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Smart and Smarter Politicians in Nepal

Issue 06, February 08, 2009

By Siddhi B. Ranjitkar

The Nepalese political history is full of the events of every politician attempted to be smarter than others and tried to outsmart others often s/he tumbling out of the chairs s/he so proudly held. The Nepalese history is quite long so we are only going back to early 1990s starting from the time the democracy was reinstated by the people’s movement in Nepal to see how one politician after another outwitted others and fell down from the chair of the prestigious high position.

Leader of Nepali Congress Girija Prasad Koirala outsmarted his rivals and even his superior immediately after the successful people’s movement commanded by Supreme Commander Ganesh Man Singh in 1990. First of all, he sent his faithful cadres to successfully defeat his rival and Interim Prime Minister Krishna Prasad Bhattarai in the election held for the seat of the parliament in 1991 to eliminate the main potential contender for the position of Prime Minister. He also developed a political situation in which both the spouse and son of Ganesh Man Singh would also lose the election for reducing his political power and influence on the power structure of the NC. In both cases, he came out successfully. Supreme Commander Ganesh Man Singh opted out of being the part of the administration remaining as a guardian of the multi-party democratic system in the Nepalese political arena. So, Girija Prasad Koirala was victorious and became the second elected Prime Minister after his elder brother B. P. Koirala in 1960.

The Nepali Congress (NC) had a comfortable majority in the 1990-parliament; the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist and Leninist (CPN-UML) had the second largest seats in it. After the initial success of removing one rival after another, Koirala thought that he was the supreme authority and everybody needed to listen to him rather than otherwise. So, he made more enemies than friends, as he thought that he could run the administration without listening to anyone with the majority in the parliament.

The opposition within his party and the opposition in the parliament did not permit him to work, as he desired. Leaders of the CPN-UML particularly K.P. Oli taking one chair after another and hitting them on the benches broke them up into pieces in the parliament hall on TV camera for expressing anger on the Koirala administration. Then, they took the political and other issues to the streets and broke up the railings on both sides of the main streets in Kathmandu to protest against the Koirala administration. At the same time, Supreme Commander Singh and other influential leader of the NC had exerted pressure on Prime Minister Koirala for following the consensus politics. Despite the comfortable majority in the parliament, Koirala faced tremendous challenges from the opposition party leaders and from within his own party members. He could not garner the sufficient support of the members of the parliament of his own party and failed in passing the budget of his government in the third year of his administration.

To outwit both the opposition leaders and his own rivals particularly the Supreme Commander Singh, in 1994 he dissolved the parliament and took the country to the mid term elections believing that his group in the NC would win an overwhelming majority defeating both the opposition within and outside his party.

The divided NC failed to win majority seats in the election for parliament in 1994. The two rival groups: one supporting Koirala and another opposing him in the NC went to the election with the view of defeating the other rather than winning the election. Both sides were happy to defeat another side. The result was the terrible nightmare to Koirala and his group. The CPN-UML won a highest number of seats but not sufficient to run the administration independently. Previously not influential Rastriya Prajatantra Party (RPP) of the politicians of the previous regime won twenty seats making it the third largest party in the parliament. However, none of the political parties won the election in the real sense of majority.

Leaders of both the parties: CPN-UML and NC wanted to outwit the other but did not want to court the leaders of the third largest party: RPP for forming a coalition government after the elections in 1994. Both the NC and CPN-UML had not forgotten the evil administration of the previous regime and did not want to be nearer to them believing that it would provoke the people’s hatred for them, too. The CPN-UML stuck to the demand for forming its independent government, as it won the largest number of the seat in the parliamentary elections held in 1994.

The CPN-UML leaders believing that they had outsmarted the NC leaders thought that they would stay on the power forever. So, they launched any imaginable projects that would lure the people to them. However, the NC leaders did not let them continue their administration for long. The NC submitted a no-confidence motion against the CPN-UML government in the parliament. At the same time, the Prime Minister dissolved the parliament and declared a mid term election becoming smarter than the opposition leaders.

The opposition leaders were no less smart than the leaders in the government. They immediately went to the Supreme Court of Nepal demanding the reinstatement of the parliament saying the Prime Minister of the minority government could not use his prerogative of dissolving the parliament without seeking the vote of confidence in the parliament. The then-Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Nepal empathizing the NC ruled to reinstate the parliament. Thus, the NC leaders outwitted the CPN-UML leaders.

In 1995, after the fall of the CPN-UML government, NC parliamentary leader Sher Bahadur Deuba formed a new government in coalition with the previously untouchable RPP. Girija Prasad Koirala gave the way to the second-generation leader Deuba to lead his parliamentary party and form a new coalition government after his defeat in the parliamentary elections held in 1994; however, he was looking out the ways and means of outsmarting the Prime Minister of his own party immediately after Deuba formed a new government. So, Deuba’s government did not last too long, too. Prime Minister Deuba survived the first no-confidence motion against his government but could not withstand the second no-confidence motion in 1997.

Leader of the RPP Lokendra Bahadur Chand outwitted both the leaders of NC and his own party and became the Prime Minister of the coalition government of the CPN-UML and RPP after the fall of the Deuba government in 1997. However, he became the puppet of the CPN-UML leader and Deputy Prime Minister holding the portfolio of Home Bamdev Gautam. Lousy Chand split the RPP into two groups just to be the Prime Minister. However, his cabinet also did not last long.

Chand’s rival and the leader of the rival group of the RPP Surya Bahadur Thapa outwitted Chand becoming the Prime Minister with the support of the NC leaders. In the previous regime, too, Chand and Thapa used to fight against each other to be on the top position of the administration. This time, Surya Bahadur Thapa did not stay long in power, as Girija Prasad Koirala outsmarted him and returned to the power again. Thus, Koirala completed a cycle of power losing and gaining again in 1998.

In 1999, Girija Prasad Koirala outwitted his rival Krishna Prasad Bhattarai making him as the potential candidate for the Prime Minister in the elections for the parliament. Girija Prasad Koirala knew that he had been so unpopular among the Nepalis that he would not be able to win the elections, and he would not win the support of his own party members, as his tendency of listening only to the members of his kitchen cabinet alienated many of his followers. So, believing Bhattarai was the right person to lead the NC and its government, Girija Prasad Koirala made him the leading figure in the elections for the parliament in 1999. This strategy of Koirala made possible for bringing the group of Koirala and the opposition group within the NC together for the elections. Girija Prasad Koirala won credits for winning the elections.

Naïve and weak Bhattarai became the Prime Minister. Since he became the Prime Minister, Girija had started off political maneuver to oust him from the office. Within a year Girija outsmarted Bhattarai and took the rein of the administration in 2000. Irritated Bhattarai left the politics forever opting for a peaceful life.

On June 01, 2001, Gyanendra Shah came to power following the massacre of tens of palace people including the king, queen, crown prince and other near and dear ones of the king’s family done by the then-crown prince according to the official version of the report but most of the Nepalis believed that it was done by one of the royal family members with the lust for power. Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala became the mute spectator of all the gruesome events and could not outsmart Gyanendra Shah. He had no option but to leave the chair for his second-generation leader Sher Bahadur Deuba again. Thus, Deuba became the Prime Minister for the second time.

Deuba thought that he was a very smart guy and could outsmart anybody including Girija Prasad Koirala. He declared a state of emergency in November 2001, and used the army against the rebels to quell the mounting violence in rural areas. Then, in May 2002, he dissolved the parliament and declared the elections for the parliament in November of the same year outwitting Girija Prasad Koirala and his group. Filled with anger at the way he had been tricked, Girija Prasad Koirala expelled Prime Minister Deuba from the NC for not consulting the party leadership for dissolving the parliament and declaring mid-term parliamentary elections to be held in November 2002. Deuba in turn took away half of the members of the parliament belonging to the NC and formed a new breakaway party called Nepali Congress-Democratic (NC-D). In October 2002, he went to the king recommending him for calling off the election for the parliament scheduled for the November.

Instead of quietly following the recommendations of the elected Prime Minister pursuant to the Constitution of Nepal of 1990, Gyanendra Shah outmaneuvered Deuba dismissing him on the charge of being incompetent for holding the election for parliament on schedule, and again appointed Lokendra Bahadur Chand to the Prime Minister. However, he did not stay long in the office. His rival Surya Bahadur Thapa replaced him in May 2003.

The NC, CPN-UML and other similar-minded political parties had been staging street protests against the undemocratic political measure Gyanendra Shah had taken firing the elected Prime Minister Deuba, saying it was the regressive measure. At the same time, the rebels had been mounting pressure on the administration attacking government offices and the police. They had already captured most of the rural areas.

To counter the street protests and if possible the rebel attacks on the police and the government offices, in June 2004, Gyanendra Shah appointed Sher Bahadur Deuba to the Prime Minister with the mandate of forming an all-political-party government. Breaking away from the alliance with the NC and other political parties and saying that the appointment of Deuba to the office of Prime Minister was the remedy to regression, the CPN-UML joined the government headed by Deuba. Other political parties continued the street protests and the rebels continued their fight against the state.

On February 01, 2005, firing Prime Minister Deuba again and taking all power in his hand, Gyanendra Shah outwitted all political leaders and in fact the whole world and met his life-long wish for being the most powerful man in Nepal. For his misadventure, Nepalis had to pay high price in term of economic loss worth of billions of rupees, as he closed all landline telephones and cell phones for more than a week and then intermittently for six months holding back the regular businesses of the people.

On November 22, 2005, outwitting Gyanendra Shah and his regime, leaders of the seven-party alliance and of the CPN-Maoist reached 12-point understanding in New Delhi, India to fight against the regressive regime and then hold elections for a Constituent Assembly.

On April 24, 2006, after nineteen days of the street protests, Gyanendra Shah gave in to the demand of the opposition political parties and reinstated the parliament. Thus, the Shah dynastic rule had come to an end in Nepal.

Girija Prasad Koirala outsmarted all other political parties rushing to Gyanendra Shah and accepting the appointment to the Prime Minster against the will of all political parties for taking oath of the office of the Prime Minister at the reinstated parliament.

Again Prime Minister Koirala outsmarted all political leaders including the rebel leaders talking about keeping a baby king or a ceremonial king repeatedly irritating the democratic minded people and going against the understanding reached among the political parties to suspend the monarchy and then let the Constituent Assembly make decisions on it.

In July 2006, the parliament declared nine-point historic declaration effectively ending the Shah dynastic rule. The king remained in name only. The parliament gave all the power previously enjoyed by the king to the Prime Minister. In fact, the Prime Minister became the Head of the state and the head of the government.

On January 03, 2007, the parliament promulgated an interim constitution dissolving itself. A new interim parliament was formed pursuant to the Interim Constitution of Nepal of 2007; the Maoists got 83 seats in the 330-member interim parliament and joined the government in April 2007.

Prime Minister Koirala outmaneuvered the opposition attempting to keep the monarchy postponing the election for a Constituent Assembly as long as possible. However, his opponents had been pressing him to abolish the monarchy immediately. He could not stand up to the opposition pressure too long, he gave in to the demand of the opposition after the Madheshi movement; and then he presented the proposal for removing the monarchy and declaring Nepal a federal democratic republic subject to the endorsement by the to-be-elected Constituent Assembly and set the date for holding the election for a Constituent Assembly on April 10, 2008. Both the NC and NC-D merged together to be a single NC before the elections for the Constituent Assembly.

The CPN-Maoist won a largest number of seats (220) in the 601-memebr Constituent Assembly but not a majority, the NC won the second largest number (137) whereas the CPN-UML won the third largest number (107), the Madheshi People’s Rights Forum (MPRF) won the fourth largest number (52).

The group belonging to Koirala in the NC faced a heavy loss in the elections for the Constituent Assembly. Koirala publicly stated that the defeat of his group in the elections for the Constituent Assembly was due to the unification of the NC-D with the NC. Despite the merger of the two NC parties into a single party, both the parties had maintained their groups at all levels of the party.

Prime Minister Koirala did not give in to the election results immediately; he took four months to quit his position. He attempted several combinations of political parties to stay on in power even though he failed in wining majority seats in the Constituent Assembly cum parliament. He even offered the position of the Prime Minister to the leaders of other political parties such as CPN-UML and MPRF. After four months of political manipulations, Prime Minister Koirala ultimately gave in and resigned from the position of Prime Minister paving the way for forming a new government.

Chairman of the CPN-Maoist Prachanda outwitted Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala and Former General Secretary of the CPN-UML Madhav Kumar Nepal not accepting them for the nomination to the candidate for the first President of the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal. However, Girija Prasad Koirala deserved to be the first President but not Madhav Kumar Nepal.

Current Prime Minister Prachanda would have easy time for running his administration had Girija Prasad Koirala became the President, as the NC would not sit on the opposition bench in the Constituent Assembly, would not obstruct the sessions of the Constituent Assembly and would not create so many street protests taking up issues of any trifle matters. However, some political analysts say that the Maoists themselves have been creating current political chaos to make sufficient ground for grabbing the power by force.

In August 2008, for electing the Madheshis for the President and the Vice-president, Leader of the MPRF Upendra Yadav outsmarted the three leaders such as Prachanda, Madhav Kumar Nepal and Girija Prasad Koirala belonging to the same so-called shrewd caste. First, Yadav hinted that he would agree to the proposal of Prachanda for electing Ram Raja Prasad Sing: the first person to advocate republic for Nepal and a Madheshi, too to the first President of Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal. However, at the last moment of election, Yadav successfully formed an alliance of three parties: NC, CPN-UML and MPRF agreeing to elect the candidate of the NC for the president and the candidate of the MPRF for the vice-president and the candidate of the CPN-UML for the Chairperson of the Constituent Assembly. However, by that time the NC and CPN-UML have already fielded not serious candidates for the president and vice-president thinking that they would not have much chance to win the elections. Thus, NC President and Former Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala missed the second chance of being the first President of the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal but younger leader much less known candidate Ram Baran Yadav won the election for the first president of the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal.

February 6, 2009

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