Nepali Times
Few surprises

Is the federal state along ethnic lines a viable option?

Jhal Nath Khanal got a slap in the face when he visited Sunsari in March from a fellow-UML cadre. Last month, the Maoist CA member from Kathmandu, Jhakku Subedi, was slapped by a coffee shop owner who had voted for him in 2008.The results of this year's Himalmedia Public Opinion Poll, which we summarise in this issue, are a slap in the collective faces of Nepal's rulers since 2008.

There are no surprises here. Over 4,000 respondents interviewed last week across the country expressed huge disillusionment with the political establishment and with elected representatives.

Himalmedia polls have been held almost every year for the past 12 years. One consistent message that has come through in all these polls is that the Nepali people are traditionally moderate, they reject all forms of political violence and extremism, they yearn for peace and development.

They blame the political parties, but they also know that they have to work with them. This year is no different. It may be unfair, but a lot of the generalised blame has gone to CA members, who are seen to be a good-for-nothing lot, always absent from house sittings, just interested in collecting their allowances, or indulging in nefarious activities like selling their red passports. This is unfortunate because the little progress that was made has been in the committees who have worked on different sections of the new constitution. They got stuck on the political choices of future state structure, and there the hands of CA members have been tied because of a broader deadlock in political power-sharing between the personalities in the three parties.

The respondents pinpoint the ideological polarisation between the NC and the Maoists as the main reason for the delay, and a majority felt that if the CA term can't be extended new elections should be held.

If public opinion mattered, our leaders would by now have instinctively sensed the rising public anger and responded to them. Polls have little relevance in a country where politicians tend to disregard them, habitually whip up populist passions to cover up their inability to deliver, or take to the streets to terrorise the populace as a show of force knowing fully well how unpopular that is.

Even so, Nepal's rulers should take heed of this final warning. In a glaring departure from previous Himalmedia polls, this time there is a dramatic drop in the number of people who tick the 'Don't know/Can't say' response. The people have opinions, and they are no longer shy about expressing them loud and clear.

And the people, in their wisdom, while blaming the three main political parties for most of the ills the country faces today also see the same three parties uniting in a consensus government as the only way out of the crisis. And they don't really care who leads such a coalition of the willing.

In response to a question about which party is the main obstacle to the constitution-making process, a majority single out the Maoists, while voting the NC as runners-up. Ironically the two parties also command the most trust of the people in leading the country to peace, democracy and development (one-third of respondents weren't decided). The UML trails behind in third place. Oh yes, and there is almost a complete rejection of an active role for the former king, or of presidential rule to fix the current mess.

Although opinion is divided about a presidential or parliamentary system in the new constitution, three-fourths of respondents (from all castes and ethnic groups) are categorical in their apprehensions about ethnicity-based federalism. Asked about the preferred model, most wanted to keep the current zonal break up or have provinces that integrate the himal, pahad and tarai.

The other surprise (or maybe it's not surprising, considering Nepal's progress in meeting most Millennium Development Goal targets despite political disarray at the centre) is that the majority of those polled feel there have been major gains in education, health care and roads. The responses ring true because on a 'control question' on electricity supply, most said it was worse.

And perhaps the biggest surprise of all for the cynical citizens (as well as non-citizens) of the capital is that a majority of Nepalis know exactly what is wrong with the country today, they know what the solutions are, and despite everything they are still largely confident and hopeful about the future.

Read also:
Nation's pulse

A decade of democratic deficit, ANURAG ACHARYA
Netas, are you listening?, DAMBAR K SHRESTHA in JHAPA

1. Arthur
76% against genuine federalism!

And how many of them were Madheshis or janajatis?

You have given up even pretending to want to know what Nepalis actually think.

2. SS
Oh yes, and there is almost a complete rejection of an active role for the former king - yeah, right.

3. Aaresh Gurung
From the makers of Corruption, Vandalism, Political Deadlock, Comes another blockbuster.

Running in the Constituent Assembly.

4. who cares
if the poll is accurate then i am gonna have to say that majority of nepalese are more intelligent, smart than most of the medias, so called experts, so called civil society members...

5. SureshR
After every survey there is the same reaction from the netas. If the responses are positive towards them, they say it is a great poll. If it is negative to them, they say it is biased. #4 is right, the Nepalese people are wise and they are showing us the way.

6. Soni
This survey is a slap in the face of Nepal's rulers since 2006, not 2008. These people had everything going for them. They had the entire nation standing behind them and they squandered the opportunity.

The reason for this is more in your face than you care to state. That they were not sincere in their efforts to deliver long lasting peace and order is an understatement and a misdiagnoses.

The people blame political parties, but they do not think that they have to work with them, they know that they have no choice but to accept them. They understand, just as well as I do and you do, that there is no way out of this other than to sit tight, hold still, and hope for the best.

The latest in thing in politics of youth, and the debate about another round of protests is also futile. Even if we assume that these people (the righteous protesters) succeed, it would simply mean another quagmire, with different slogans.

Shut your eyes, hold still for a second, take a deep breath, and then think clearly where we have all gone wrong. 

- The idea of politics as religious dogma.
- The unquestioning faith in hollow rhetoric.
- The inability to admit failure.

Everybody in Nepal needs to recalibrate their positions. The answer that we are looking for has to be clearly stated. The conditions have to be outlined. Reality and truth have to be accepted. 

In my view, what needs to be done is to ask the right questions against the weight of evidence, not rhetoric, not political spin, not political correctness, but actual, factual evidence.

- If all the parties agree in their rhetoric, but cannot convert that into action, isn't the rhetoric misplaced?

- If all parties claim to be equally democratic, then what is the state of their internal democracy and how is leadership assigned? Why is it that they have so many internal conflicts, what are these conflicts about if not power?

- What do they want to do with the power and the command they have over "the people"?

The current situation is about one thing, and one thing only. It is the fear of each party that if they are not the winners, they will be bound to live in permanent obscurity. This much most people would accept.

What these "most" don't realise is the reason why they want total control. I do not either, I am not trained to see this type of thing, but you are. Please help me understand.

I can think of the following:

- Most party bosses are typical megalomaniacs.

- They have absolutely no idea what it is that they want, but since they are in a position to bargain, they feel they must. And, they feel that once they have crossed the hurdle of decimating the opposition, through their sincerity and genius, they will deliver the goodies.

I am completely lost, many thousand's are, they may not wish to admit it, I do. 

7. who cares
some centuries back, a fool called prince siddhartha shakya was born in nepal.

he went to jungle in search of some answers.

as soon as he got enlightened he became buddha and first thing he did was dumped his royalty.

moral of the story: "only fools try to stick on to royalty".

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)