Monday, March 24, 2008

Let the people decide

It’s been almost a decade since Nepal had legitimate elections. A lot of things have changed since then. The Maoists that once ran for their lives are now making others run. The mainstream political parties that once hardheadedly undermined the inclusion of Madhesis and Dalits have fielded candidates from these marginalized groups in large numbers in the upcoming CA elections.

The upcoming CA elections may not be perfect like any other elections in the developing world but they will definitely take the nation a step forward. For now, it is the best game in town. It will help break the cycle of political stagnation.

With the successful conduction of CA elections, we can: (1) get rid of monarchy that has never stopped fiddling around with democracy and democratic rights of people, (2) put a brake on autocratic aspirations of graffiti-president Puspa Kamal Dahal even if it is a temporary one. These two individuals pose a perennial threat to stable democracy. Unless we negate the threat posed by them, transition to a stable multi-party democracy will always remain an illusive dream.

We have long passed the discussion on utility of the monarchy. The nation is ready to embrace a new system. Krishna Prasad Bhattarai and his followers should stop confusing the voters with their open exhibition of royal obsession. King Gyanendra’s foolishness of 2005 aside, the monarchy as an institution has been serving as a punching bag for politicians that want to hide their own incompetence and failures. It is, thus, necessary that we get rid of monarchy and prepare grounds for politicians whereby they will be forced to take responsibilities for their incompetence and failures.

Like the democratic movement in Nepal did not die after the demise of the visionary statesman like BP Koirala, we, as a nation, will definitely survive as a republic.

The upcoming CA elections will again bring the democratic forces to the forefront. The people, if given opportunity, would always reject both the hardcore left and the right. If we look at the period between post-1990 popular movement and the beginning of the Maoist movement, the nation had already moved towards the center. Even the United Marxists Leninist Party (UML) which has a sizeable number of extreme left-leaning ideologues like Bam Dev Gautam that appears more radical than many Maoist radicals at the higher echelon of the party, had embraced multiparty parliamentary democracy.

The growth of media was impressive. Slowly but surely the mainstream media was eroding the reach of vernacular weeklies that serve political parties rather than shaping public opinion for the greater good of the nation. Schools and colleges were being opened in villages like never before and the private sector had begun to flourish. Had the Maoists not bogged down the genuine democratic process, we would have made a significant political and economic progress by now.

For the mainstream political parties, gaining the lost political grounds might not be as hard as it might seem to be. All they got to do is, act smart and act now. Before it gets too late, the NC and the UML, that are the major partners of the current coalition should do two things: (a) ask security forces to make the cadres of the mainstream political parties feel safe (2) explain to people as and why it is dangerous to get swayed by the brainwashed ideologues and ethnic hustlers. Give them real world examples. Let he people know how Communist regimes around the world got crumbled under the weight of their Orwellian goals, of which, they never got even close. Tell them why it is dangerous to experiment radical communism even if it is for a short period of time.

It is important for people to know how hard people of former communist regimes are struggling to overcome the legacy of totalitarianism, which aggressively sought to eradicate anything that might serve as an institutional foundation for democracy.

Like the recent uprising in the tarai gave moderate regional parties a space to operate, the upcoming CA elections will give space to moderate mainstream political parties that have been competing with each other democratically for almost two decades. Nepali society will again move towards the center.

Like the 3-year long draconian Panchayat regime could not force the society to move towards the extreme right, the decade old Maoists’ propaganda and violence will not be able to persuade Nepali society to move towards the extreme left. It will simply not happen under the ideal conditions. Nepali society is resilient enough to survive forceful indoctrinations.

Lately, the Maoists have been acting like cornered animals and intensified their attacks on political rivals. The mainstream media are awash with the breach of the election Code of Conduct by the Maoists. It is important to understand that the Maoists are intimidating the mainstream political parties’ rank-and-files with a hope that their intimidation tactics will force the NC and the UML to come to an informal understanding that they need to ensure the victory of the Maoist candidates in the upcoming CA elections. They know it very well that without the support of the NC and the UML, humiliating defeat in the CA polls is inevitable.

Unlike in the past, the NC and the UML should not fall into the laid Maoist trap this time around. Any informal understanding to ensure the Maoist victory will falsely project their strength and hence encourage them to indulge in more irrational political bargains in the future. Let the actual strength of the political parties emerge. That is what democracy is all about, isn’t it?

There is still a huge population that despises both extreme left and the right.

Young Turks like Gagan Thapa should rethink the danger associated with positioning oneself towards the far-left fringe of the Congress party. By positioning yourself on the far-left, you will blur the difference between yourself and Khim Lal Devkota.

There is nothing to worry about the Maoist crowd gathered to listen to threat laden rhetoric of the Maoist ideologues in the open theater. Boris Yeltsin is a spectacular example of how former communists can easily become anticommunists. All you got to do is, position yourself in the center, and fight against both the extreme left’s propaganda machine and the muscle power. Once people understand the limits of an outdated utopian dream of equality that the extreme left is trying hard to sell and once they get convinced that the physical threat posed by the left can be challenged, they will come out in favor of democratic forces like never before. People are sick and tired of the violent politics practiced by the hardcore leftist radicals. Just hang in there and do what true democrats do best: fight against the extreme left’s propaganda machine and muscle power by energizing the democratic base. It is definitely a winnable game.

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