A Rightist Revival Attempt
Yuba Nath Lamsal
The provocative remarks that deposed king Gyanendra Shah made through a statement on December 21 have, as expected, stirred up a hornets' nest in the Nepalese political circle. His remarks have drawn both flak as well as commendation. As a citizen, Gyanendra Shah, too, has every right to enjoy his freedom of expression. In that sense, his remarks should not be construed in a negative sense as he has spoken his mind on the state of affairs in the country. But given the circumstances and moves he has made over the last couple of months, one can easily presume that something fishy is afoot in the dark rooms of the rightist camp in Nepal.
The Nepali society is politically charged and politics is highly polarised. Every sector, including our intelligentsia, is politically divided and polarised. Our intellectual circle, which is supposed to be independent and to make its analysis and judgment based on the facts and reasons, often tends to toe party line. So our political pundits analyse and interpret any event and its consequence in a way that suits their personal or partisan interests. Their analyses often do not reflect the reality, but the opinion of a particular political party or interest group. This is perhaps the chronic disease that Nepal, in particular, is suffering for a long time.
If we are to drive Nepal forward onto the path of prosperity, a new culture of democracy must be established wherein the politicians will behave like politicians and professionals will act like true professionals. There must be a clear demarcation between the politicians and professionals. Politics is the domain of politicians whereas professionals have their own sphere of domain of telling people what is right and wrong without any kind of fear, pride and prejudice. Social and political scientists, economists, analysts and professionals must be honest and do justice to their profession.
Given the highly polarised politics and politically charged society, the ex-king's remarks have definitely given rise to different speculations. This is because we have the tradition and trend to analyse everything and every incident in a way that suits one's own interest. Nepal is a democracy which allows all hues of ideologies and political beliefs to exist. We have political parties which have varied orientation and leanings—from far right to the far left. Different political parties have different stance and position on different issues, which is natural in a democracy. This is the beauty of democracy, which allows all kinds of flowers to blossom in the pluralistic garden. We have diverse society in which different ethnic, lingual, cultural and religious communities have been living in a perfect harmony. This diversity is our pride, property and heritage, which must be protected and strengthened. Unity in diversity is what our constitution visualises. The ex-kings opinions should also be taken in this light.
The issues and concerns raised by the ex-king are nothing new. The politicians, activists and civil society leaders have often been saying and expressing similar views and opinions on different occasions and forums. In his statement, the ex-king has raised the concern on national unity stating, "Nepal’s national unity is under attack by the so-called progressive, revolutionary and modern elements". He even went one step forward in attacking the political parties that they (political parties and their leaders) were trying to create rift between the hill and plain people at the behest of external forces. It is a direct reference to and attack on political parties. In it also there is nothing objectionable as every citizen has right to criticise the conduct of political parties and their leaders. In principle, none is expected and even allowed to act anything against our national unity and integrity in any name, form and manifestation and under any pretext. If anyone tries to do so, it is treason. Necessary action must be taken against anyone who tries to harm our national interest as well as one who allows the external forces to interfere in our internal matters.
Nepal is an independent country and Nepalese people are capable of charting out their own political course and solving their own problem. Any kind of interference and dictates in our internal political affairs from external forces and country are unacceptable and intolerable. But the question is whether our leaders are as dishonest in a way the ex-king has claimed. It's a big no as our leaders are not less patriotic than the ex-king or anybody else.
This is an indication that attempts are afoot from certain quarters both at home and abroad to portray the ex-king as the symbol of national unity and patriotism and malign our political leaders. This is a serious conspiracy against our democracy, republican set up and all other achievements gained through the Jana Andolan of 2006. An individual can never be a symbol of national unity in this modern democratic era. But the ex-king is being instigated by a section of ultra rightist and ultra-nationalist elements to try to reap political benefit out of the rising rightist trend in the world.
Although the rightist trend is on the rise right from 1990 after the collapse of the Soviet Union, it is more pronounced in the recent years. The rise of BJP and Modi in India, Shinzo Abe in Japan, Theresa May in the United Kingdom and most recently Donald Trump in the United States are the clearer manifestations of rising rightist trend in the world. The ex-king and his supporters might, perhaps, have been encouraged by these developments abroad and political chaos at home. The ex-king is trying to raise the specter of rightist nationalism and at the same time the sentiments of some hilly people more particularly after the registration of the constitution amendment bill in the parliament. The king's statements and moves are nothing more than an attempt to fish in Nepal's troubled political waters and he is not likely to gain anything out of this.
Although Nepalese people may have short memory, the history of monarchy in Nepal is still in our fresh memory. There were of course some kings who have made positive contribution to Nepal's nation-building, but most of the kings were tyrants. Prithivi Narayan Shah's role is definitely praiseworthy and historic and there is no doubt about that. King Mahendra murdered democracy and portrayed himself as a political tyrant, but his contribution to national integration and development is positive. But there is nothing in Gyanendra to command people's respect. He came to power after the royal massacre, but he left his footprint as the worst political tyrant and a crooked businessman, rather than a king. Moreover, the attempt of ex-king to raise the slogan of patriotism and national unity, too, is farce as he, himself, is running from New Delhi to Beijing seeking support for his political regain. What we need to understand is the fact that when a person is dead he/she cannot be revived. Similarly, the monarchy is already dead and abolished, which cannot be revived again, and the ex-king and his supporters must realise this more clearly. Moreover, the monarchy is an anti-democratic political institution, which cannot be compatible with the modern democratic era.
Political parties and leaders have definitely their own limitations, shortcomings and weaknesses. But it does not mean that this is the fault of the system. Democracy is the best political system which alone can solve all political problems and create positive ground for participatory development. So there should not be any attempt from any quarter to defame the republican democratic system and malign the parties as there is no alternative to democracy in the present era. Similarly, there is no alternative to political parties in the multi-party democracy which we have adopted.