KATHMANDU - The inordinate delay in the world's youngest republic in finding a
president as well as a prime minister leaves Nepal wide open to disasters -
both natural and man-made.
"Law and order is in tatters, particularly in some Terai districts [in the
south], and the culture of impunity remains intact," is how the Brussels-based
International Crisis Group described Nepal's condition in its latest report,
released this month. Ongoing haggling over the formation of a government is a
related issue of concern.
While political players and pundits draw their conclusions based on the ground
realities of real-time politics and the worldwide
phenomenon of climate change, experts engaged in the study of planetary
movements and astrology are also apprehensive about calamities of inconceivable
proportions as a consequence of sins committed by rulers and the ruled alike.
The whole year of 2065 - the Bikram era - is ominous for Nepal, they conclude.
This Nepali calendar year started on April 13 and the abolition of the monarchy
on May 28 is already considered a destabilizing factor.
Although Nepal's interim statute envisages a secular country, time-tested
traditions and beliefs in a pre-dominantly Hindu society are unlikely to
disappear overnight. People continue to read good or bad signs, such as if a
stone idol of a deity in a far-flung district suddenly begins to ooze water.
This portends harm to a reigning king, as happened this year to Gyanendra, 61,
who lost his throne, and the kingdom lost one of its traditional institutions.
It all began when Bhimeshwar (one of the manifestations of Lord Shiva), housed
in a temple in the eastern hill district of Dolakha, oozed what looked like
beads of perspiration, attracting thousands of villagers. Another inauspicious
moment for the monarchy surfaced when the pole of the chariot of the deity
Machhindranath fell to the ground while being taken around the Kathmandu Valley
a couple of months ago.
The fury of mother nature, astrologers predict, will cause massive damage and
destruction in Nepal, as happened with China's devastating earthquake in May.
These will include floods and famine.
Astrologer Gopal Baabaa, in a wide-ranging interview published in Tarun, a
Nepali-language weekly, said Nepal is destined to remain in bad shape until
This does not augur well for the Maoists, led by Prachanda, who are set to rule
Nepal for the next five years. "None of the present political parties has a
future," says the astrologer, adding that a new party will come into existence,
along with a new set of leaders and the return of the monarchy.
Most of Nepal's politicians have already shown signs they are determined to
prove some of the astrological predictions correct. Members of the Constituent
Assembly (CA) representing the southern plains - Terai - have been disrupting
assembly proceedings since June 26, the day caretaker Prime Minister Girija
Prasad Koirala announced his resignation so that the Maoists, as the largest
party, could resume their initiatives to form a government.
The disruption by the "Madhesi" members, as they call themselves, has meant
that the assembly has not been able introduce bills to amend the interim
statute so that the procedures to elect the republic's first president can
begin. Koirala announced that he would leave office as soon as there was a
president to formally accept his resignation.
The Madhesi are demanding what in effect would result in Nepal being divided
into two parallel regions, one comprising the mid-hills and the other
consisting of snowy mountains where the human population is small.
This is unacceptable to the Maoists and the Communist Party of Nepal (UML), the
more moderate of the two communist parties, who have their own schemes for
autonomous provinces in the proposed federal republic.
Koirala and his loyalists are siding with the Madhesi camp with the expectation
the latter will help Koirala win the presidency of the newly-created republic.
"I think the political map of South Asia is being redrawn," former foreign
minister Chakra Baastola told Asia Times Online, without elaborating.
Narabahadur Bhandari, a former chief minister of Sikkim, a landlocked Indian
state in the Himalayas, said if Nepal's divisive trends were not checked, the
country could go the way of the former Yugoslavia - divided into several parts.
These expressions coincide with a visit to Nepal by Sri Lankan Foreign Minister
Rohitha Bogollagama, to extend an invitation to Nepal for the 15th summit
conference of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation scheduled
for August 2 and 3. The invitation was handed to Koirala, but the Sri Lankan
visitor made it a point to meet Prachanda, who could become prime minister in
next few weeks if the politicians can stop bickering.
But there is a growing belief that the country lacks visionary leaders, which
is gradually pushing Nepal towards a precipice. There is a visible lack of
willingness and ability in the present civilian leadership to pre-empt designs
aimed at dismembering Nepal.
"Isn't it a great pity that the country has not been able to produce even one
leader who has the charisma, integrity and capability to control the worsening
situation?" writes Madhav K Rimal in the Spotlight newsmagazine he edits.
"What about the military, then?" people ask. But Nepal's army chief, Rookmangad
Katawal, who heads what was the king's army, is publicly committed to abiding
by the orders only of a legitimate civilian government.
Whether or not Nepal has a legitimate government is another matter. Koirala has
resigned, while Maoists ministers in the coalition handed in their resignation
papers several days ago. Ministers belonging to the UML offered their
resignations immediately after the announcement of the April 10 poll results.
All the while, the political stalemate continues, although politicians appear
busy using ever-expanding media outlets to convince the population that their
efforts to thwart divisive ploys are taking time. But time is running out.