Whither Nepal : Will the New Deal Bring a New Dawn?

Propelled by the enormous power of an awakened people, events continue to move with stunning swiftness in Nepal . The 237-year-old feudal monarchy, which seemed to be in control of Nepal till the other day has already been relegated to the background. It may now even be consigned to the museum of history if the people of Nepal can have their way and thwart the last attempt to save the monarchy as a ceremonial showpiece.

If the reconvened Parliament had taken everyone by surprise with its sudden proclamation stripping the King of most of his royal powers and privileges, the outcome of the hurriedly convened meeting between Koirala and Prachanda has been no less stunning. A committee has already been constituted to draft an interim constitution within 15 days, which, in turn, would pave the way for dissolution of the existing Parliament within another 15 days. There would now be an interim government with Maoists participating, which would preside over elections to the constituent assembly.

This spectacular pace of developments in Nepal must not however blind us to the underlying elements of friction and contention not all of which are quite open yet. Having declared ceasefire, Maoists had been constantly complaining of being bypassed by the seven-party alliance. Just the other day when Koirala came to New Delhi, Prachanda described it as a conspiracy to deceive the people of Nepal and warned of further bloodshed if the seven-party alliance treated the parliament as all powerful and went ahead with signing hasty deals with foreign countries without first resolving the all important question of holding elections to the constituent assembly.

Ironically, it was precisely after Koirala's India visit that talks with Maoists acquired extraordinary momentum and the eight-point declaration of June 16 came just hours before Koirala was scheduled to leave on a foreign trip for his treatment. The ailing octogenarian Prime Minister however did not attend the post-summit press conference in which Prachanda described the eight-point agreement as a potential instrument to free Nepal and its people of all kinds of foreign interference.

Prachanda has also gone on record describing the accord as a revolution made successful jointly by rebels waging war and political parties involved in parliamentary politics. A little rhetorical flourish at such a juncture is only to be expected, but we still need a proper analysis of the new juncture in Nepal . The way the accord is implemented in the coming months, especially the election to the new constituent assembly, will of course enable us to have a better and more realistic appraisal of the situation. Commenting on the June 16 accord, the New York Times has already raised the crucial issue as to “how the army high command will react … and whether the interim government will be able to keep the state security forces under its command.”

Viewed in a strategic perspective, the best estimate of the new alignment of class forces in Nepal will be available only in the new constitution. So far, the Maoists have come out clearly in favour of a democratic republic while Koirala has made his preference known for a ceremonial monarchy. Maoists have also begun to talk about radical land reforms and industrialisation and in his first public press conference, Prachanda hinted at a drastic restructuring of the Nepali army. The question of recasting Nepal 's relations with foreign countries, India in particular, should also be expected to come up sooner rather than later. All these changes, if effectively implemented, would surely have a revolutionary bearing on the development of Nepal .

But will the restructuring of the state in Nepal take the country along a people's democratic direction, or will we see a gradual consolidation of bourgeois rule in Nepal ? Will we now see a big unification of communists in Nepal giving them a clear political edge as the pre-eminent political force in the new Himalayan Republic or will the faction-ridden Nepali Congress come from behind to emerge as a powerful bourgeois platform? What will be the role of the proposed UN supervision in Nepal ? The ongoing transition in Nepal would keep throwing up many such questions of strategic import, but it is early days yet, and we will have to wait for definitive answers to emerge.

Revolutionary communists and other progressive forces in India will of course hope for a grand consolidation of revolutionary democratic forces in Nepal . A great possibility for a new social advance has certainly opened up in Nepal and we wish the communists and progressive forces of Nepal every success towards a successful transition.