Nepali Times
State Of The State
May Day, May Day!


On May Day it will be exactly three months. Just as well there is no parliament to extend the emergency because that will help the regime retain its mask of constitutionalism.

Perhaps lifting the emergency "in due course" is a part of the informal deal over resumption of Indian arms supply negotiated in Jakarta last week. There can be no better way to comply than allowing the emergency to lapse.

Meanwhile, there are encouraging signs of positive polarisation. Pro-people and pro-palace political forces are regrouping. Extra-constitutional (some would say anti-constitutional) agencies have begun to alienate even the capital's meek middle class. The muddled media has begun to realise the folly of glamourising violent insurgency, valourising authoritarianism and scorning democracy. Hardline monarchists are more abrasive in their criticism of parliamentary parties and their leaders.

Professionals are re-learning the value of freedom as academics and lawyers are offloaded from planes. This is exactly how pressure builds up for change. Much as our political leaders would like us to believe, mass movements seldom succeed because they will it. The people just rise up when they can't take it anymore. All that the leaders can do is prepare.

If this trend of political polarisation continues, and given the rigidity of those at the helm it may even intensify, the Maoists will be forced to rethink their strategy of violence. By now Chairman Prachanda must have realised that the stronger the new regime gets, the more powerful the ancien regime becomes. The RNA's recent successes in Rolpa and Rukum show what it can do if it gets down to doing it.

It will undoubtedly hurt their oversized egos, but the Maoist leadership must accept that despite their armed strength, it is the mainstream parties that have legitimate claims of being the real pro-people forces. The lessons of every legitimate recent revolution in the world has been: never use violence. This is the feature that distinguishes the current wave of people power revolutions since the 1980s from earlier Jacobin and Bolshevik models of 1789 and 1917, the Cultural Revolution in the 1960s and the Khmer Rouge terror of the 1970s.

The Philippines got going first with its People Power Revolution that overthrew Ferdinand Marcos in 1986. The Velvet Revolutions of 1989 in Central Europe, the Rose Revolution of Georgia in 2003 and the Orange Revolution in Ukraine this year were all major regime changes led by ideas, not arms. Looking at the unfolding Cedar Revolution in Lebanon, one can't see why a Rhododendron Revolution can't blossom in Nepal too.

The Maoists claim they are ready to compromise on 'genuine' democracy. Parliamentary parties declare that the establishment of 'complete' democracy is their ultimate goal. Even the king has proclaimed that he wants a 'meaningful' democracy. These adjectives are all synonyms. There seems to be a consensus that the locus of power needs to shift back to Singha Darbar and that operational authority has to devolve to regional governance structures.

Given the ground reality and the preference of the international community, isolating those of little faith in democracy shouldn't be all that difficult. All it needs is an honest effort to bring anti-palace and pro-people forces together under a single common minimum program of broadening participation and deepening democracy. A destabilising face-off between the palace and the people can still be avoided if the course of February First is corrected forthwith.

In the past three months the inherent weaknesses underlying October Fourth and its February First apogee have been laid bare. Compared to the revolving-door governments that bickered incessantly for the spoils, the volatile ways of democratic rule were remarkably stable. Since February First, regime stability itself stands challenged, hence the alarm of the international community.

A course correction is needed in the February First roadmap. Otherwise the unintended consequences of a future upheaval will change the very fundamentals of Nepali society. Revolutions when they happen sweep away the best-laid plans, enduring institutions are often cast into the dustbin of history.

It's time once again for Nepal's political players to end their endgame, and get on with peaceful politics and constitutional reconciliation. That alone will make a Rhododendron Revolution unnecessary.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)