1951 revolution was for true democracy: Gurung
Kul Bahadur Gurung, popularly known as KB Sir among the Nepali Congress leaders and cadres, had declared Nepal Republic in his capacity of as the first Speaker of the first Constituent Assembly in 2008. Gurung, who spent many years with B. P. Koirala in exile in India, was among the first three Nepali Congress leaders, who had returned to Nepal risking their lives in 1977, after B. P. Koirala propounded the National Reconciliation Policy. Upon arrival at the Tribhuvan International Airport from Patna, Gurung, including two others---Dharma Gautam and Basu Koirala -- were arrested and put behind bar.
Born to Pahal Bahadur Gurung and Purna Kumari Gurung in Ilam 84 years ago, Gurung worked as a teacher at Ilam High School from 1961 to 1972 before going to India in exile.
After his release in 1979, he served as NC district president for years. Widely regarded as an honest leader and true follower of B. P. Koirala’s ideology in the party, Gurung was elected to the erstwhile House of Representatives from Ilam Constituency-2 and served in the Health and Education ministries. He also served as a central committee member and general secretary of the Nepali Congress. He was elected to the first Constituent Assembly from Ilam Constituency-3 in 2008 and chaired the first CA meeting, which abolished the monarchy, in the capacity of the senior-most CA member. He was elected in the central committee of the Nepali Congress in the 12th and 13th general conventions of the party.
Leader Gurung recently talked to Bishnu Gautam of The Rising Nepal. Excerpts:
Elections to the House of Representatives and Provincial Assemblies and formation of the government both in the centre and the provinces have been completed as per the constitution drafted and promulgated by the people-elected Constituent Assembly. These developments were envisaged by the Nepali Congress 68 years ago while launching the revolution of 2007 (1951), albeit constitutional monarchy, one of the key policies of the NC, does not exist now. As a senior leader of the NC that led the revolution of 1951 and other political movements thereafter, how have you taken these political developments?
It is difficult to deny these happenings in the present circumstances. It is because there have not been democratic movements as they should have been over the years, especially after the revolution of 1951. Sometimes, there were movements launched by communal groups and at other times by a small group raising petty issues. In Nepal, there has never been any democratic movement that could be permanent and sustainable. The only democratic movement sustained permanently was of 1951. It became sustainable because that was the necessity of the time. All other movements after 1951 failed to leave any permanent impact on the Nepali society.
Now we have a new constitution. But before the promulgation of this, voices were raised demanding amendment to it. The constitution was promulgated without making any amendment. It proved there are errors in the statute. Those who drafted the constitution also knew its errors. But they promulgated it using their might without correcting the weaknesses. Immediately after its promulgation, demands for its amendment heightened further, and it was also amended. When there was a need for amendment, there must be several factors associated with it. But there had not been any logical explanation from any politician on why the amendments were needed and made. There will also never be explanations because our leaders tend not to tell the truth. They just talk about a particular district or province or a particular class. One cannot tell anything about the good or bad impact of this class or geography-specific politics on the Nepali society.
Again all the movements, no matter who had launched them, after 1951, have become short-lived. Besides the revolution of 2007 and the movement of 2018 BS, no true movement for democracy was launched. No political party except the Nepali Congress spearheaded any movement saying the Panchayat system was bad for the nation. Truly speaking, many democrats had stayed idle supporting the king even when the Panchayat system was imposed. Those who continued their politics during the 30-year Panchayat rule even could not open a Panchayat party. Even the political movement of 1990 and the Maoist-launched armed conflict were short-lived.
Democracy that was first ushered in 1951 was snatched twice over the decades. Will democracy sustain now? What do you think?
We wish this democracy sustained. Development of the country will be possible only when democracy sustains itself. But still many leaders are not in favour of making it sustainable. But they do not tell this. It is because they are not ready to provide any philosophy for or against this democracy. They do not have any political philosophy. When they cannot share their philosophy, everything achieved through them will fail to sustain. The communists launched a movement. They launched a throat-slitting movement in Jhapa. But their movement failed to be sustainable. The Maoist launched an armed movement, but that also failed to sustain. And now those who say they are working to safeguard democracy hesitate to tell that this democracy is sustainable. No one in Nepal is doing politics honestly to achieve a particular goal. T
There are various aspects, branches, issues and parties related to the Maoists’ movement, but they do not tell anything about them. Even the leader who led the movement cannot tell the truth. During the Maoist movement, different incidents occurred, but no one had given the true explanation of the incidents. Even those to which the incidents were related do not and will not tell anything about them. Of course, every motif of our leader looks unclear and no effort has
The Nepali Congress led the revolution of 1951 and the political movements of 1990 and 2006. The constitution of 1990 and even the new constitution were drafted and promulgated when NC was leading the governments. Also the new constitution came into full implementation following the conclusion of the three-tier elections under an NC-led government. But when the constitution promulgated by a constituent assembly, as demanded by NC during the revolution of 1951, came into implementation, NC was rejected by the people in the recent polls. How have you taken the defeat of the NC in the elections?
Nepali Congress got several opportunities. It got the opportunity in 1951, but the king restricted it from working. It got the opportunities after the first general elections of 1959, but the king snatched democracy in 1960. The NC had accepted the constitution of 2015 B.S., which was drafted and promulgated by the king. NC contested the elections accepting the constitution. Still the king did not allow B. P. Koirala to work. King was the biggest obstacle then. The king himself announced the election of the parliament instead of the Constituent Assembly, B. P. Koirala still accepted it, contested the elections and formed a government. When Koirala tried to work for democracy and people, the king ended democracy and imprisoned Koirala and other leaders. The coup of 1960 was the biggest setback in Nepal’s democracy and development. Since then no politician has succeeded to guide our politics in the right direction.
Whatever the government has experimented in Nepal for eight years after imprisoning B. P. Koirala resulted to be useless. No party created in the 30 years’ Panchayat rule sustained. Even they failed to form a Panchayat party in 1990 when the partyless polity collapsed. It means nothing new had happened politically from 2017 to 2046 BS. Thereafter in 1996, the Maoists launched a violent movement. But they launched the movement when they were represented in the parliament. When they launched the movement, the constitution of 2047 was in effect. It was not the constitution granted by the king alone. Several communist leaders were also in the commission constituted to draft the constitution. When the constitution drafted by them was promulgated, they greeted it with ‘critical support’. They did not deny the constitution because it was drafted in their active participation. But they said they had ‘critical support’ to it. They only wanted to deceive the people. They did not give any logical explanation for or against it. Although only history will judge whether the constitution of 1990 was good, credit for drafting and promulgating the constitution goes to Krishna Prasad Bhattarai and Bishwa Nath Upadhyaya.
What do you think are the causes for the humiliating defeat of NC?
First, it is because of lack political resourcefulness among the central level leaders of the party. Second, once as I happened to reach the committee that distributes the election tickets, I did not know in the beginning, but later came to know from those who got the election tickets that the tickets were sold to them. Those who received the tickets had bought them, and those who gave them had sold. It was also revealed by a ticket buyer. And it had happened when I myself had been the general secretary of the parliamentary committee in 2008. Since then in the whole politics of NC ‘buy and sale’ and ‘contract’ entered. Third, the NC leaders did not have the knowledge that proper strategies should be formulated to win elections. Many NC leaders only hurry to reach power; Sher Bahadur Deuba was not an exception. The haste shown by Deuba to become PM also became costly for the party. The leaders who lack political and ideological resourcefulness naturally lack moral grounds.
NC did not give you election ticket this time. You were also not among the NC candidates under proportional representation (PR) system for the House of Representatives. The National Assembly is meant to be for senior and experienced leaders like you. But still you were denied the NA ticket. Why did this happen?
There were people who said that I should have been included in the PR list of the House of Representatives elections. The central leaders are responsible for not making me a candidate under the PR category. It is the matter of their wisdom. There are a few who have been elected for the third time under PR category. I was elected under the First-Past-The-Post category in 2008. I was elected under the PR category only once in 2013. Still I did not get the ticket. Maybe they thought I should not have been given the ticket. Or maybe, they wanted ‘our men’ not ‘good men’ in the parliament. I also heard the leaders saying that they wanted ‘their men’ not ‘good men’ while selecting the candidates.
Many people say the NC lost the election because of its leadership and wrong policy. What do you think?
One thing makes me hopeful in this regard. B. P. Koirala in his write-up has said that when the NC leaders start showing greed for power, the party will gradually be spoiled. Only the well-off leaders who speak ‘sweet’ language could reach power and they will cause an immense damage to the party. But the Congress that emerges after their fall will have to give a new lease of life to the party. He was hopeful about the revival of the party in such a situation, and as a leader who worked with B. P.; I am a bit hopeful about such a revival. It is also because I have been a witness to the realisation of a few things which B. P. had predicted years back.
Do you think time has come to change the party policy and leadership?
Yes, there were weaknesses in the leadership. Leaders, like Ram Chandra Poudel, Prakash Man Singh and Ram Sharan Mahat, who are now floating their views against the leadership, should have stopped the leadership from taking the wrong decisions. If they had prevented the leadership from taking wrong decision, the present damaged could have been reduced if not averted. They gave tickets to the leaders who they knew well were sure to lose the elections. The group is also equally responsible for the defeat of the party.
It seems NC president Sher Bahadur Deuba succeeded to hold the crucial elections and delete the tag of being ‘incompetent’ as labelled against him, but he failed in terms of good governance. What is your view on this?
First, the Nepali Congress had power. But it did not stick to its stance. As a result, many academicians say the new constitution does not match NC’s political ideologies. Second, NC had everything before holding the elections. But NC leaders lacked resourcefulness. They did not formulate strategies required to win the elections. They forgot the ideologies and ideals of the party. Still they have not realised these weaknesses and will probably never realise because they give more priority to their personal interest than the country, party and the party’s ideology.
India imposed blockade. It did not welcome the new constitution. Instead it tried to fail it by instigating certain political groups. People underwent ordeals due to the inhuman blockade. But NC hesitated to mention the Indian blockade, not to talk about opposing it. The Indian blockade resulted in the widespread anti-Indian sentiment in Nepal and it is believed to be one of the main causes for the defeat of NC in elections. Why did NC not oppose the blockade?
India can impose blockade against Nepal at any time against any government. Nepali leaders who are in power and the intelligentsia should always keep this fact in mind. But they never think about this. They should not ignore this even while launching a small project. The leaders should think from the beginning that Nepal is a land-locked country. But they never pay heed to this. For example, B. P. Koirala thought about it from the beginning. But others who reached the leadership after B. P. only hurried to become popular within and outside the country. They do not think that they will be popular by developing the country. What they want is to earn money quickly.
While marking Democracy Day after the revolution of 2007, I used to think that true democracy had ushered in. I had thought that our behaviours would also be in accordance with the democratic system. But the biggest thing had been revealed over the years that the king did not want democracy in Nepal in a true sense. The leaders unnecessarily trusted the king. The leaders obeyed the king to show him respect. B P Koirala helped the king on many issues after the 1959 elections. But the king is such a creature who always thinks that he is everything. King Tribhuvan said he gave up everything, but he had not. King Mahenda ended democracy and king Gyanendra also did the same. Still the free-going leaders used to fear a little when the king was in the throne. Sadly, no leader of any party seems to have realised that this country belongs to us, not to the king only. Hence true democracy is yet to be realised. We were unable to enjoy true democracy. What we did was chanting slogans or criticizing someone. The revolution of the 2007 held under NC transformed the ruled to the sovereign citizens and made them realise their existence in the country as free citizens. This achievement of the 1951 revolution was and will never be snatched away.