The dismissal of Nepal’s army chief General Rookmangud Katawal on Sunday, his “reinstatement” on Monday by President Ram Baran Yadav and the resignation of prime minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal “Prachanda” has injected political uncertainty in that country.
By Monday, matters had gone much further than the sacking of the army chief. Prachanda’s position had become untenable. Alliance partners such as the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist) had quit the government. There was a groundswell of opposition to the course that Prachanda had chosen, namely getting rid of Katawal for reasons that most political actors in Nepal felt had little substance to them.
Illustration: Jayachandran / Mint
A democratic set-up requires give and take of the kind that revolutionary regimes are unaccustomed to. The prime minister’s actions betrayed this impatience clearly. From trivial matters such as the appointment of Nepalese priests in the Pashupatinath temple (instead of the traditional, India-born, Bhattas) to very substantial ones such as negotiating a treaty of peace and friendship with India, Prachanda wanted quick results.
This haste did not pay. What it did instead was to level a serious charge against Prachanda: He and his party were wrecking any institution that stood in their way to reorder Nepalese politics and society. It also led to the accusation that Maoists were never serious about implementing their vision by democratic means. After all, when they formed a coalition government, they were well aware of the limitations in that set-up. Yet, they tried to circumvent that order at every step. The resignation confirms this.
After precipitating a crisis and then having no option left, Prachanda resigned, all within 24 hours. This demonstrates brittleness that is fatal to a democratic government but is a hallmark of revolutionary Left parties. His behaviour was immature for the prime minister of a nascent democracy.
The question is, will Nepal be able to complete its transition to democracy smoothly? The Maoists cannot be wished away. They command popularity in that country. But, at the same time, they have shown remarkable disinclination to work within the confines of democracy. If that is not enough, Nepal’s political parties have great incapacity for forming stable coalitions. That bodes ill for a country which did not hesitate to dismiss a 239-year-old monarchy in its quest for democracy.
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