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Nepal has Launched Real democracy

2008-08-20

PRACHANDA has become the first republican prime minister of Nepal, ending months of political deadlock that followed the sacking of the unpopular king Gynendra and the abolition of the 240-years old monarchy. Lawmakers in Nepal on August 15 voted in former rebel Maoist leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal who took the name "Prachanda," which means "the fierce one," when the extreme poverty of Nepal drove him to take to violent politics.

It also clears the way for the ultra-leftists -- still listed by US as a terrorist organisation -- to press ahead with their vow to radically reform one of the world's poorest nations, that was devastated by a decade of civil war.

Prachanda was backed by 464 deputies with 113 against in the constitutional assembly. His only rival was Sher Bahadur Deuba, three-times prime minister. Visibly overwhelmed, Prachanda expressed his reaction in this way: "I am very happy and very emotional."

Maoist second-in-command Baburam Bhattaraj hailed the victory as a "golden dawn for Nepal." He added: "We have already finished destroying the roots of feudalism in Nepal, the monarchy, under the leadership of Prachanda. The main agenda of the new administration will be nationalism, republicanism, and economic and social transformation."

Prachanda, 53, led a decade long insurgency to overthrow the monarchy -- a war which claimed at least 13,000 lives and shattered the landlocked country's mainly agricultural, subsistence-based economy.

He signed a peace deal with mainstream parties in 2006 and vowed to renounce violence, and steered his party to victory in elections to a new constituent assembly in April. But Nepal's former Maoist rebels and mainstream parties failed to meet a deadline to form a new government, leaving the Himalayan nation in political limbo.

The Maoists blamed Nepal's traditional style of "dirty politics" for the failure to form a government. "We missed the deadline for presenting the president with a consensus for government formation due to the petty interests of some party leaders," Senior Maoist leader Chandra Prakash Gajurel commented.

The four main parties -- CPN-Maoist, Nepali Congress, CPN-UML and Madhesi People's Rights Forum (MPRF) -- indefinitely postponed the meeting to resolve the dispute over power-sharing and formulating a common minimum program. However, at last all these clouds have been driven away making the political sky of Nepal clear and bright.

With the parties failing to form a national unity government under Article 38(1) of interim constitution, they had to try to form the government under Article 38(2), which means that the party with the majority support in the Constituent Assembly gets to form the government.

This was done at the proposal of Prachanda, who has already marked his position in the Nepal's regular politics and democratic move. Born in a poor family in rural Nepal Prachanda had witnessed extreme poverty.

Sher Bahadur Deuba expressed his reaction to Prachanda's becoming the first prime minister of the Republic of Nepal. "I would like to congratulate the Maoists for entering multi-party competitive politics.

We will stay in opposition and keep an eye on the Maoists activities while they run the government. We will oppose their actions if they incline towards autocracy." The ultra-leftists ended their bloody decade-long uprising after a peace accord with the government in 2006, but have faced hurdles in the transition from a feared guerrilla outfit to mainstream political actors.

It will not be surprising for them, and for Nepal as well, to see some chaos in the political sky during this transition. It was difficult to change overnight the behaviour of the guerrillas who used to fight underground.

The Maoists, once feared rebels, are now Nepal's most potent political force after winning over one-third of the seats in the body that abolished the monarchy in May.

King Gynendra made his exit from the Narayanhity Royal Palace. Now it is time for Nepal's caretaker prime minister to quit the Palace. It is high time for Prachanda to occupy the palace at the will of his people.

For centuries, Nepal has remained socially harmonious, despite being a multi-ethnic, multi-lingual and multi-faith country. The Maoist insurgency, of course, had brought a tough time for the Nepalese.

Almost all the rural areas were under their domination. The villagers were not necessarily were at peace with them. It was also heard that they had to satisfy the illegal demands of the Maoists.

The tourism sector, which is a source of foreign exchange income for Nepal, was seriously affected by the insurgency. Moreover, the urban people were locked in the towns. They had very limited scope to move freely outside the towns.

People's rising consciousness and the Maoists changing the course of their political operation have brought about the present situation in Nepal. It will be an acid test for Prachanda to run his administration with a different mindset and to face the challenges ahead.

Mostly, he has to think of rural agro-based economy and tourism. Any indication of autocracy or insurgency will hamper progress in Nepal. They must start with new vigour, energy, strength and will, and will enjoy the support of all the legal democratic forces of the world. No doubt.


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