Ruling party keeps alluding to looming threats to the republic. But no one will say what they areThere are no such threats and, if any, the strongest government in recent history should deal with them adequately, analysts say.
On August 20, two days before leaving for Singapore for medical treatment, Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli called an all-party meeting, something which had not happened in the past three years.
Oli’s co-chair in the Nepal Communist Party (NCP), Pushpa Kamal Dahal, Nepali Congress President Sher Bahadur Deuba, Chairpersons of the Samajbadi Party, Nepal Baburam Bhattarai and Upendra Yadav, leaders of the Rastriya Janata Party, Nepal Mahantha Thakur and Rajkishor Yadav were all present in the meeting. The prime minister then urged everyone to unite to safeguard the federal democratic republican set-up, saying that large threats to the system were looming.
All the leaders present appeared to be on the same page, with most of them attesting to the fact that they should fight together against forces that are attempting to snatch away the country’s hard-won political gains.
It, however, came as a surprise as to why the executive head of the strongest government in decades was warning of threats against federalism, and from whom.
Since then, Dahal, at different public forums, has repeatedly said the same thing, warning of imminent danger to the current political system.
“Within three-to-four years of the new constitution, some elements questioning the change are trying to come forward in different ways,” Dahal said at a function organised by the Samata Foundation on Thursday. “Therefore, it is essential for all political parties and leaders to stand together.”
Political analysts, however, are sceptical of Dahal and Oli’s warning, as they do not see any immediate threat to the current political system and that some opposition to any system or government is a common phenomenon in any democratic country.
“I don’t think there is any force active today that intends to—or that will be able to —overthrow the existing political system,” said Rajendra Maharjan, a columnist and political commentator. “If the ruling party leaders are hinting at Netra Bikram Chand’s party or pro-monarchists, they are both too weak forces.”
Ever since King Gyanendra Shah stepped down in 2008, some sections, including Kamal Thapa’s Rastriya Prajatantra Party, have been lobbying for the reinstatement of the monarchy. And Netra Bikram Chand’s Communist Party of Nepal, an offshoot of Dahal’s Maoist party, has been involved in sporadic incidents of violence. The deadliest act of violence the Chand party perpetrated was in February, when a blast killed one person and injured two others in the Capital.
“There is no other forceful violent activity or movement that poses a danger to the existing system,” said Maharjan.
In various speeches, Dahal has issued warnings to the former king, without providing any concrete reference, that Gyanendra Shah should stop daydreaming and that he would be ousted from Nagarjun. Since leaving Narayanhiti Palace, the government has arranged the Nagarjun Palace for Shah’s residence.
On Chand, Dahal often appears optimistic that his one-time comrade will join mainstream politics sooner rather than later. The government has also said that it is open to talks with Chand, even though it has declared the party a criminal outfit and banned its activities.
Political observers and leaders say the ruling party leaders could be throwing around potential threats to divert attention away from the government’s failure to deliver on its promises.
“Some of the former king’s activities and statements from his supporters could have stoked suspicion among ruling party leaders. Maybe they are concerned about whether external forces are at play,” said Jhalak Subedi, an analyst who has followed leftist politics in Nepal for decades.
According to Subedi, people’s anger, most obvious in Kathmandu’s mass protests against the Guthi Bill, could have alarmed ruling party leaders. “But, politically, I don’t see any threat to the existing system,” said Subedi.
Bishwo Bhakta Dulal, a former Maoist leader, echoed Subedi and said that even if there was any such threat then it was the responsibility of the majority government to deal with it.
“There is no threat as such and if there is any, the ruling party leaders and the government should identify and deal with it, rather than repeating that there is a threat without identifying what it is,” said Dulal.
Some ruling party leaders, however, believe that these statements should be viewed differently.
“Some [people] are talking about Hinduism and the monarchy. Leaders might be trying to send a message to the public that there should be no confusion over the major contents of the constitution,” said Ghanshyam Bhusal, a Standing Committee member of the ruling party. “The leaders are trying to say they are together and committed to constitutional provisions.”
Political observers, however, say that statements making oblique references to unidentified forces are not unique to Nepali leaders, and when it comes to communist parties, tilting at windmills is among their signature characteristics.
“Most rulers share a unique behaviour—instilling fear among the people when they are in trouble,” said Maharjan. “What the ruling party leaders are saying could be a strategy, as they want some sort of face-saving after failing to deliver on their promises.”