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Death of Democracy

Ajit Baral

By Manjushree Thapa
Penguin India, New Delhi, 2005, pp. 260, Rs. 350.00


The democratic movement of 1990 provided an opportunity to undo the wrongs done during the thirty years of autocratic Panchayat rule and, before it, one hundred and four years of Rana oligarchy. But we toyed with democracy the way a monkey toys with a coconut, not knowing what to do with the newly-found democracy. And things went progressively from bad to worse in the last fourteen years. The slide began early. In 1991 the first elected prime minister after the restoration of democracy, Girija Prasad Koirala, nixed the Mallik Commission that was set up to “identify those responsible for the excess against the People’s Movement.” This emboldened the former Panchas, the staunch supporters of the Panchayat system, to work their way into party politics and those who hadn’t already formed their own party started joining the Nepali Congress and the United Marxist Leninist (UML). This was the beginning of long lasting feuds in the parties.   The government of Girija Prasad Koirala did not last long because of the internal wrangles between its seniormost leaders: Girija Prasad Koirala, Ganesh Man Singh and Krishna Prasad Bhattarai. Koirala preempted the no confidence motion that the dissident faction of the Nepali Congress was trying to table in Parliament and called for snap elections. The UML won the most number of seats in the election, but not the majority. As the largest party, it formed the government with the backing of the Nepal Congress. However, after nine months the UML government could not survive the no confidence motion. So began the era of coalition politics.   The Nepal Congress garnered the support of two smaller parties, Rashtriya Prajatantra Party (RPP) and Sadhbhawana party, and formed the government headed by Sher Bahadur Deuba. It also didn’t last very long. The RPP split into two. And the leader of the RPP, Lokendra Bahadur Chand, formed the government in alliance with the UML. Chand ironically was the last prime minister of the Panchayat. The hardliners of the UML were dissatisfied with the alliance and split up, paving the way for yet another government. This government was headed by Surya Bahadur Thapa of the RPP. A long-time faithful of the Panchayat regime, Thapa had presided over the referendum in 1980 that saved the Panchayat. Like all the previous governments, the Thapa government also did not last long and more governments were formed.   Politics became a dirty game. A number of ...

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