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Unofficial House revival plan in Nepal

Kathmandu, April 24: When nothing seems to be going right, when parliament stands dissolved and elected politicians stand on the margins of the polity while those with guns stand centre-stage and steal the limelight along with the king, what can those who believe in democratic politics do' Revive democratic institutions at the popular level.

Sounds strange' But exercising “popular sovereignty” is exactly what a coalition of five major Nepalese political parties is attempting to do to break the political impasse in their country. They are planning to unofficially revive parliament, municipal bodies, district and village development committees and “operationalise” them.

Precisely how parliament and the local bodies would be “operationalised” is not clear. What is clear, however, is that politics in Nepal is going to heat up further once these bodies start meeting unofficially against the wishes of the government. This might precipitate another crisis in Nepal.

The unofficial “revival” of the dissolved parliament is likely to be attempted before May 4. On that day, the political parties will formally launch a mass movement for restoration of democratic rights in Nepal.

“We will revive parliament unofficially at the popular level by calling all those who were MPs in the dissolved House to attend. The Speaker is still there. He has not been sacked. The MPs will urge him to convene the House and find a suitable constitutional provision for doing so. Even if we have to hold our parliament on the roads of Kathmandu, we will do so,” said a former MP and Nepali Congress leader.

But what would be the legitimacy of such a move' “The Maoists are seeking legitimacy because of their guns. The king seeks legitimacy by abrogating the Constitution. These two forces are holding peace talks and using the argument for the need for peace to de-legitimise the democratic forces.”

Should that be accepted by everyone in the name of peace' “What is the legitimacy of keeping the country without a parliament for more than six months' Our Constitution does not permit this. We as MPs had a mandate from the people. We still have that mandate and we will not give it up till there is a new mandate through a new election,” the Nepali Congress leader replied.

For the time being, however, the political parties have taken a decision to unofficially “revive” only the municipalities, district development committees and the village development committees. They instructed local body chiefs owing allegiance to them to “operationalise” these institutions forthwith at a meeting today at Lalitpur, adjoining Kathmandu.

A majority of the local bodies in Nepal was controlled by the Communist Party of Nepal (United Marxist-Leninist) or the UML and the Nepali Congress.

They were dissolved by the erstwhile Sher Bahadur Deuba government because of its inability to hold elections to these bodies in the constitutionally stipulated timeframe because of the Maoist problem. The Deuba government itself was dismissed when King Gyanendra dissolved parliament on October 4, 2002.

The coalition of political parties agitating against the king received a boost today. Until Wednesday, the coalition comprised the Nepali Congress, the Communist Party of Nepal (Untied Marxist Leninist), the Mazdoor Kisan Party and the Samyukta Jan Morcha (itself a coalition of five Marxist groups in parliament). Today, it was joined by the Nepal Sadbhavana Party, representing the demands of the people of the Terai region.

All these parties had representation in the dissolved parliament which, in their view, was illegally dissolved. Essentially, this leaves out only the pro-Monarchist Rashtriya Prajatantrik Party and Sher Bahadur Deuba’s Nepali Congress (Democratic) which is opposed to the king.

The coalition of parties has not yet taken a formal decision to “revive” parliament but has been discussing this issue.

It was on the agenda of the last all-party meet convened by the UML at its headquarters — all-party meetings are organised under the rotating chairmanship of its constituents. Today’s meet, organised by the Samyukta Jan Morcha, touched on the necessity of reviving parliament but did not take any decision on the issue.

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