‘Naya Nepal’: A myth or a reality?

Date01 June 2011
AuthorSiuli Mukherjee
Published date01 June 2011
Subject MatterArticle
'Naya Nepal': A myth or a reality?
Siuli Mukherjee*
Nepal is one of the countries of South Asia that is experiencing a
momentous political change and is shifting like a pendulum from one form
of political system to another. It has been juggling with democracy,
monarchy - benevolent and dictatorial - as well as republic, within a span
of about half a century. If we illuminate the deep corridors of history we
may see that Nepal had set her first step on the path of democracy and
modernization in 1950. She first triumphed with parliamentary democracy
under the aegis of the monarch Tribhuvan Bir Bikram Shah in 1959. But
Nepal could not enjoy the fruits of democracy for long as after his father's
death, King Mahendra Bir Bikram Shah took all the powers in his own
hand by abrogating the democratic system and introduced the 'Panchayat
System' in 1962. This was a unique form of governance continued for the
next 28 years with sporadic demands and agitations until it was thrashed.in
the bin by the First People's Movement in 1990. From a long-term
perspective, the greatest importance of
and the period that
followed may lie in the fact that several long-held political hypotheses
were put to the test. The first to be refuted was the hypothesis of the
viability of constitutional monarchy itself. (Maskey 2008:10) However, the
working of democracy in the post 1990 period was marked to some extent
by political stability although it was marred by misgovernance and the
weakening of democratic institutions. One major factor that threw a
tremendous challenge to the working of democracy was the Maoist
insurgency from the mid'90s. The situation turned grave with the
catastrophic Palace Massacre in June
when the popular monarch King
Birendra was killed mercilessly with his family members, as a consequence
of which King Gyanendra Bir Bikram Shah-ascended the throne which
shifted the line of succession. King Gyanendra could not conceal his
hunger for power and mishandled the situation. He declared a state of
emergency and paved the way for royal absolutism. However, his days were
numbered and his rule came to an end with the downfall of the Shah
Dynasty. The seven political parties or the Seven Party Alliance (SPA) of
Nepal joined hands with the Maoists and launched the Second Peoples
* Research Fellow, Asiatic Society, Kolkata.

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