For the long years that the Maoists waged their insurgency in Nepal, their agenda was the abolition of the monarchy. With King Gyanendra having gone from his palace, the 240-year-old Shah dynasty has come to an end. But now the Maoists, under the leadership of Pushpa Kamal Dahal aka Prachanda, want more. After vowing to usher in an inclusive democracy, sections among the Maoist leaders now want Prime minister Girija Prasad Koirala to step down. As one of them put it, attempts by other political forces to block them would be thwarted. Pardon us for saying so, but this does not exactly sound like democracy.
In trying to unseat Mr Koirala, the Maoists are making a blunder. The King was an unpopular figure and enjoyed little legitimacy. Mr Koirala, on the other hand, is seen as a democrat who commands respect not just among his peers and countrymen but also in the neighbourhood, notably in India. He is a unifying force who could serve as an umbrella for the new government. In fact, the Nepali Congress (NC) has sought that he become the first president of Nepal as the new Constituent Assembly takes over. Already, with so much uncertainty over what the Maoists will do next, talks between them, the NC and the Communist Party of Nepal (UML) have broken down. Amid this turmoil, there have been two bomb blasts in Kathmandu as Maoists cadres have poured in leaving chaos in their wake.
None of this augurs well for the nation that had so desperately hoped that the Maoist win would bring peace and economic rejuvenation. It’s clear that the Maoists are in no mood to tolerate a gradual transition. Had they shown some restraint, there would have been a return of investor confidence. The tourism industry, the country’s mainstay, is moribund and nothing that Prachanda and Co have done has attracted any footfalls so far. New Delhi has done well to keep its powder dry. So too Beijing. The Maoist violence has killed over 14,000 people in over a decade. They now owe it to the people in whose name they have come to power to roll out a positive blueprint for the country. Their idea that they can form a single party government will not be accepted by the people who will settle for nothing less than a functional democracy.