Will Nepal witness a 'Chameli' Revolution?(Any conceivable alternative to ‘democratic’ political parties will in all likelihood prove to be even more disastrous in the long run. However, when people begin to equate the lack of development with democracy, who knows, they might be tempted to go for it.)
Will Nepal witness a 'Chameli' Revolution?
A fellow Nepali created a Facebook group called ‘Countdown Constitution-Nepal (Chameli Movement)’ about a week ago that urges all Nepalis to come together to pressurize our political leadership to promulgate a new constitution by May 28. The group already has about 600 members (and counting). On taking a cursory look at the posts in the group, one gets a feeling that Nepalis have had enough of the never-ending political circus and that a revolution akin to the ones taking place in the Arab world is imminent. But will that happen?
One thing is certain by now: Our political leadership will continue to entangle themselves in petty (read power) politics and will in no way be able to promulgate a new constitution before the extended term of the Constituent Assembly (CA) expires on May 28, which is now just less than three months away. When the political parties reach a “unanimous decision” to extend the CA’s deadline once again, how will Nepalis react to it? Will that finally act as the trigger to bring people to the streets? Will something akin to what is happening in the Arab world, or for that matter what happened in Nepal in 1990 or 2006, get replicated on our own turf?
In the absence of a single face that people can vent out their anger and frustrations on for all the ills that they are living with such as perennial load-shedding, sky-rocketing prices, dilapidated infrastructure, among others, who will eventually have to bear the brunt of the (violent) protests? What will be the fallout of such a development and what will be the solution?
Tunisians had Zine El Abidine Ben Ali to protest against. Egyptians had Hosni Mubarak. Libya has Muammar Gaddafi. Yemen has Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has remained in power for 32 years, first as the president of Yemen Arab Republic (North Yemen) and the president of Republic of Yemen since the country’s unification in 1990. The people of Bahrain have an enemy in the form of a monarch. The Chinese may not have a single person to vent their anger against, but they have a single party. Nepalis had a king to fight against both in 1990 and 2006 but whom will they unleash their anger against in May?
It is always easier to mobilize the masses, or for the masses to come together, when the enemy has a face. That is the reason why the Nepali Maoists portrayed the king as the villain. That was a ‘strategy’ to rally the masses behind them and take forward their cause. That is also precisely the reason why there was so much debate in and around the Maoist’s Palungtar Plenum on whether or not India should be declared their principal enemy. The morale of their cadres was at an all-time low and they desperately needed an enemy to bind them together.
Any conceivable alternative to ‘democratic’ political parties will in all likelihood prove to be even more disastrous in the long run. However, when people begin to equate the lack of development with democracy, who knows, they might be tempted to go for it.
I suspect that when D-Day nears, and if protests break out, it is the top leadership of our political parties – the Maoists, Nepali Congress, CPN-UML – who will face the wrath of the outraged public. This essentially means that it is the likes of Pushpa Kamal Dahal, Sushil Koirala, Jhala Nath Khanal, Baburam Bhattarai, Sher Bahadur Deuba, Ram Chandra Poudyal, K P Oli, Madhav Kumar Nepal, among a host of other leaders, who will have to go scouting for cover. Since they are invariably the bunch that takes credit for any good work done, it is natural for the public to go hunting for their heads when things get messy. It is a bit unfair on them, surely. But logic and reason unfortunately are not the virtues that a deeply enraged public possess.
But will we see such protests? It is both a yes and a no. It depends on how our leaders behave and conduct themselves in whatever little time is left before them. One thing is certain. It is not going to be easy for our parties to convince the people for yet another extension of CA’s term. People will seek an explanation and unfortunately, besides the Maoists blaming the non-Maoist parties and vice-versa, there is hardly any convincing argument that our parties have to present before the public.
However, if the parties are able to sincerely work together in the next three months, which of course requires a lot of sacrifices because it means keeping aside political and party ambitions, and convince the public that they have indeed covered a lot of ground, the people might be ready for a ‘mini’ extension, say three months to four months. The point is to inject hope among the people in these hopeless times. People are sensible enough to understand that miracles do not happen in everyday life but they need a semblance of hope—a feeling that things are headed in the right direction and at some point of time we will reach the targeted destination. Mere rhetoric, though, will not suffice. People have had enough of that. But if the political parties can do something concrete, people might certainly agree to a mini extension.
But if our leaders do not mend their ways soon, God save them! For me, the thumping slap on Mr Khanal’s rosy cheeks by Devi Prasad Regmi in January was merely a representation of the frustrations of the Nepali public aside from the transgression of a ‘deranged’ individual. In May, when millions of people take to the streets with their sleeves rolled up, one can well imagine what will happen to our leaders.
But what worries me more than the safety of our leaders is the empty political space that such a development might leave us with. Any conceivable alternative to ‘democratic’ political parties will in all likelihood prove to be even more disastrous in the long run. However, when people begin to equate the lack of development with democracy, who knows, they might be tempted to go for it. Have I stressed my imagination too far? Well, just wait and see how the Chameli Movement gains steam in the coming months.