Nepali Times
State Of The State
Back to the future?


Recently, a Nepali student in New Delhi sent an email emblematic of the SMS generation: 'as i walk down the road of jnu...watching bougainvillea blooming everywhere...i can't help but silently envy the spring that this country has sustained.unlike the cold winters preserved in my country..."

With that lower-case message, the student expressed the anguish of a lost generation of 20-something Nepalis. What have we done to make our youth so disconsolate? Some are shouting slogans on the streets, others have gone into the jungle with guns. Woe betide a society that ignores the yearnings of its youth.

The collective frustration of Nepali students abroad and the cry of their compatriots back home have a common feature: they are not comfortable with the institution of monarchy anymore. People of our generation may find it a little difficult to accept a Nepal that is not a kingdom, but there is a growing segment of the Nepali population that sees the monarchy as the root of all ills. Unless the grievances of this generation are addressed, their republican slogans will be self-fulfilling.

Nobody knows who or what prompted Sher Bahadur Deuba to exercise his doomsday authority two years ago to dissolve parliament and call for elections. But it has been downhill ever since that fateful decision on 22 May 2002. The country continues to wallow deeper in a cesspool of violent insurgency, street protests, ineffective governance and a creeping anarchy.

The king has been hiring and firing premiers at will, but to no avail. Governance remains stuck in a Panchayat-type rut. Even under despotic regimes there is a token legislative body to which the executive is at least nominally accountable. But not in our quasi-democracy.

Unless that fundamental condition of constitutionalism is met, it is difficult to see how King Gyanendra can run a civilian government with another set of handpicked flunkies in Singha Darbar. It is symptomatic of a deeply-flawed polity that this country continues to stumble along without a prime minister for three weeks.

In the absence of parliament, there is no forum to debate the conduct of constitutional bodies, the report of the auditor general is in cold storage, recommendations of different commissions gather dust-all because there is no mechanism to legislate necessary laws. By reenacting the same or similar ordinances every six months, and that too upon the recommendations of his own nominees, the king is not just undermining democracy but also chipping away at the credibility of the institution of monarchy itself.

Depoliticisation leads to bureaucratisation, and as philosopher Hannah Arendt puts it, "the greater the bureaucratisation of public life, the greater the attraction of violence". Restoration of parliament may not resolve the insurgency, or even bring back political stability right away, but it will at least dissuade a lot of other people from losing faith in peaceful politics.

The king talks about elections in a tone that defies the panic-stricken ground reality in the country. When soldiers shoot at police in broad daylight at the international airport, who will guard the guardians in the countryside? Before the political plantations of the season can begin, it is first necessary for the king to set the constitutional house in order. It is a moral necessity to restore the House of Representatives by a royal decree. This may not be constitutional by definition, but shock therapy to kick-start a comatose polity is neither illegal nor immoral. All it needs is sagacity and courage so that the young student in Delhi will one day witness a revival of democracy in his own motherland.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)