Political Turbulence from a New Quarter

Nepal seems to be destined to remain in prominence as far as political turbulence is concerned. The Nepalese Maoists had hogged the headlines for the last two years more specifically, first with their armed insurgency against the established political order in Nepal and thereafter having realized that they could not make headway to capture power by the force of arms switched to the strategy of co-opting the political route with the Nepalese political parties working for the restoration of democracy in Nepal. They soon hijacked the political movement thereafter and made it look as if they alone had spearheaded the democracy movement in Nepal and credited themselves with the success of having forced the exit of the King of Nepal and the coming into being of a Constituent Assembly to define Nepal's new political framework.

The Nepalese Maoist leader Prachanda also asserted that he would like to be the first President of Nepal forgetting that there were many other Nepalese political leaders who had struggled along the political path for long years unlike Prachanda whose sole claim to prominence was notoriety as a leader of the Maoist armed insurgency in Nepal, and that they were far more deserving candidates than him. 

The Nepalese Maoists were on a political high from December 2006 onwards after the Seven Parties Political Alliance which was leading the democracy movement in Nepal after protracted negotiations agreed to let the Maoists come on board as members of the Interim Parliament. This body was to chart the blueprint for Nepal's political future and framework.

It was conveniently forgotten by the Nepalese Maoists that they would not have got this toehold in Nepal's political space but for the misplaced political policies of the Indian Government under the pressure of the Indian Leftists and in particular the Communist Party ( Marxist) ,the main coalition partners of the Congress Government and so also the personal aversion of some members of the Indian policy establishment to the personality of the Nepalese monarch.

While this euphoria of the Maoists was on, political turbulence broke out from a new quarter altogether. Political disturbances and violence broke out in Nepal's Terai region. The Terai region of Nepal is the long strip of the plains of Nepal adjoining Indian territory and is inhabited by the Madhesias an ethnic group of Nepal of Awadhi, Maithali and Bhojpuri descent. They form 35% of Nepal's population. Despite their sizeable proportion of the Nepalese population, the Madhesias have long been discriminated as second class citizens of Nepal in terms of job opportunities in Nepal's administration and in representation in Nepal's political set-up. This, despite the fact that the Madhesias and the Terai region makes an overwhelming contribution to Nepal's economy, both agriculture and industry.

Today this entire Terai region is in a state of massive unrest and violence has already claimed 20 lives. The spark that ignited this latent unrest amongst the Madhesias was the killing of Madhesia political activists by Nepalese Maoists cadres. It was also due to the arrests of Madhesia political activists in Kathmandu who were protesting against the proposed draft Constitution which again seemed to have been not reflective of Madhesia's political concerns and aspirations as 35% of Nepal's population

The Madhesia political movement is likely to get more united and coordinated in the months ahead in the run-up to Nepal's general elections due in June2007 under United Nations supervision. Their main political demands besides proportional political representation in Nepal's ruling structure would also include a federal structure in Nepal's new Constitution.

While the Nepalese Prime Minister has conceded the demand of a political dialogue on these issues and the Nepalese Maoist leader has made some sympathetic noises on the issue, this new political turbulence that has hit Nepal is unlikely to be resolved or die down soon. It is being said that the Nepalese Maoists are trying to spread the canard that the Madhesia political disturbances have been generated by the Nepalese monarch in order to save his position.

The Nepalese Maoists failing to get complete political power in Nepal in the ensuing elections could be tempted to blame India for generating the Madhesia political turbulence. Probably the Indian policy establishment failed to visualize this eventuality. Though there does not seem to be any Indian complicity in the Madhesia political disturbances, as a strategic analyst one could say that this as a policy option should not be ruled out to prevent a Communist takeover of Nepal.

The Madhesia political movement poses a serious challenge to the Nepalese Maoists in that with this call for proportional political representation the political hold of Nepalese Maoists over Nepal that they desire would stand that much diluted. Further, the Nepalese Maoists would be well aware that even if they acquire full political control over Nepal, the Madhesias would continue to have a stranglehold over Nepal's lifelines as all the arteries that run from India to the landlocked mountain kingdom of Nepal pass through Madhesia districts and that Nepal depends heavily on the Madhesia region for its food production.

The Madhesia political turbulence that has just surfaced in Nepal can be said to be a spillover of the new political dynamics that the Nepalese Maoists imposed on Nepal through their armed insurgency and their recent back-door entry into Nepal's political space, of upsetting the status quo. The Madhesias too seem to be asking a change of status-quo in the discrimination that they have suffered so far.

Nepal seems to be in for a long political turbulence ahead.


More by :  Dr. Subhash Kapila

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