Nepali Times
Common sense in uncommon times

What will it take for the elected national leaders of our six parliamentary parties to finally grasp that they had their chance, they had 12 years to show they could do it, and they goofed. Not once, but repeatedly.

They failed the people who voted for them, they failed the nation, and they failed their own grassroots cadre who were laying the foundations of democracy across the country. In contrast, the village leaders from these parties were mostly honest and accountable. They are the ones who are presently being brutally slaughtered by the hundreds for their political beliefs.

Their bosses here in Kathmandu lost track long ago of what it is was they were supposed to be fighting for. And after more than a decade of abuse, they still need to invoke "democracy" so that they can get back to plundering the country. Or is this hollow bravado just to try to save their own skins while the CIAA cracks down?

Right through Dasain and this week, they have been splitting hairs about the constitutionality of King Gyanendra's action. So inert are they to the people's sentiments that it still hasn't sunk in that most Nepalis have given up on them.

UML leader Madhav Kumar Nepal gave a speech in Dharan on Tuesday in which he said the Nepali people had lived through the Rana regime and the Panchayat, and they would reject a sham democracy. Umm, was he speaking of the last twelve years? And when we hear top leaders of both factions of the Nepali Congress talk of "defending democracy" there is a collective urge to throw up.

Here is a country that is teetering on the edge, and all they can think of is to try and position themselves to be the incumbent when next elections are held. Here we are, about to be run over by a militant group intent on overthrowing parliamentary democracy and constitutional monarchy, and we can't unite against that common threat.

Is that because they can now blame someone else for their shortcomings, and use the king as a lightning rod to deflect criticism away from their own failures? Leave this pointless debate on Article 128 to the lawyers, gentlemen, just use your political common sense.

To be sure, the king's gambit is a risky one. If he had expected the prime minister to resign when he told him to, and the political parties to fall in line, then he miscalculated. And right there is a timely reminder for his advisers: this is not 1960, nor is it 1980. Don't even think about it.

The constitutional monarchy as a symbol of our nationhood must remain above the fray. Only then can it bring errant parties into line like it is doing now. A rift between these two forces will only benefit those who don't believe in either. The monarch needs the mechanism of political parties to go to the people, he must not try to do it alone.

Some of the King Gyanendra's appointees to the interim cabinet may lack a certain oomph, but he definitely did not miscalculate the national mood. The mood is for peace, stability and development. And that can only come about through a dramatic move towards radical reform in the social, economic and cultural spheres. The current crisis is a result of the inability of the political parties and the Panchayat before that to deliver these reforms.

Once we recognise this failure and neglect, we act to correct them so that the system can muster the capacity to heal itself.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)