Nepali Times
From The Nepali Press
Let’s have a referendum

Evaluating the circumstances of my resignation, it now appears that I was pushed out because the palace wished to establish a monopoly over state power. It seems the king was not happy with the division of power as provisioned in the 1990 Constitution. I was made to resign as a member of the Upper House because I stated all this in public and also because the palace was out to get power.

Those in the coterie of the royal palace and well-known opportunists instigated the king to take over. Normally, people make moves on the basis of advice from people around them and that is what the king seems to have done.

It is not that the king is unaware that democracy is necessary. In fact, he has been reiterating his commitment on constitutional monarchy and multiparty democracy. The problem is his actions contradict his words. His moves point to a direction very different from his speeches. Abuse of the king's authority by the palace coterie is not new. Unfortunately, Nepal's history is riddled with such incidents. Patriots such as Bhim Malla were hanged and others were banished. Times have changed, but patriots and democrats in our country are still tarnished and dishonoured.

People need to know who the people around the king are and who influence him to take wrong decisions and that includes foreign power centres like India and the United States. They are working in their own national interest and could be encouraging the power centres. They also stage events to show their capabilities. The Delhi treaty was signed just when the 1950 revolution was about to be successful. India knew that if the revolutionaries came to power, the people would be all powerful and India's interests would not be fulfilled if the people's voice became decisive.

India realised that if the Nepali Congress revolution succeeded, the Nepali people would not agree to the 1950 friendship treaty it signed with Mohan Shamsher. The Indian government told Nepali forces to play along, made a Rana prime minister who led the government that the Nepali Congress was forced to be a part of. Historically, that is how Indian interests were safeguarded and how foreign powers move to safeguard their interests.

In the post-1990 era, Nepal had a different environment. Though ministers were involved in corruption and other irregularities, the people could voice their concern. The parliament and the press were vibrant. As a result, issues such as the Mahakali Treaty came up for national debate. But a conscious public is not conducive to certain power centres and so they egged the king to take over. One such power centre is India.

The other reason behind the king's move were the Maoists. When the Maoist insurgency began, the king was of the opinion that development would be a big setback for democratic practice in the country. That is why the palace was quiet about the movement at first. Later, when the Maoists grew to be a threat to the country, the palace thought it was the right time to take over. October Fourth was the result but this has now become a liability for the king.

What is done can't be undone. The king wants elections to be held because he believes that the polls will help him get his October Fourth move ratified by the people. This will not be an election of the people's representatives. Free and fair polls can't take place while war and violence rages. In short, only those approved by the security personnel will be elected and you can only imagine the kind of changes in the constitution that will then take place. Everyone who is for elections now are those who think they can win and bring those changes in the constitution.

The only way out is to let the people decide. Let the people decide which is the way out. Let there be referendum and let Nepalis decide whether the way out should be through an amendment in the constitution or a constituent assembly.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)