A loss, a promise, and a waste define Nepali politics in 2010. These three incidents have touched almost every Nepali.
The death of Nepali Congress President Girija Prasad Koirala after prolonged illness, the shanti sabha (peace assembly) that blew away the indefinite nationwide shutdown by the Maoists, and the resignation of a prime minister who commanded a parliamentary majority to pave the way for an elusive 'consensus' were events have not only had a huge impact over the year but are also likely to shape 2011.
Koirala's demise was beyond our control, and the nation had to bid adieu to a man who courted controversies and people but whose crusade for democracy was unmatched by any contemporary leader in Nepali politics. An autocrat in his own party and at times a vindictive politician who hardly countenanced any opposition, he nevertheless made the greatest contribution to present-day Nepal. He courted and cajoled the then outlawed Maoists and once he agreed to do away with the monarchy, a 19-day people's movement did what the decade-long violent Maoist insurgency could not accomplish.
The shanti sabha in Basantapur in the capital on 7 May, the sixth day of a nationwide banda aimed at dislodging an unshakeable Madhav Kumar Nepal, will be remembered as the day when people rose to protest excesses by a powerful party that was acting as if it could do anything it wanted. That the assembly took place, despite dire threats from Maoist Chairman Dahal and the party's trade union wing, was so telling that you could hear its reverberations throughout the country. The party called off the strike later that evening. Dahal was shaken enough to rant in public against the 'sukila mukila' (the well-dressed).
As for the wasted resignation of Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal, it happened due to a combination of factors: the desperation of the Maoist leaders, who were bereft of any agenda to fire the passion of their frustrated cadre and an increasingly apathetic public, the greed of the prime minister's party colleague and UML Chairman Jhalanath Khanal, and the cowardice of the hounded man himself.
Khanal was confident that 'consensus' would come in two days of Nepal's resignation; the Maoists believed it was possible in 'two hours'. It has been seven months since Nepal resigned and the much-touted consensus is still elusive. Sixteen attempts by parliament to elect a prime minister are all that we have to show in lieu of the resignation.
Will 2011 be any different? Unlikely. Unless accountability replaces apathy in politics, we are going for a repeat performance. Learning lessons is not part of the schooling of our politicians. Despite the shanti sabha, the Maoist 'headquarters' still speaks of revolt. A miffed and nonplussed Dahal is now working behind closed doors to take disciplinary action against his party colleague, Baburam Bhattarai, who has openly criticised the party line of discarding peace and constitution and embracing revolt.
Khanal, still nursing a desire to become prime minister, has only succeeded in reinforcing the image of UML being here-there-everywhere-and-really-not-anywhere. Unless he is told to behave, UML will not be able to rise above its nuisance value.
There's not much to hope for from the Madhes-based parties. They could have played a role in taking the peace process forward and expediting the drafting of the constitution. Their hypocrisy has been exposed on a number of occasions: the Madhesi agenda comes up only during talks to form a government or when a faction of a Madhesi party is about to split.
A Nepali Congress without the towering GPK has so far held the fort. It has refused to budge despite pressure from the opposition Maoists and non-cooperation from its coalition partner, UML. How long can it remain steadfast will determine the course of our politics in the new year.