Dismantling the nearly three decades of statehood isn’t proving easy. Having ousted the monarchy, discarded a unitary government and dunked the nation’s Hindu identity, the country was supposed to have been well on its way to modernization. Facts being otherwise, the state is asserting. Nowhere is this better exemplified than in the growing numbers that gathered on the streets to observe the birth anniversary of its founder Prithwi Narayan Shah. Modern Nepal would ignore his being but the population is now aware that there is much amiss in the official reluctance to observe the birth anniversary of the founder of unified Nepal. Indeed, in their own way the population is asserting. At least the cultural wing of Nepali officialdom, the Royal Nepal Academy has, for the second time this decade, chosen to officially participate in the demonstration while the Nepal Army has formalized the occasion too. Even party officials have chosen to join in on their own. Of course, the demonstration this year too, much larger and more widespread than previous years remains but spontaneous and disparately organized, the hope for a unified and coherent alternative remains defused. But the fact that a population can be spontaneous in its action in favor of state is itself a demonstration of hope. An alternative can emerge from amongst the population.
The urgency is felt however. Even the system of proportional representation is proving a functional impediment. Parliament has been bereft of business unable to decide for the speaker’s chair. Constitutional provisions need much nit picking but so needs the business of government. Even, simple partisan principles on the choice of candidates cannot be transcended on behalf of the state. In the process, even an intended ‘ceremonial’ presidency has been dragged into political controversy. This is to the extent that the controversy is alleged to have arisen because of the lack of required distance between the head of state and the head of government. Again, a confederated Nepal when brought to practice now finds the biggest advocates of the confederacy thoroughly disgruntled and taking to the streets. Championing proportional representation on the basis of gender and ethnic lines is gradually not only proving impractical or, even, unpopular but also triggering charges that this has made it easier for participants to rope in their supporters. Tamsaling and Newar communities can merely take to the streets after the choice of Bagmati as name and Makwanpur as center by a party that had aroused caste and creed for the vote. As for secularism, never has the country been so aware of religion than now and a religion that had quietly organized its creeping presence in the country suddenly finds itself being targeted.
Indeed, so failed is the new constitution in content and practice that the political sector can no longer ignore schismatic nature in the absence of performance. It is not for nothing that our leaders must put the blame on an uncooperative bureaucracy, a class apart in spearheading the movement for change since the educated and securely employed professionals in the country are the very people where the rank and file of party cadre were securely ensconced. What one sees so far is that the party machinery that cannot but sustain the change through the dismantling of state is jammed. Its effects on policy all-round—most dangerously though in foreign policy—is brinkmanship par excellence. It is not surprising therefore that it takes none less than former king Gyanendra to issue a stern reminder of the state of the state in his message to the people on Prithivi Narayan Shah Day.