The challenge of shaping a new Nepal begins now…

The outcome of the April 10 elections in Nepal goes far beyond signalling the eventual end of the country's 240-year-old monarchy. The fate of the monarchy was more or less decided before the elections when all parties had agreed to pass a resolution proclaiming Nepal a republic in the f-irst meeting of the Constituent Assembly. It is the new balance of political forces in post-poll Nepal which has taken everybody by surprise.

The Maoists of Nepal, still listed as a terrorist outfit by the Bush administration, have emerged as the biggest political component in the Constituent Assembly. They have bagged half of the directly elected seats and more than a third of the popular vote in the proportional representation system. The Nepali Congress and the CPN(UML), the two big parties that dominated the parliamentary arena since the 1990 restoration of parliament, find themselves lagging far behind the Maoists. Meanwhile, the terai region of Nepal has witnessed the rise of a powerful Madhesi factor, with the two leading organisations representing the Madhesi identity having a combined tally that places them almost at par with the NC or the UML.

The rise of the Maoists as the leading current in the Constituent Assembly provides an interesting case study of a communist movement in a feudal-monarchist setting. During the 1990 movement for restoration of democracy, the Maoists were present as a minor tendency within the communist spectrum while the CPN(UML) emerged as the leading communist trend. As the `twin pillars' experiment of running a constitutional democracy within a monarchist framework tumbled from one crisis to another, the Maoists took to the path of armed struggle and gradually stepped up their campaign for a full-fledged republic. With the monarchy rapidly losing its prestige and authority in the wake of the infamous palace massacre, the idea of a republic caught the imagination of the people. The victory of the Maoists at the hustings must primarily be attributed to their success in setting the republican agenda.

The communist-led surge of republicanism in Nepal has rebuffed the arrogant designs of the world's greatest `exporter' of democracy. The US backed the King all through, branding the Maoist campaign for a republic as terrorism. The foreign policy strategists in New Delhi who increasingly look at the world and even themselves through the US prism saw the monarchy as the anchor for the stability of Nepal. Now that the ballots have sealed the fate of Nepal's moribund monarchy, these strategists have become jittery about the possibility of republican Nepal pursuing an independent foreign policy and seeking a new balance between India and China.

As far as the US is concerned, containing and encircling China is clearly one of its foremost foreign policy objectives. It is on this basis that the US seeks strategic partnership with India and would also like to use Nepal both as a base and buffer between India and China. As far as India is concerned, Nepal is the closest northern neighbour with a long history of shared multifarious ties. Instead of toeing the US line on Nepal, India must honour the verdict of the Nepali people and sympathetically address the concerns of the emerging Himalayan republic. If we cannot do that, our foreign policy will also prove as anachronistic as the moribund monarchy in Nepal.

While the Sangh Parivar is destined to miss the dynastic head of the erstwhile Himalayan Hindu Kingdom, all progressive people in India should wholeheartedly welcome Nepal's transition to a constitutional republic. In India too, a republican constitution was won only through a determined battle against the British colonialists and their numerous `royal' partners. And for revolutionary communists, it is of course most heartening to note that communists have been at the forefront of the popular quest for a modern democratic and republican Nepal. The composition of the emerging Constituent Assembly also reflects this reality with communists and Left forces of different shades having a clear majority over the political representatives of the nascent Nepali bourgeoisie who have always betrayed the democratic aspirations of the people. The real challenge of writing a democratic constitution and shaping a new Nepal begins now and on behalf of the revolutionary communists and democrats of India we convey our warmest wishes to the communists and fighting people of Nepal at this critical hour of change.

Liberation Archive