It is a historical truism that ironies can shape a country&’s destiny even during a turbulent phase. Two months after tremblors shook the Himalayan country to its foundations, Nepal is set to bear witness to two watershed developments in July. The first is the Constitution which will rather belatedly chart out the praxis of governance. The second will be profoundly critical in the context of the country&’s political history and its monarchist background the next government will be led by the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (CPN-UML), if last Thursday&’s announcement by the country&’s Deputy Prime Minister, Bamdev Gautam, is any indication.
The party is now the second largest entity in the coalition. Theoretically, therefore, Nepal will be scripting history with its first-ever Communist-led government. In terms of participation in governance, the “pinks” of the Marxist bloc would appear to have edged out the crimson variety. Despite their entry into the portals of power, Maoist insurgency has roiled Nepal for as long as it has. Of course, the Communist Party will succeed to a depleted inheritance crucially because the massive reconstruction in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake will devolve on the Left.
The fact of the matter must be that faced with the enormity of the tragedy, Nepal has opted for a change of guard. The experiment has seemingly been influenced by two factors the new Constitution which has taken a decade to be put in place, specifically since the monarchy was abolished in 2006. The other determinant has been the scale of relief and rehabilitation. With 8,000 killed and many more incapacitated and rendered homeless, the response of the present government has come under criticism generally. Not least because of its handling of the international relief effort and the somewhat puzzling bar on Indian assistance. Largely left to its own devices, the government&’s performance has been shoddy when it was expected to pull out all the stops.
Ergo, much will be expected of the successor dispensation, chiefly its projected Prime Minister, KP Sharma Oli. Which explains its move to mobilise 5,000 party workers for a fresh relief and reconstruction endeavour. The change can be contextualised with the recent all-party decision to split the country into eight federal units, a deal that is expected to take care of ethnic sensitivities and sub-regional jingoism no less. Since the heady days of the monarchy, both issues have been as emotive as disruptive. While devolution of power will to an extent undermine the authority of Kathmandu, the Communist Party will have a new slate to begin with. Nepal is in crisis, and the Communist-led coalition will hopefully be able to steer the Himalayan country as it enters a new phase in its constitutional history.