Class Wars

Text by Anil Chitrakar

Regular and peaceful transfer of power is a rare event in Nepal. If history is to be the judge, violence has always been the key variable that has brought people to power. What is really fascinating is also what people do once they are in power and the pattern of mistakes they make. The 104 years Rana rule in Nepal was initiated by Jung Bahadur Rana in 1846. On the night of September 14, the entire opposition in the Nepali court was massacred by Jung, his brothers and allies. Power was then consolidated to enable the rule of this country by a single family for over a century. It is interesting to learn how the Ranas worked to destroy themselves and end their rule in 1951. There are parallels to what the political parties are doing today. History repeats itself in a strange way.

In order to ensure that all his sons and brothers stayed united, Jung had initiated a Role of Succession. Chandra SJB Rana who ruled Nepal from 1901 to 1929 restructured the sequence radically which resulted in deep dissent, internal rivalry and eventually the fall of the Ranas. What Chandra Shamsher decided to do was to divide all the members of the Rana family into three classes- A,B and C based on caste laws. The ‘A’ class were children of wives of Ranas who came from equal cast; and ‘C’ were children of ‘illegitimate’ children of lower caste mothers. The ‘A’ class Ranas became colonels and major generals on birth. By doing this, Chandra Shamsher managed to alienate a large part of the family. This resentment led to the members of the family actually turning against themselves and supporting the anti Rana movement that ended their rule in the spring of 1951.

Today we have also created three classes of aspiring rulers in Nepali politics. First are the four parties that strike all the deals by getting away with almost anything, including the suspension of key clauses of the interim constitution. The second class are the remaining parties in the dissolved Constituent Assembly who have been left out of the process for the most part; and thirdly the beaurocrats who now have positions of power by a strange fluke of history.

One of the four big parties that have ruled Nepal since 1990, thought it was “their turn to rule”. Rather than agree on a succession plan, an independent person was proposed as head of the government. Some of the ministers in the cabinet are there because their own roll of succession as chief secretary was broken by the previous government. The small parties in the “opposition” thought it was finally their turn to rule the country, but their turn has also been dismissed. In a normal democracy, when the ruling coalition fails, the opposition is given a chance to form a government before calling for a fresh election. In summary there are many people and parties who feel that their role of succession was taken away and are disgruntled. We shall see how these egos play out in the days to come.

Among the ruling parties, there is a ‘B’ class that did not get a chance to form a government. The opposition parties who were never consulted feel they are the ‘B’ class political parties. In the beaurocracy, people who now have to answer to their former colleagues who have become ministers feel that they are the ‘B’ class. In the entire roll of succession, the people of Nepal who have been mere spectators, feel they are the new ‘C’ class. We shall all see what role they can have in all that will happen. Voting is a fundamental right denied for many years.