Dyspeptic monarchists are wont to condemn the political parties that replaced the Panchayat. But if it wasn't for the People's Movement, this state would have failed in 1990 itself. It was democracy that pulled the country back from the brink of ruin after nearly two years of the Indian blockade.
Our own Kul Chandra Gautam at UNICEF in New York knows that states with democratic regimes seldom fail, while despotic ones always do. Hence his public displeasure with "the King's shenanigans" and the priority in his action plan for the formation of a government made up of major parliamentary parties.
Until quite recently, that was all the agitating mainstreamers wanted. But the ruthless suppression of the anti-regression agitation has rekindled the embers of the anti-monarchy fire that had nearly died out in 1990. The two royal governments after the October Fourth takeover has succeeded in doing what the Maoists failed to achieve in the eight years of their brutal insurgency: mainstreaming the republican discourse. The five party leadership may see it otherwise, but as far as the world media sees it, the demonstrations on the streets of Kathmandu are against the monarchy. The slogans are getting shriller and more extreme.
Through all this, King Gyanendra looks not the least bit perturbed. In his new year message, he once again dared mainstream parties to show a "constructive democratic style". It appears that he hasn't lost faith in the capacity of the Indo-American joint enterprise of bringing the Maoist leadership to the negotiating table through force. With CP Gajurel and Mohan Baidya in Indian jails, the morale of the Maoists must be down. But to bring the insurgents back into politics, there is no alternative to making the polity more accommodating. An unequivocal announcement by the king that the sovereignty of the country is indivisible-and it rests with the people to be exercised by their representatives-is the least he can do to end the stalemate.
Fixing a failed state must begin with a four-step plan that starts with understanding the fundamental nature of the problem. Hindsight is 20/20: we now know the tussle between Singha Darbar and Narayanhiti Darbar for the control of the state is at the root of the crisis. Unless the people are restored their sovereignty, insurgencies will be chronic here. It's a class conflict now, ethnic ones in future will be much more virulent. The only antidote is an independent and inclusive governance. The 18-point agenda of the parties may not go far enough, but it is headed in the right direction. And the required changes in the constitution to achieve these reforms won't happen without the restoration of parliament.
Once diagnosed, the second step is to treat the symptoms and make life bearable until the disease is fully cured. This would imply strict monitoring of human rights violations by the warring sides and providing emergency relief. Amnesty International puts Nepal with Iraq in terms of human rights violations. Clearly, it needs more than the rhetoric of Bhekh Bahadur Thapa and Ram Bahadur Thapa to remedy the situation.
The third step is to revitalise the institutions of the state including the military, police and the courts. This means shifting focus from bolstering the military machine to improving the state's governing capacity.
Finally, elections are the fourth and last step in fixing a failing state. It is in the very nature of a regressive regime to have it on backwards. Ultimately, the crowd at the barricade will get what it wants and then some. If the king continues to insist on an election to legitimise his takeover, the masses will vote with their throats for a republic. After a while, neither the Maoists nor the monarchists will be able to control the course of events. The time to begin implementing the Gautam Action Plan is now.