Keshab Prasad Bhattarai
Political Analyst, Nepal
Mr. Keshab Prasad Bhattarai is a veteran political analyst of Nepal. He is writing on issues of politics and diplomacy since long. Right now, he is working as a regular columnist in The Reporter weekly.
Mr. Bhattarai worked as a teacher and Headmaster in Pragatisheel Secondary School and Campus Chief in Sunkoshi Campus, Sindhuli. He is also the Former President of Nepal Teachers' Association, Teachers' Union of Nepal and is also the former General Secretary of SAARC Teachers' Federation.
Sujit Mainali for the Telegraph Weekly and its online edition telegraphnepal.com approached and interviewed this seasoned and widely acclaimed analyst, both within and without, on several facets of Nepal’s contemporary politics. His scrutiny is commendable.
Below the excerpts of this exclusive interview: Chief Editor.
TGQ1: Former King Gyanendra Shah has very recently revealed that a written agreement was reached between him and the then alliance of seven political parties of Nepal to retain the Constitutional Monarchy in the country. Do you think that such an agreement could have been made then? And do you think the monarchy will stage a grand comeback in the coming days? What say you?
Bhattarai: I do not think they have reached any such written agreement and in his television interview the former King also has not categorically claimed that they have reached any such agreement between the Palace and seven party alliances.
But that was not necessary at that time because the seven party alliances had presented their demand with the King and ultimately the King had reinstated the Parliament and the King himself had administered the oath of office of the Prime Minister. It was obvious that the movement had ended accepting the principle of the King in parliament. Therefore the parliament had been reinstated by the King and the Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala was sworn in by the King himself. That time the issue of retaining or abolishing monarchy was indubitably a non-issue. If it was the issue they would not have made the demand with the King to reinstate the parliament and why the oath of office of the prime minister was administered by the King? Therefore, I don’t understand why should be there any such agreement at that time.
Regarding your question on the possible comeback of the monarchy please note - although common people in Nepal had some reservations on the role of King Gyanendra and Crown Prince Paras, they were, and I believe, are not against the Monarchy as an institution. But King Gyanendra did not help Nepali people in sustaining their beloved institution. He did not know the moral power and cultural values of the institution he represented nor did he make efforts to reinvent the shattered legitimacy of the Palace after Royal massacre. Together with political or more than political, the Crown in Nepal was a social and cultural institution that worked as a strong bond between people and various communities.
I can realize he was the victim of time; conspiracy and ill willed propaganda campaign, but the team he chose at such a critical time was useless. What was the logic of bringing Tulsi Giri and Kirti Babu in government when people like Girija Prasad, Madhav Nepal and Sher Bahadur Deuba were offering their humble service to him?
Besides, from the Great King Prithivi Narayan Shah to King Mahendra the Royal Palace was well served and protected by the community of most loyal, honest and most competent traditional families of the valley including the famous Newari-Singh family. The palace had a tradition of bringing people from those families, train them and make a fine team to serve the palace and its best interests from behind the scene. But King Birendra in the name of modernization started hiring people from outside even at the senior level through an open competition. A traditional institution must have followed traditional norms however cultivating some modern values and tools to enhance its function was a must. But a new team of careerist people, preferring to exercise power, bargain position out of it, engage in trade like practices and tempted to be seen in media glaze, could not serve the best interest of the centuries old traditional institution and it went on weakening the monarchy from within. We have been reading too much how external powers and some political persons and parties were collaborating.
Former King Gyanendra was to assess the whole situation and was to socialize the monarchy, reinvent it, join with the young generation as his daughter in law Himani Shah is doing right now and build a broader social base to sustain monarchy. But we have seen how he worked and the inevitable results that followed.
Therefore, even if people have lots of love, sympathy and respect for Monarchy, much more is to be done by the former King himself, find a good and loyal team of advisors, fine tune with social and political opinion builders, improve public image and gain higher level of competency in media handling- a lots of challenge and if the former King have that guts to do all these, no one can deny the revival of monarchy. But without any such web of extensive strategy even with much favorable internal and external situation, the monarchy may not revive. To sustain it is more challenging than to revive it.
Moreover, the King is not a person. It is an institution and perhaps former King is thinking himself as a person and has some persons as his aides but seems doing nothing to institutionalize the Kingship. As the former king himself has accepted that it does not depend upon him but upon the people and people need leadership, this time the country does not have any such a leadership that can help the country to reinstate the monarchy. But in future it seems possible.
TGQ2: The Chinese delegation led by Mr. Ai Ping during its recent visit to Kathmandu suggested Nepali leaders to think of devolving power to the grass roots than thinking of dividing the country into several federal units. Why the Chinese authority made such unusual remarks? Does it mean that China too has begun influencing Nepal's political affairs? Your enlightening comments please.
Bhattarai: I have been repeatedly saying the same and writing this from the very beginning, real power to the people at the grassroots level, even issuing citizenship certificate from the elected body at the village level, their own executive, legislature and judiciary. Their own Public Service Commission and other bodies they need to make local government completely accountable. Justice at the local level at their door steps, all the policy related to them prepared with their consent and its execution by the people they know individually and they have elected directly.
I think a smaller district or bigger VDCs than it is now can make it well. We can make 500 to 1000 local unit of government at the bottom level to which any name could be given as GRAMPALIKA andNAGARPALIKA-accompanied by smaller ward units. Such local bodies will effectively address both the issues of inclusion and authority. Above them, a regional body with the representatives from such GRAM and NAGARPALIKAS. This body will assist, supervise and coordinate the activities of the GRAM and NAGARPALIKAS. It will represent local bodies and will also represent people through local bodies.
Then the centre with all democratic attributes and institutions but a more powerful constitutional body to check and control corruption and abuse of authority with nationwide networks that reaches up to the local level will be needed.
As you say if the Chinese vice Minister at the International Department of Chinese Communist Party-Ai Ping has advised Nepali leaders to devolve power to the grass roots than thinking of dividing the country into several federal units, he is more than right which means the Chinese do share the same concern that majority of people in Nepal have been keeping in their mind with heavy sighs.
TGQ3: A senior leader of the Unified Maoist party Mr. Haribol Gajurel has accused the former Royal family and Revolutionary International Movement (RIM) for having orchestrated split inside his party. Do you think Mohan Baidya and his associates could have reached to any sort of tacit understanding with the former Royalty and RIM? And how this split will impact Nepal's relation with our neighboring countries?
Bhattarai: If they think any organization like RIM, to my knowledge-RIM is much weaker than Gajurel’s party UNCP (Maoist) and similar is the case with members of former Royal Family. If such weaker and disintegrated forces can break their party, it is better for Mr. Prachanda, Baburam and Haribol to quit politics and go to Kashi Bas.
Look here, I am sorry to say this but what I have seen, experienced and realized is that communists are more opportunists and corrupt than other political parties but under a guise of so called revolutionary propaganda they could confuse their people and invent a new rhetoric each day to befool their members and common people.
Comparatively, I think Mohan Baidya, Ram Bahadur Thapa Badal are more honest and clean than Prachanda or Baburam. Honest to the country and to their cause of revolution. But I am against their way of thinking so don’t like Baidya’s party becoming stronger. However, when the very survival of their party is threatened, they can join hands with anyone in any name or can invent any new slogan. You know in the past, Maoist including Baidya and Badal sometimes had joined hands with King’s men against Nepali Congress and UNCP- UML and at other times with seven parties and even with India against the King. So Baidya and his colleagues may join hands with anyone including former Royal family members.
TGQ4. The self proclaimed Nepal expert of India, Mr. Sukh Deo Muni in his latest write up published in a book named “Nepal in Transition: From People’s War to Fragile Peace” has revealed that Prachanda and Babu Ram Bhattarai had signed a written treaty at Hyderabad House with the Indian establishment that “their people’s war would in no way be detrimental to the Indian interests in Nepal”. Which factor might have encouraged the Prachanda-Bhattarai duos (who were then officially labeled as terrorist by the Government of India) to sign such a deal with the Indian establishment? And why Professor Muni decided to expose Dr. Bhattarai, his obliged disciples, through his writing at this critical juncture?
Bhattarai: Now according to Muni’s revelation, it has become crystal clear how Nepali Maoist and India joined hands in abolishing the institution of Nepali monarchy, unleashing forces of instability and weakening state authority in Nepal. In addition to this the socio-political vacuum created by the abolishment of monarchy and weakened state authority by and large is filled by China. Among Nepali people, while India has been seen as a villain, on the contrary, China is seen as an ultimate savior. Never in Nepal China has gained such a huge support base among all sections of people who traditionally were having deep love and respect towards India.
India never tried to understand Nepali people and will never understand them. May be our political officials for their petty interest are exhibiting a sense of servitude towards Indian diplomats and politicians but the largest democracy of the world needs to learn that the group of corrupt, selfish and crook politicos without a sense of self respect can never help India attain its national interest being strengthened in Nepal. What has India gained in Nepal with all these relations with these people?
I do not want to guess on Muni’s mind but what he revealed has endorsed what Nepali people had believed. It is the job of Indian people to know what people like Muni, Sitaram Yechuri and former RAW Chief Hermis Tharakan have permanently damaged India’s image in Nepal.
TGQ5. Chief of Army Staff of Indian Army General Bikram Singh, during his five-day official visit to Nepal is scheduled to visit Mustang, which adjoins the Tibet Autonomous Region of China. The staying and visiting diplomats and military officials of India almost always manage to visit Mustang under this or that pretext. Mr. Bhattarai! What might be the cause of this love of the Indian officials towards Mustang?
Bhattarai: I did not answer your question number five because I heard the Indian Army Chief did not visit Mustang.
Exclusive for telegraphnepal.com