No turning back
- Attempts to turn back the clock on recent changes will only lead to new problems
Mar 22, 2015-
At a time when inter-party talks and the constitution project seem to be at a deadlock, it would be useful to reflect on the contributions of the last Grand Old Man of Nepali politics—Girija Prasad Koirala. Saturday, fittingly, was Koirala’s fifth Memorial Day. There might be differences over what led the Nepali Congress stalwart to make a great leap in 2005 to reach out to the Maoists: whether it was the personal humiliation meted out to him by the authoritarian Gyanendra or whether he genuinely believed that the country could end its civil conflict only through the political mainstreaming of the rebel Maoists. Perhaps it was a combination. Personal humiliation, after all, has often been key in shaping political histories.
It was Girija Prasad Koirala who led the initiative that culminated in the signing of the 12-point understanding between the Seven Party Alliance and the Maoist party in November 2005. This brought the two forces together against Gyanendra’s autocracy and successfully sparked Janaandolan II. The autocratic regime was eventually overthrown. Koirala yet again took a lead role in the signing of the 8-point agreement, when relations between the traditional parliamentary parties and the Maoists were at a low. The document stressed the primacy of the 12-point accord, which had recognised that “the autocratic monarchy is the main hurdle” in achieving democracy, peace, and prosperity of the Nepali people. These documents, and the Comprehensive Peace Agreement signed in 2006 November, commit the parties to the socio-economic transformation of the Nepali society, transitional justice mechanisms, and demobilisation of the Maoist army. It also binds the Maoists to competitive multiparty politics, civil liberties, and rule of law. These landmark documents emphasise consensus to resolve issues of political dispute during the transition.
But after the November 2013 elections, there has been a serious pushback to this larger political understanding that Koirala guided. A new school of thought seems to have taken root in the two parties that emerged victorious in the second CA elections—the Nepali Congress and CPN-UML. As a result, commitment to the avowed socio-economic transformation and providing greater political space to marginalised communities and women have been undercut and pushed to the periphery. Some outside these two parties have even gone so far as to question the constitutionality of Nepal as a federal democratic republic, established in 2008 through an absolute majority by the newly-elected Constituent Assembly (CA).
For all his faults, Girija Koirala seemed to recognise the nature of progressive politics towards the end, leading the Congress into the 2008 CA elections despite serious doubts about the party’s electoral prospects. Although belied by his authoritarian style within the party he led, Girijababu often professed an undying devotion to democracy and its ideals. As such, while there can be differences over the nature and forms of federalism and nuances of democracy, attempts to turn back the clock are unfortunate and unwarranted. They will only lead to new problems.
Published: 23-03-2015 08:53