, they threatened to burn down a media office for critical coverage. In Dailekh they harassed two reporters who had interviewed locals resisting Maoist intimidation. In Bajhang, local warlords openly defy their own party policy.
This is not the democracy that we struggled to restore. Nepal's people power uprising last year wasn't about replacing a royal dictatorship with an obsolete brand of totalitarianism. The Maoists are now in government, but their MPs behave as if they have been dragooned to parliament just to shout slogans.
Meanwhile, the Seven behave like traditional politicians with their opportunism and hypocrisy intact. The people gave them a second chance last year by installing them in power, but we see a familiar myopia and narrow-mindedness. It shouldn't be politics as usual. The election is not about dominating the next government, but about deciding the future governance structure of this country.
The seven parties and the Maoists find it politically expedient to have a universally reviled monarch as a whipping boy. But there is a limit to how long they can stoke populism and extravagant republicanism to mask their insecurity and ineptitude. With this lot, how is a republic going to be any different than a kingdom?
For all intents of purposes Nepal is already a republic even though the king tries to make his presence felt-most recently by getting his guards to play the royal anthem in Dakshinkali. It would be best for all concerned if Gyanendra cut, and cut cleanly.
It is a foregone conclusion what the first sitting of the constituent assembly will decide about the monarchy. Even if, by some miracle, the throne is retained it will have no role, responsibility, or authority. So why flog a dead horse?
Instead, the Eight should demonstrate to the people the state exists, re-establish the rule of law, and allow Nepalis to finally experience the peace dividend.