Saturday, September 08, 2012

RPP-N And Our Last Line Of Defense

The much-hyped unification process launched by the three parties dominated by former panchas has come to a juddering stop, at least for now. A breakthrough was considered imminent this time because much of the optimism seemed to be coming from the so-called ‘republican ex-panchas’, i.e., Surya Bahadur Thapa’s Rastriya Janashakti Party (RJP) and Pashupati Shamsher Rana’s Rastriya Prajatantra Party (RPP).
At one point during the negotiations, Kamal Thapa’s Rastriya Prajatantra Party-Nepal (RPP-N) was even reported to have abandoned its agenda of restoring the monarchy in order to facilitate the unity.
Now S.B. Thapa is being blamed for scuttling the unification by, among other things, expelling party general-secretary Keshar Bahadur Bista, who was active in the negotiations. But you cannot really blame the wily old man. He must have so badly wanted to believe that the RPP-N’s interest in unification far outweighed its affinity to the crown.
Maila Baje finds the republican panchas in a deep identity crisis. To be fair, the RJP and RPP opposed the royal takeover of February 1, 2005, seeking to project themselves as centrist democratic parties. But that was not enough for the rest of the country to consider them the equivalents of the Nepali Congress or the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist-Leninist.
Towards the twilight of his life, Surya Bahadur Thapa may have sought to build a legacy. If B.P. Koirala, who was so vicitimized by the palace, could remain a monarchist until his last breath, why could not a man patronized by the palace be a republican? The problem is, no one believes S.B. Thapa. For all his personability, the man is far too impervious politically.
Rana in recent months has become less confident of the real end of the Nepali monarchy. Of course, when your survival – political and personal – depends on disbursement of protection money, there are few things you can take for granted.
Kamal Thapa’s course is an honorable one, in no small measure because he sees no reason to make apologies for his political past. As home minister during the royal regime, he has taken responsibility for the excesses committed under his watch. He could have taken the easy route and blamed the king for the failure of that experiment. Instead, the campaign to restore Nepal’s monarchy and Hindu character gives the RPP-N a distinct identity.
The monarchy’s return is not something that can be ruled out or ruled in. If it is restored, it will be through the will of the people, expressed in some form. (Former king Gyanendra Shah himself has signaled as much.)
More importantly, the people’s desire for such a return will be rooted not in any great national salvation plan they expect the crown to possess, but because of the systematic erosion of what Nepal had acquired under the monarchy.
History tends to obscure the bad and amplify the good. When the average Nepali looks back – through personal or secondary experience – the dark tends to be exorcised. The national political discourse, admittedly, runs from political exigencies, but they ultimately have to succumb to the people’s desires.
Nepalis have stunned the world by their resilience. In the midst of constant experimentations, sheer abandonment of constitutionalism and proliferation of platitudes, they have not lost hope. There may be many reasons for this national trait. One certainly is the fact that the monarchy remains alive in the national consciousness.
History and tradition have provided a last line of defense, a conviction symbolized in the RPP-N’s political platform. Should we really expect the party to abandon it?