Concocting the Parliament: A Tale of a Momentary Institution
The first session of Nepal’s “first parliament,” technically speaking, was held on 22 September 1950. Here the “first parliament” is within quotes because, in most of the history books, the “first” is used to refer to the parliament elected almost a decade later, in 1959. Since the 1950 parliament was concocted hurriedly, and only one session (the inaugural one) of it was held, not much is written about it (cf. Pandey 2040 v.s.)—relegating it to a footnote even when it finds a mention. The focus of this paper is on this momentary institution, which is almost erased from the history books.
The first parliament was “assembled” as per Nepal’s (first) constitution of 1948 (see, Gorkhapatra 2007 v.s.c), which was prepared by the penultimate Rana Prime Minister Padma Shamsher. Padma, allegedly a bit more “liberal” among the Rana rulers, ascended to the throne in November 1945, and upon his assumption of office, declared himself a “servant” of the subjects. He also spoke of the need of “associating the non-Rana and elected elements with the government of the country” (Baral and Appadorai 2012: 58). Otherwise, he felt, the Rana system would not withstand the winds of change that, by then, had engulfed the entire world, including the neighborhood (Parajuli 2012). The constitution was thus considered an apparatus through which the subjects were to be included, albeit cosmetically, in the governance structure. Padma presented the constitution to the people in January 1948, which was to come into effect from the Nepali new year day of 2005 v.s. (i.e. April 1948). But, before that, Padma was forced out—he first left for India on account of ill health, and sent his resignation letter from there after much haggling (Pant 2036).
Once Padma left the country, and his “conservative” cousin Mohan Shamsher assumed office, the reforms that the former initiated were gradually sidelined (Shaha 1975). The idea of having elections to the parliament was also scrapped. However, in June 1950, Gorkhapatra published notices and news items in which it was mentioned that there would soon be a bicameral parliament, as per the constitution (see Gorkhapatra 2007 v.s.a, 2007 v.s.b). Subsequently, the process to (s)elect members to both the houses was expedited. Some members were nominated (also a few “elected”) to the houses whereas some other members, particularly of the lower house, could not be “elected” due to time constraints, it was claimed, and thus remained vacant. Within three months Prime Minister Mohan inaugurated the first-ever parliament. This paper seeks to answer chiefly the following question: What forced the all-powerful Rana Prime Minister to adopt a policy (of including the subjects in the state affairs) that he despised? This paper will examine the external and internal factors that led to such a sudden policy turnaround. Relying mostly on printed archives and declassified documents, this paper will also detail, and analyze the process of (s)electing the office bearers of both the houses, and the first meeting of the parliament.
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