Faced with the fearful prospect of Nepal being engulfed in a virtual civil war, King Gyanendra conceded at midnight on April 24 the demand of the agitating seven-party alliance (SPA) to restore the Pratinidhi Sabha?the lower House of the Parliament of Nepal?which was dissolved on May 22,2002 by him on the recommendation of the then Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba.
In response, the SPA ended its 19-day-long agitation for restoration of democracy and people all over the country came on the streets dancing with joy at their victory against what was perceived as King Gyanendra'sautocratic rule.
On the morning of April 25, the leaders of the seven-party alliance met at the residence of the senior-most leader Girija Prasad Koirala and elected him as their leaders, who is to become the Prime Minister once again. The revived Pratinidhi Sabha is meeting on Friday, April 28 in order to transact yet unspecified business, but what is likely is that the House will adopt a resolution calling for general elections at the earliest for a Constituent Assembly, which will later draft the country'snew Constitution.
However, the Maoists of Nepal, who had signed an agreement with the SPA for launching a joint struggle against the monarch, have totally rejected the offer by the King to restore the Pratinidhi Sabha. What this means will be known only in the coming days, but the Maoists believe in violence and their violent movement has taken a toll of more than 13,000 lives in Nepal since February 1996. Nine thousand of those killed, it is estimated, are Maoists and four thousand are from the army, the police and the common people.
What the Maoists will do is not clear yet, although the leaders of the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist UML) believe they can bring the Maoists round in order to join the mainstream political process through elections for the Constituent Assembly.
The topmost UML leader Madhav Kumar Nepal told mediapersons in Kathmandu on April 25 that the future role of the King would be decided by the Constituent Assembly when it would meet for drafting the new Constitution. Chances are that the Constituent Assembly will allot only a ceremonial position for the King or altogether abolish the monarchy. If that happens then it would be the final curtain for the dynasty established by King Prithvinarayan Shah in September 1769.
These events might take place within the next few months and India may have to deal with a new regime in which extremist Communists will have a larger say. How far such an event will pose a threat to India'ssecurity, if at all, will be known as these developments unfold one after the other, beginning with the installation of the Koirala government within the next couple of days. We may, meanwhile, analyse what caused the present unrest in Nepal and try to remove certain misconceptions about the political development in the country, which have serious security implications for India.
Sadly, politicians as also mediapersons in India are and have been blissfully ignorant of the actual incidents taking place so near their borders and they have reacted almost on a day-to-day basis in recent years without properly appreciating the nuances of all such developments not only in the recent past but also in the distant one.
If political leaders of India had to express their sense of outrage at the dismissal of an elected government in Nepal, that date should have been October 4, 2002, when Deuba, caretaker Prime Minister after the dissolution of the Pratinidhi Sabha was dismissed. One could, at that point of time, express sympathy with him for dismissal as ?elected? Prime Minister in the sense that he was leading a caretaker government. It has been a mystery why Indian public and media opinion had not erupted on October 4, 2002.
Now about the revival of the Pratinidhi Sabha?this House was elected in October 1999, when the Nepali Congress, the country'spremier and the oldest political party, won 113 of the 205 seats. The UML was successful in about 60 seats. Small parties such as the Rashtriya Prajatantra Party and the Sadbhavana Party besides some splinter Communist parties had made up the rest.
Even with the emergency, the Maoists insurgency could not be curbed and by now a large number of lives had already been lost. Deuba then recommended dissolution of the Pratinidhi Sabha under Article 53(4) of the Constitution and the King had to accede to this, but as the Article stipulates, after fixing a date for holding elections for the Pratinidhi Sabha within six months. The date was November 23, 2002.
Going strictly by the statute book, the revival of the Pratinidhi Sabha is un-constitutional. But then since so much is at stake, why bother about these ?inconsequential? quibbling with the law and the Constitution? A desperate situation requires a desperate solution.