Analysis: Nepalese peace in U.N. election?

By KUSHAL JEENA  |  April 25, 2006 at 3:25 PM
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NEW DELHI, April 25 (UPI) -- A United Nations-sponsored election to the constituent assembly has emerged as the consensus solution of the current political crisis in Nepal. Indian political analysts said Monday that India could help monitor the election and see it to fruition.

Tara Shankar Sahay, a senior Indian political analyst, said it was easy to envisage the U.N. playing a larger role in Nepal in the future. As a close and friendly neighbor, Sahay said, India is well-placed to assist in any international efforts.

Now that the U.N. intervention to defuse the current political crisis has gained ground, Sahay said, the people of Nepal are determined to put an end to the centuries-old monarchy, seeing it as the sole means of return to a multi-party democracy.

The seven-party alliance and the Maoist rebels are not averse to U.N. intervention, as both groups see it as leading to the end of constitutional monarchy. Prachanda, leader of the Maoist rebels, has on several occasions come out in favor of U.N.-backed elections to the constituent assembly.

"The coming days in Nepal are fraught with uncertainty and the pain inflicted on the Nepali people may take time to heal. It is all-important for India to be clear in statements and action that its sympathy lies with the people of Nepal," said Deb Mukherjee, former Indian ambassador to Nepal.

India supported the notion of a multi-party democracy and constitutional monarchy until Saturday, when it changed stance and sided with the seven-party alliance, which has refused to accept the king's offer to hand over executive power to the opposition alliance.

India's foreign establishment assessed the changing situation in the Himalayan kingdom in the nick of time, finally understanding that the Nepali people, political parties and Maoist rebels are determined to put an end to the monarchy. India had earlier endorsed the proclamation made by King Gyanendra on April 21.

"Developments in Nepal are of vital concern to us," said Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, adding: "Ever since February 2005, we have been concerned about the developments in Nepal, which led to the removal of a multi-party government."

India had been attempting to persuade King Gyanendra that the restoration of multi-party democracy was absolutely essential as a means of dealing with the political crisis that has virtually destroyed the Nepalese economy. However, the king insists on retaining his status as constitutional monarch.

The Indian government faced criticism not only from the opposition right-wing Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, but also from its Leftist allies, who warned the government against siding with the monarchy which they say is on its last leg.

Under fire from the people of Nepal for expressing support for King Gyanendra, New Delhi has fine-tuned its position on the evolving situation in Kathmandu, saying the monarch's role is limited to the restoration of parliament, after which the political parties alone can chart the course of action.

Sitaram Yechuri, a senior leader of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), the largest communist grouping in the Indian Parliament, met Defense Minister Pranab Mukherjee with a plan to end anarchy and restore peace in the Himalayan country: holding elections to the constituent assembly under the supervision of the United Nations.

Yechuri is considered to be close to both Nepali Maoists and opposition parties and has been playing the role of interlocutor between the Indian government and pro-democracy forces in Nepal.

The political equilibrium between people and political parties in Nepal has changed. Even in their wildest dreams, the opposition parties and armed Maoist rebels had never imagined that tens of thousands of citizens across the country would respond to their call for the restoration of democracy and take to the streets for more than two weeks.

The momentum the pro-democracy movement has gained -- despite military repression -- will in all probability bring an end to the Shah dynasty, which was founded by Prithvi Narayan Shah two-and-half centuries ago.

Nepal's political parties have realized that if there is a place for them, it is because the people of the country have sustained a movement to reclaim power from the palace. For last two weeks, it has been the people of Nepal driving the political agenda, not the political parties or Maoist rebels.

Why the common Nepali people have taken to the streets demanding the restoration of democracy and why King Gyanendra's April 21 decree was not welcomed is because everybody -- barring the monarch -- is convinced there can not be permanent political stability in the country until Article 127 of the constitution is abolished.

This provision of the 1990 constitution gives autocratic power to the king to dismiss any government at any time. Successive monarchs in Nepal have used this constitutional clause at will. Never in the political history of Nepal has a king been so isolated and hated by his own people.

India's Nepal expert agrees that political parties in the kingdom needed to ride on the wave of popular support, rather than looking askance at the monarch.

"Key to the political agreement would be to make it apparent that the establishment of an interim government or elections to a constituent assembly was sanctified by people power and not doled out by the monarchy," Yechuri concluded.

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