Nepali Times Asian Paints
The high road

The country is in a serious jam. Till a year ago, the only challenge was how to overcome the Maobadi. Now, layered on top is the unnecessary confusion of the direction of our democratic polity.

This helps no one else but the Maoists. After all, the insurgency has thrived for the past six years mainly because of a chronic bickering between and within parties. That weakened the political parties, just as the royal massacre weakened the monarchy.

So, at a time when both should be leaning on each other for support we have the two on the verge of falling out. Only if the forces on the side of parliamentary democracy stand up together can the current military stalemate between the Royal Nepalese Army and the "people's army" give way to negotiations.

The question is, who will take the initiative? We respectfully suggest that the initiative should come from His Majesty. It is indeed true that the political parties are responsible in large measure for this mess, they are in disarray and lack credibility. The Maoists have killed and cowed down their cadre. But, only the political parties still have the nationwide reach and command to deliver peace and development.

But the UML and the two Nepali Congresses are rallied against the royal palace. They can make endless mischief for the royal government. After all, the interim cabinet is a mixed bag of ex-politicians, technocrats, and elements who are constantly speaking at cross-purposes and don't seem to be able to keep personal opinions to themselves.

A course correction is needed, and is best done before it is too late. Either by design or due to lack of political energy, the challenge by the political parties of the king's move is still feeble. But it is only a matter of time. They will ultimately be pushed into a corner, and when that happens they may either take the high road of proposing a national government with full agreement as to its makeup, or (more likely) they may take the low road of street agitation. And that will only add to the people's woes, and end up helping the Maoists.

We can expect the cantankerous political parties to take the low road. But the monarchy must take the high road. His Majesty may want to use the authority that he undoubtedly commands to sit down with the political parties (not one-on-one, but all together) to discuss the way ahead. No more name-calling please, he can tell them, just give me solutions.

We all may be surprised at how easily the king and the parties can find a way out. And when that happens, the next step will be to untie the Maoist knot.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)