We are of the opinion that the decision to phase out PCL should not be imposed until necessary policy, planning and infrastructure is created. We are also concerned that the student unions have made this a political agenda out of this subject.
No one should be surprised if we secure most PR seats: Rastriya Prajatantra Party-Nepal (RPP-Nepal) under Kamal Thapa is the only political party campaigning for the restoration of monarchy in the upcoming election. The party’s unequivocal support for monarchy and Hindu state and the perceived failure of major parties in the last seven years makes RPP-Nepal a force to be reckoned with. Republica’s Biswas Baral and Thira L Bhusal talked to the charismatic party president about monarchy, secular state and CA election.
|Rastriya Prajatantra Party-Nepal (RPP-Nepal) under Kamal Thapa is the only political party campaigning for the restoration of monarchy in the upcoming election. The party’s unequivocal support for monarchy and Hindu state and the perceived failure of major parties in the last seven years makes RPP-Nepal a force to be reckoned with. Republica’s Biswas Baral and Thira L Bhusal talked to the charismatic party president about monarchy, secular state and CA election.
How are your electoral preparations?
We are extremely enthusiastic, and have been preparing for it for some time now. Perhaps no other party is as keen on election as RPP-Nepal. In the last five years, we have been able to expand party base right across the country, and now our organizational strength is at par with the strength of any other major party. Our party has penetrated 90 percent of the 4,000-odd VDCs in the country. Ideologically, RPP-Nepal is the sole opposition to all other major and minor parties. Because of the failure of major parties in the last seven years and our consistent stands, we have been able to establish ourselves as a credible force. The party rank and file is energized. We will contest election from all 240 constituencies and all PR seats.
Any projections about the party’s poll prospects?
If election was to be held today, we will secure at least a third of all seats. While touring the country, I have found that the majority of the voters are still undecided. This shows that they are disillusioned by the forces they trusted with their votes before. If we can sway these undecided voters in our favor in the next few months, we might get a result that astounds everyone. In PR seats, no one should be surprised if we become the first party.
How do you plan to sway undecided voters?
First, we want to clear certain ideological misunderstandings about our party. For instance, there is a lot of confusion about the kind of monarchy we want, or about our vision of Hindu state. Along with these, we will present a convincing long-term vision for economic development. These will be the main issues.
So what kind of monarchy do you have in mind?
One of the reasons there has been no democratic stability in the last 63 years is because of the politics of exclusion that was a norm during the time. During the Panchayat rule, political parties were prohibited; during the post-1990 democratic rule, the Maoists were excluded; and after 2006 there has been an attempt to exclude nationalist and pro-monarchy forces. We want to develop a model where all political parties and ideologies, from monarchy to Maoists, find their place. The monarch will act as per the constitution. In other words, the monarch will be operating within the parliamentary setup by staying within constitutional bounds.
You said you envision a system where monarchy can work with other parties. But wasn’t monarchy removed precisely because it could not work with democratic parties?
Foreign conspiracy and tactical planning of ultra-leftist forces are behind the removal of monarchy, not the institution’s inability to work with democratic forces. Monarchy was removed neither by democratic forces nor by people’s wish. If we learn to place the country above party and individual, I believe a system which can accommodate all these forces can be created. How this will be possible, we will clarify in our election manifesto.
There has been a lot of hype about a possible alliance between RPP-Nepal and CPN-Maoist.
There have been no formal talks on any such alliance. However, we do welcome Baidyaji’s statement that he is ready to join hands with other nationalist forces, including monarchy, on the issue of nationalism. So far we have expressed agreement on policy and ideological level. There has been no talk of an alliance. Nationalism has been the biggest sufferer in the last seven years. Foreign meddling has increased, Nepali land is being used as a playground for international forces, the chances of disintegration are up owing to heightened regional and ethnic sensibilities, and there has been systematic weakening of Nepal’s identity as a result of a direct assault on its rich cultural heritage. To counter this, we believe there should be minimal understanding among all nationalist forces, be they in the communist camp, traditional democratic parties, or among the old conservatives.
How do you respond to the allegation that traditionally dominant groups have time and again subverted the aspirations of marginalized people in the name of nationalism?
We have to accept that there have been historical mistakes which have subjected a large section of the population to discrimination, exploitation and injustice. It is not possible to strengthen our nationalism without these forces on board. There is a worldwide trend of ‘inclusive democracy’ to address deprivation and social injustice. In other words, inclusive democracy must be strengthened to bolster nationalism.
Don’t you believe the institution of monarchy had a hand in perpetuating social inequalities?
Nepali people are being misinformed, even by the intelligentsia and the media that should know better. Although the monarch was the head of the state continuously for over 240 years, he didn’t always rule the country. Until the signing of the Sugauli Treaty in 1815, the country was in the phase of unification, when the monarch did reign supreme. But for 104 years after the treaty, the monarch was only a nominal head without any powers. The monarch’s role became a little more prominent after the 1951 democratic changes. But even in post-1951 period, the monarch has many times shared powers with other political parties. Thus, in the little time it has actually ruled the country, monarchy has done more good than bad. There has been a systemic effort to demonize and defame monarchy on flimsy pretexts. It is not a fact to say that the monarchy contributed to exclusion and discrimination.
In politics, symbolism is sometimes as important as ground realities. How do you justify the idea of a hereditary monarch in today’s world that is embracing inclusive democracy in your own words?
There are both good and bad aspects of monarchy. The important question is: How important is monarchy for Nepal? It is my conviction that Nepal’s unique geo-political reality warrants the presence of monarchy. Second, our social, religious and cultural background also calls for the presence of a monarch, as does our current political dynamics. RPP-Nepal believes that we should consolidate the main ideological achievements of the last three democratic movements in Nepal, namely democracy (1951), constitutional monarchy (1990) and social justice (2006). These three important concepts can be accommodated at one place.
But for the marginalized communities that found themselves at the receiving end for the last 240 years, monarchy is antithetical to social justice.
I believe the marginalized communities can be convinced on monarchy. If you look at our major parties, none of them are ideologically republican, including the Maoists. The Maoist leaders have gone on record saying they would join hands with the monarch. They had envisioned monarchy along the Cambodian model. Let us recall that at one time, they wanted to ‘capture state powers’ in collaboration with the king, who turned them down. They thought they could use the ideologically neutral head of the state to push their agenda. If you talk about other parties, they have been on the republican path because of Maoist intransigence and continuous foreign pressure.
You have been campaigning for restoration of Hindu state. Why do we need to define a state religion?
There are many misunderstandings on this issue as well. People believe we are campaigning for dharma nirapekshyata [it roughly translates to religious neutrality]. Conceptually, no country in the world can be dharma nirapekshya. What is religion? All good deeds are religious in nature. Sanatan dharma (Hindu religion) has no official text, nor one founder. We don’t even know when it started. Whatever customs and practices have been followed since the beginning of time is Hindu religion. This ‘eternal religion’ is our identity. We want to preserve this national identity. We don’t want special protection for a particular religion.
Let me also clarify that we are not against religious freedom. In fact, we would have been happy had those words featured in the interim constitution. This is another myth: the fact that we have been advocating for a Hindu state does not mean we are against other religions. Spiritually, conceptually and ideologically, the concept of a Hindu state and religious freedom can go together.
Where do you stand on the issue of federalism?
It is not our agenda. The issue of federalism has come up while trying to find ways to address the demands of marginalized and disadvantaged communities. In our view, the answer to these injustices is not federalism. In fact, examples from around the world suggest federalism makes these problems of exclusion worse. We have brought out a new concept of sthaniya swayatta sasan pranali. This local governance system envisions massive changes in the existing local governance structures and creation of new structures with strong financial, administrative, legal, constitutional and security rights. Not just through decentralization, but through constitutional devolution of power. Our goal is to take democracy to the doorstep of each and every household.
RPP-Nepal is the only party actively campaigning for the restoration of monarchy. Have you faced any threats while canvassing the country?
We used to face such threats. Now people welcome us. It is the other political forces that are running away from the people they have disillusioned. In Tarai, RPP-Nepal has gained a lot of traction on Hindutwa and monarchy.
From where will you contest election?
I will contest under direct seats from Makawanpur 1 and Kathmandu 5.
Do you believe the new CA will be able to produce a constitution?
Yes. The media is trying to portray a picture where the country is without options. Apparently, there is no alternative to the same big four parties, the same big leaders, the same policies, the same road map. This is not true. People are looking for alternatives, but we are telling them that there are no alternatives. The big parties will gain some votes because of this propaganda, but common people understand why the old CA could not produce a constitution, who were the culprits and which divisive policies contributed to CA’s downfall. It is inconceivable that the majority of Nepalis will give continuity to the same players, policies and roadmaps. When RPP-Nepal emerges as a strong political force, it will be able to make a meaningful contribution to constitution making and get a constitution through the CA mechanism.
Will there be election on November 19?
There is big public pressure for November 19 election. The four parties have been unconstitutionally holding the country hostage. Whatever they say, they are not committed to election. But given the immense public pressure, any further delay could be harmful for them.
Should the tasks completed by the old CA find place in the new CA?
Let us be clear on this. The new Constituent Assembly is not a continuation of the old CA. After the old CA was dissolved without giving us a constitution, all its work has been rendered useless. Let political parties own old agreements that further their interests. But the CA that will be elected with new mandate and forces like us which never honored the work of old CA will be under no compulsion to own up anything.