Sunday, May 25, 2014

Due Process Or Fig Leaf?

Seeking to stand straight after his recent somersaults on the monarchy, Rastriya Prajatantra Party-Nepal (RPP-N) chairman Kamal Thapa has made this much clear: he is a firm believer in due process.
Opening the party’s national convention the other day, Thapa said the party remains committed to its basic objective of restoring the monarchy as the symbol of national unity. But since the RPP-N does not have the numbers to press that agenda in the constituent assembly, it will not allow the issue stand in the way of the much-delayed new constitution.
But wait a minute. Didn’t Thapa warn just the other day that any constitution that failed to restore Nepal’s Hindu statehood would do little more than light a national bonfire? Surely, anti-secularism sentiments inside the assembly are not any stronger than their anti-republic variant.
Perhaps Thapa and his party have decided to choose their battles carefully. More likely, though, is that Thapa recognizes he does not have a monopoly on the monarchy-restoration discourse.
By separating the party’s ideological and pragmatic orientations, the RPP-N has created room for further debate on other crucial aspects. For instance, what kind of monarchy would a restored crown symbolize? What would the cost-benefit rundown in terms of constitutional, ceremonial or cultural monarchy reflect in terms beyond economics?
By invoking the principle of due process, Thapa has also opened the door to further deliberations on the possible mode of restoration. Should our elected representatives fail yet again to draft a new basic law for their version of a new Nepal, the prospect of restoring the 1990 Constitution would gain attraction.
But how exactly might that be done? Would a Supreme Court ruling, based on something akin to the doctrine of necessity, restoring the status quo to April 24, 2006 suffice?
If so, where would that leave the Maoists and the federalism/inclusion agenda, not to mention the slew of accords and compromises reached since? Might constitutional amendments be enough to take care of the dreams the political establishment has woven?
Might another avenue be popular protests in favor of restoring the monarchy? That notion might sound ludicrous at first. But we all have seen how quickly crowds can swell in our midst. And when we have counted heads, has it really mattered where they have come from?
Public protests might provide enough pressure to our political parties to move towards, say, pledging a referendum on the monarchy. More likely such protests would give them the fig leaf they so badly need. Indeed, the parties have always left some room for the prospect of the restoration of the monarchy. The president didn’t move into the palace complex the king vacated. The much-hyped Republic Pillar has been delayed for one flimsy reason or the other.
Clearly, the post-2006 establishment is in search for a safe landing. Can leaders who can’t seem to manage their own organizations and coteries be expected to conduct the country? Blaming the monarchy for Nepal’s ills might still be an attractive ploy in the minds of our politicos. It resonates less and less beyond.
The Maoists have always carried the nationalism-is-at-risk card, ready for use against their current rivals. The other mainstream parties can claim how they were hasty in dumping the monarchy and in trusting the Maoists. Both could unite in reaffirming their faith in a reaching a home-grown compromise this time around.
And the average Nepali? Heck, even the most rabid anti-monarchist among us would have to admit that republicanism was not what drove the protests in the spring of 2006.