[This article was published in Space Time Today on 4 June 2002. It observes the political developments after 1990. I have revived it here because the subject is relevant for the country’s present state. But, how far does it represent the situation after April 2006?]
The time right after the restoration of democracy in 1990 was of utmost euphoria in Nepal. Most of us rejoiced at the attainment of the long deferred multiparty system, and celebrated openly the abolition of Panchayat rule. The moment marked a new turn in the country’s history, and also in the way we lived. It seemed initially that there were no parties but one, and we had only one foe: the state of poverty, backwardness and lack of opportunities. The change evoked new hopes for a better Nepal. It seemed as if all our dreams were fulfilled or were in the process of being fulfilled. Those who had directly suffered the tortures previously did not tolerate the losers of the Panchayat regime trying to exercise democracy, and for a while tried to expel them from the democratic arena. The change gave instant relief and realization that political freedom was really the quintessential part of human life.
People did not realize initially that they should be divided under this or that party, and that they would make a lot of political rivals within a short time. For a few days there was no sign of division and the victorious flags flapped together all over the country. But in a month or two, division began and the campaign for gaining majority became important. However, knowledge that the co- fighters themselves had begun to fight for popularity put a question mark on the Nepalese principle of unity in diversity. More troubling was the time when the main parties, Nepali Congress and the then Nepal Communist Party (Marxist- Leninist), began to credit themselves for victory over autocratic rule and created confusion in the public by defaming each other. By the time the date of the first general election was declared, there appeared a number of parties and much had been said and done by one to belittle the other. This contest of belittling simply introduced a trend of discord among us.
For a majority of Nepalese youth, however, democracy was the first experience, and the general election the first exercise of this type. The election of 2015 BS (1958) was for them a subject in history. Even the elders could hardly make out what they had achieved through their votes then. As such, for its novelty, people took part in the election of 1991 with enthusiasm and majority of the votes were cast with the true spirit of democratic exercise because the anticipation of the moment was a definite and strong government that would ensure the rights just regained, help eliminate the dark days of poverty and create many opportunities for a better future.
Nobody imagined at that time that a democratic government would become home for internal strife and unheard anomalies that would cost the future of the country, and sow seeds of disillusionment within a short period. Unfortunately, the first government ended up with declaration of a mid term poll thus simply leading people towards distrust for the leading party. In the subsequent election, it was unfortunate for the country not to have an absolute majority in the lower house. The poll was supposed to have been a constitutional compulsion for the then leading government. But, wasn’t it the result of nasty political controversies? It was this event that marked an unpleasant turn in our political history due to consequent instabilities, and the need for morality and honesty in Nepali politics was badly felt.
Constitutional provisions are meant to seek alternatives to uncertainties for the benefit of the nation; they are not for political leaders to use as device to escape internal hurdles. Apparently, there is no satisfactory explanation with our leaders why their selfish games should push the country to this state. Untimely obligation to go for elections does not at all enthuse common people. It is never the subject of their interest as long as their mind is worried about acquiring a status for living. It is necessary for parties now to see whether their own voters are very positive about elections. Political indoctrination in the present context is a rather difficult mission unless parties come forth with differences. They have already established the trend of buying or snatching votes and these have, undeniably, proved to be the determining votes. Even asking for votes in the days to come seems to take a form of a tough bargain.
In democracy, people have the choice to line up in this or that group. But why did money interfere with their natural right to choose the right party, and why should chicanery become the plea for serving the motherland? Such questions often trouble common Nepali citizens when they objectively look at the present political scenario. That the country should gradually go into the ditch of grief and penury is extremely distressing. Whether people in responsible positions feel it is a different matter, we commoners do feel it. The fact is that the euphoria of having a democratic system has almost faded away because of the continuous causes of agony: poverty, unemployment, corruption, lack of peace and so on. The thrill of twelve years ago has remained in the pages of history. In a situation as that of today, we can hardly expect the same plethora of happiness to be restored immediately because our politics seems to take time to go hand in hand with morality.
We want political exercise not to go beyond the scope of humanity. If politics entails the sense of working for the nation, the nation perhaps will not get entangled in petty discords. Discords of the present have risked the future and good days seem to dwell in the realm of imagination only. We can hardly guess when today’s cumulating crises will meet an end. We love our country but don’t know with what contribution we can make this love meaningful. The greatest challenge for us today is to end discords and give continuity to development with realization that we can, and should, contribute to the protection and progress of the nation if we act with the true spirit of belonging to it. Above all, the need of today is to do politics with this spirit — not, obviously, with constant tricks to plunder the house itself — to see that our selfish acts do not satisfy ourselves at the cost of the satisfaction of the millions, and to find how new hopes can be nurtured.