The other view on RAM RAJA PRASAD SINGH vs GIRIJA PRASAD KOIRALA for the PRESIDENCY of Nepal
By Kanchan Jha
History is replete with instances of failure to facilitate the process of democracy. In all these instances, despite the introduction of democracy in Nepal, it became a living proof that the Shah dynasty was an impersonal ideal existence, above all and above the ‘law’ and that all Nepalese would remain loyal, in the accepted sense, to the dynasty. Moreover, Narayanhiti always remained the epicenter of the multi-party democracy of Nepal. Now as the ex-kingdom has revolved into a federal democratic state; it is high time, that the big bosses of nepali politics strengthen coalitions and revise their creed and set themselves right, where they are convinced of their errors in the past.
In the CA elections, peace and development planks remained paramount to election campaigns especially with the Maoists’ ‘new leadership for a new Nepal’ slogan. Of course, political parties have used different governance planks in the past and politicians continue to play the role of the shrewd re-musketeers, simply repackaging non-governance oriented fustian twaddle to appeal to mass perception. Unmistakably, emotions and social sentiments of the public also took the precedence not just in deciding who wins but also who does not win in the CA elections. The MJF picked up regional issues and bagged 52 seats in the assembly. Congress and the UML could not come up with an issue. And that led to an unexpected defeat from the Maoists.
Things however did not work out as expected. Even after two months of CA elections a new coalition government is nowhere in sight. While the neck-and-neck fight for power sharing continues in the political corridors of Kathmandu, the scenario, in such a case, is nothing short of chillingly frightening. Quite sonorously, the power-sharing tangle has reached a strange impasse that has paralyzed the formation of the first government of republic Nepal and might bring out ideological opportunism and nationalist hypocrisy of all political players.
What makes the issue refreshingly different is that in glorifying the country’s achievements, the political parties have blithely swept its shortcomings under the carpet and have not instead tried to address them by suggesting practical solutions to pave the way for a better Nepal. For the tender political minds of CA, political formulas/models should not be presented to them, that consists the unseen errors within itself, instead let them rise and invent their own formulas/models that does not consist unseen errors and can bear scrutiny. The grits of ‘politics of unity’ is yet to be the ultimate unifying factor especially when it comes down to the debate of power sharing and who shall be the head of state.
How far is it that the parties recognize the potential of veteran leaders like Ram Raja Prasad Singh and the state develops a model to select a president from Madhes, Pahad and Himal on a rotational basis? Truly so, many pockets of Nepali politics, like the Congress, are a million miles away from this logic. The Maoists proposition of Ram Raja as one of the presidential candidates will manage to amalgamate his personal charisma with both as the first republic voice of Nepal and as the first president of republic Nepal. Well, as far as politics of unity and facilitation of democracy is concerned, Singh will definitely serve as a non-partisan head of state affirming the political importance of high minded conservative, as well as high-minded liberal values. In addition, Singh turns outs to be the man of the masses and his remarkable personal history, honesty and integrity displays him as an incorruptible leader.
But let’s not digress from the power sharing debate. Let’s rate the political attributes of Girija Prasad Koirala (NC proposed presidential candidate) and Ram Raja Singh. On the face of it, it can be argued that in 1991 Koirala was the first democratically elected prime minister since 1959, when his brother B.P.Koirala and Nepali Congress swept the country’s first democratic elections. Moreover, some political pundits even argue that only Koirala has the ability to present a cocktail that will check and balance the power centers especially during the transition period. The grand old man in Nepali politics runs a family dynasty that has fought for democracy in Nepal for more than 50 years. Koirala has three times been the prime minister of Nepal and at present is the acting head of state. On the other hand, his critics argue that there is no clear-cut correlation that can be drawn out between past political achievements of Koirala, when His Majesty’s Government of Nepal still prevailed, and the potential to be the first president of a new republic Nepal.
The stakes are high this time and Koirala understands that. In the past, he did not display the desire for an inclusive democratic republic and favored the idea of a ceremonial king. Now, as Nepal enters a republic era he pictures himself as the first president and the commander of chief of Nepal Army. It is a tale in itself for the man who continues, despite large opposition, to vie for president, professedly for only check-and-balance of power centers.
However, his amiable tenets in the peace agreement with the Maoists are beyond appreciation as power and politics stay supreme. What Koirala managed was to bolster the seven party alliance (SPA) and surprised his critics as he proved to be a versatile player in the peace agreement. Moreover, in the journey to push Nepal up the republic ladder, many irreversible influences and manipulations were forced upon Koirala and the Nepali Congress. What I am talking about is the fact that the Congress had no option but was left with a Hobson’s choice: to kneel down and discard their so-called grand design of a baby king. To put it simply, the desire of a republic was insignificant for Congress, was not self-borne, and does not guarantee their permanent course of revolution in the future.
The principle of solidarity that is crucial in the transition phase may change if factors like adherent monarchists of the past, ‘royal-loyal military and international power players provoke its great enthusiasm. This is the greatest danger of progressive evolution of a baby republic state.
Probably for Koirala, it would be the best opportunity to stay away from the politics of power and by serving as the supremo advisor of CA, he will definitely evolve as the watchdog in the assembly. The people of Nepal will put their pride in recognizing Koirala as the father of republic Nepal. Like Gandhi and Ganesh Man Singh, he too should not indulge himself in the race for power and set an example for the next generation leaders. This will probably build positive grounds for ‘politics of unity’ to function and if Koirala decants his responsibilities, it will evoke a gargantuan hope on the forefront of our political landscape.
At the time when madheshi issue is one telling example, with many pockets in the CA mirroring the situation, political gurus think that a madheshi being the first president will quell violence in the Terai and will help emotionally unite the diffident madheshi communities. Ram Raja is the perfect peg that fits the square and counterparts the larger interests of both the madheshi and pahadi communities. Singh chose his revolutionary course, first with constitutional revolution that turned into a non-violent revolution and naturally later developed into an armed revolution. He started with graduate constituency election in 1967 and as the then His Majesty’s government could not tolerate his penetrating criticism, an ordinance was filed to render both his imprisonment and cancellation of candidature legal.
In 1971, he went underground and contested for the same election based on a republic manifesto that fired the imagination of the intelligentsia defeating well-backed congress and communist candidates. After five years of imprisonment without trial, in 1976, he clandestinely started a revolutionary organization drawing cadets from all over the country, both from the hills and Terai, including people from the hills settled in Terai. Singh formulated his ideology as no to communism and no to the capitalism. He favors a fervent democratic republic with most progressive Marxian economy and an aggressive approach to unify diverse communities.
In view of the chaos for power sharing among the leading political parties, I hereby would like to develop a forum that shall discuss the potential attributes of both Ram Raja and Girija Prasad. I would like to invite readers to comment on the below chart.
Indicators (0-4)- Ram Raja Pd Singh/Girija Pd Koirala
1. Political Carrier 4/4
2. Republican Fight 4/1
3. Age Suitability 3/3
4. Family political background 4/4
5. Health and Fitness 3/3
6. Nationalism 4/4
7. Power Balance among NC, UML, Maoist, Monarchy and its allies including the military 4/3
8.International acceptance 3/4
9. No Past-post of benefit 4/0
10.Chargesof corruption/honest/clean image 4/1
11. Progressive and stable 4/2
12. Jail and exile 4/4
13. regional Balance within country 4/1
16. National/International Figure 3/4
17.Other political parties support and
In turn, the above governance indicators hopefully will find an appropriate solution to the primary political interest by coordinating accurately and inclusively with the available political resources. Its implementation will strengthen the capacity to protect and claim our basic rights as well as our political rights and that is actually when the people of Nepal will come into power and the ‘politics of unity’ will come into effect.