Saturday, October 31, 2009

Barbecue and Politics

Happened to be invited to a superb barbecue dinner very recently. It was a small group, including two CA members, one of them a seasoned politician. With the impending street agitation promised by the Maoists, politics naturally took up a lot of the conversation time.

I had certain basic questions, not being a politician nor much of a political analyst either:

1. Why did the Army not step in when the King's powers were removed by the SPA and the Maoists in the spring of 2006?
There was no call for this action by the King himself and the Army Chief then was not a man of action.
2. When the country was declared secular, why did the Hindu majority in Nepal remain silent?
Because they were Hindus and tolerance is a basic tenet of Hinduism.
3. Why does not anyone have the courage to face Girija and change the NC leadership?
He still has a coterie of strong supporters within the party and the Koirala name probably is an asset for him.
4. So what is going to happen with the Maoists agitation starting 1st November?
Their call for reviewing the President's decision on reinstating the Army Chief sacked by the Maoists holds absolutely no water. Right off, the case is in the Supreme Court and, without its decision, there cannot be any discussion on it. Besides, there is no constitutional provision for the President's action to be reviewed by the CA. Further, the unconstitutional move was initiated by the Maoists themselves when the sacked the Army Chief directly without sending their recommendation to the President. Of course, they also abrogated the whole principle of consensus when they went ahead with the sacking while all other parties were against it.

Well, the answer to the fourth question was rather an earful but I learnt a lot. In summary, the Maoists' brazen move to replace the Army Chief with their chosen General backfired. They had to resign. They lost face. The street agitation going on now is only to let people know that they still have some "punch" left. Of course, going into the foreign involvement in the Army Chief fracas would extend this post too long; so I will not even touch that. The issue is not "civilian control of the Army", as hyped by the Maoists - it is simply politics as played out by power-hungry politicians who do not care a whit for the people of this country.


Subodh said...

When's the next barbecue? I would like to enjoy it too sans the politics.

Anonymous said...

Hey Birat it is great to have you back blogging. As usual you enlighten us with your breakdown of the situation and clear thinking. Thanks. I can now show off at the next barbecue rather than just smiling and pretending to follow the conversation.

But like the recent joke you sent us, these politicians ( especially the Maoists)should realize "not to take life too seriously, no one gets out alive"!!

Anonymous said...

The Masoist are making the same mistake the other parties made after 1990, the 1st Andolan. "To grab power at any cost." It cost the NC and the UML dearly, and that was the result of the elections after Janandolan 2. Why don't people learn?

govind said...

Hi Birat,Glad to see you back with a roar!
"Nepal is a `neta pidit` desh" as someone said.
Let them have a showdown and get it over,one way or another.I hope the collateral damage is minimum.

Anonymous said...

I skimmed through part of your blog. Very interesting. A couple of things attracted my attention. First, transition from monarchy to democracy. I think most people would prefer it even if the Nepalese monarchy was not overbearing or despotic by nature. I think a visceral knowledge of your stern opposition would automatically give the impression that this is retrograde opinion. I will just leave it at that.

The second is the change of the constitution to make it a secular country. The paradox is that the Nepali people, like most enlightened Bangladeshis, have been secular and non-discriminating in outlook even if the constitution had the country as a Hindu Kingdom. On the other hand, India has had a secular constitution since 1947 but many extremist Hindu political groups are active and flourishing. I find it interesting that you were in favor of the status quo ante but you were averse to some Ministers wearing dhoti (something here looked as a typical Hindu garb) during their swearing in.

fictionpark said...

cool read

Horatio said...

Anon 2:32, thanks for your comments.

It is not so obvious here that most people would not prefer the monarchy. And I am for a constitutional monarchy (sans political power) with a full-fledged multi-party democracy which is what we had from 1990 until 2002. So I hope you will not classify me as retrogressive. The monarchy serves as a unifying institution which signifies the sovereignty of the nation, and Nepal's sovereignty is always in doubt thanks to our neighbour in the south. After all, why do the the Europeans still keep their monarchies?

You are right that the Nepali people have never been discriminating even when this was a Hindu Kingdom. With 85% of the population Hindu or Buddhist, 4% Muslems, maybe 2% Christians, and a few others, religious discrimination was never an issue here until the country was made secular. Now, like in India, we have hard-line Hindu groups bombing churches and mosques.

Finally, the elections of April 2008 was to have a Constituent Assembly which would draft a new constitution for approval by the people. Monarchy vs. republic and Hindu state vs. secularism were issues to be deliberated by the CA and put to a referendum. Instead, the leaders of the 3 major parties here (including the Maoists) shoved a republic and secularism down the throats of the docile Nepali public.

At his swearing-in, the Vice President not only wore a dhoti but took the oath in Hindi which is not his native tongue nor of any ethnic group in Nepal! The President administered the oath in Nepali and the VP did an instant translation to Hindi.