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Delhi Compromise Formula for Nepal : Birendra P Mishra

 Birendra P Mishra, former election commissioner of Nepal, The agreement, which was signed on February 7, 1951 in Delhi after a long deliberation in Kathmandu by the then ruler the Ranas and King Tribhuvan who was self-exiled in India., was based on the three-point formula developed in Delhi: an elected Constituent Assembly (CA) to draft a new constitution, an interim government with “popular” (with Nepali Congress) representation but a Rana prime minister; and recognition of King Tribhuvan. India had to play a role in bringing them to terms due to the complex situation developed in Nepal. PM Mohun Shamsher halted the political reforms in 1948, which were taken by his predecessor Padma Shamsher. It triggered the agitation against the Rana regime both inside and outside the kingdom by the enlightened citizens The Nepali Congress started its armed revolution and the King Tribhuvan’s disassociation with the Rana regime added fuel to the fire, as the King exiled himself in India. For the political settlement, India proposed a memorandum of a compromise formula. The King executed the formula after reaching Kathmandu. A coalition government of the Ranas and the Nepali Congress(NC) headed by the incumbent PM Mohun Shamsher JBR was formed to provide continuity of the government to hold CA elections. However, the PM resigned after a few months and MP Koirala of the NC took over the reign.

Though the formula, which was developed by the then Delhi-establishment, helped smooth landing of the political transition in Nepal, it produced divergent psychological effects on the Nepalese stakeholders, which finally failed. The Ranas, who were allowed to head the Government felt humiliated as their absolute power was taken away by this arrangement. The King who was recognized as sovereign after 104 years, was also not fully satisfied as the royal absolute power was curtailed, as he had to act as per the advice of the Prime Minster and also had to part with his power under democratic constitution framed by the elected Constituent Assembly. The Nepali Congress, which took up arms against the Rana Oligarchy, could not get full control over the state mechanism and the rest political parties got annoyed, as there were kept out of power sharing game of the new dispensation. Those people who were benefited by the Rana regime became furious as they were deprived of the facilities they were enjoying. Apart from these internal challenges India faced, there were some external challenges as well.

Despite India’s repeated reminders of then PM Jawaharlal Nehru, to the Nepalese Governments, no serious efforts were taken. The Rana PM who was hardly in the office for a few months failed, as he had to waste time in adjusting himself with the new dispensation. . The King neither asserted positively to hold CA election nor the instable governments allowed him to do so. Moreover, he constituted Advisory Council to advise him in the matter of governance. His successor King Mahendra was not at all interested in a CA. The NC leaders were not serious about having a CA, as the NC participated in the parliamentary election in 1959 under a new constitution promulgated by the King. Interestingly, even the people’s movement of 1990 did not entertain the agenda of CA. It accepted constitutional monarchy through the new constitution drafted by the representatives of the NC, CPN–UML and the nominees of the then King.
With regard to the idea of a CA, it could be presumed that the King might not have initiated by the King, as he might not have any idea about it , since he was almost a captive in his own palace from his early days. Moreover, had it been his project, he could have done something at least to hold CA election before his death in Switzerland in February 1955. The Ranas too could not have proposed a CA as they had already got a constitution drafted by some Indian experts a few years before, which did not have any mention of it. Similarly, the NC too could not be its initiator, as BP Koirala, in his ‘Atmavritanta’ (autobiography) himself admits that no NC leaders including Koirala Brothers (MP Koirala and himself) were allowed to have direct negotiation with the exiled King at the Hyderabad House in New Delhi to discuss about the contents of the ‘Delhi Compromise’. He simply calls it “an imaginary matter.” in his Atmavritant(autobiography). Thus, it was Nehru who wanted to see Nepal to have an elected CA to frame a constitution to be governed democratically
Historically, it took 64 years to get the idealistic dream of Nehru materialized on September 20, 2015 when the elected CA-2 adopted the new constitution for Nepal. It was the Maoists, who raised arms against the state in the early 1996, and took up the issue of CA, However, the demand of CA by the Maoist was quite inconsistent with their political thought. Were they under the influence of Indian leaders, both the leftist and the democratic, during their stay in India earlier and during insurgency?
Had the Delhi Formula been implemented, the monarchy could have been saved,of course in a different form and Nepal could have become a developing country long back, if not a developed country? Perhaps, there could not have political instability. Hence, it seems relevant even today, as its first message calls for a coalition of political forces for the stability of the Government, the second message demands elected Governments and the third message asserts that sovereignty does not lie with the ruler but with the people.

Dr.Birendra P Mishra, former election commissioner of Nepal

Birendra P Mishra, former election commissioner of Nepal, ( It is based on my book ‘Psychological Challenges of the Nepal-India relations’ being published shortly).

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