Saturday, December 24, 2005

Which Pandey Will It Be?

The mainstream parties have boxed themselves in faster than you would have thought, say, until last week.
Their alliance with the Maoists was bound to come undone after Indian Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran studiously avoided mentioning it in public during his recent Nepal trip.
By refusing to delve into the details of his discussions with King Gyanendra, moreover, Saran left all sides wondering which way the scales were about to tip. (Some things in South Block just don't change.)
Dr. Baburam Bhattarai's interview refusing to bestow on India the honor of honest broker in Nepal was indicative of much more than the Maoists' repudiation of a key premise of the 12-point accord. The power struggle in the rebel leadership continues and New Delhi is at the center of it all.
Conclusive evidence of a hardening of the Maoists' stand wasn't long in coming. "Physical action" became such a provocative term that a large chunk of the royal regime's most merciless critics seemed to recognize the roots of its refusal to reciprocate the rebels' truce.
The mainstream alliance's rejection of the Maoists' "physical action" route to thwart the municipal elections – which they have vowed to boycott – has had the effect of diluting the accord.
In allowing local Maoist cadres to inflate their recent political meetings, the UML must have thought it was doing little more than rolling the welcome carpet to ex-members who had jumped to the more ideologically militant comrades a decade ago.
It fell upon King Gyanendra's much-maligned executive deputy, Dr. Tulsi Giri, to urge Nepalis to ponder the real question: Why were UML crowds across the country suddenly fattening faster than the Nepali Congress'?
Madhav Kumar Nepal may have established himself as the premier candidate to head a government of national reconciliation. But a Madhav Nepal on the extreme left is hardly something the country needs when it has a wide range of choices in the jungles.
Dr. Giri's contention may not have encouraged Nepali Congress and UML leaders to hold emergency sessions on the future of their protests. But the cracks had begun emerging in full public view a few days earlier.
Sujata Koirala stunned her fellow speakers at a recent public function by suggesting that the Nepali Congress could accept a constitutional monarchy (mark her adjective) if King Gyanendra apologized to the people for his recent conduct.
What would constitute such an apology? A formal radio and TV address to the nation accepting that he erred in seizing control on Feb. 1? Or an invitation to the Nepali Congress to head a national government? (Of course, our preeminent democrats would need open-ended sessions to settle on a candidate for prime minister.)
To be fair, though, things are not that easy for the mainstream parties. They have stuck their necks out too far on the republic-total-democracy-ceremonial monarchy scale.
No doubt, the danger of repudiating the pact is great from the Maoists. It's greater from civil society leaders, who have stepped up their warning to the mainstream leaders against jumping to the palace's bait. There's no telling what the country would have to endure if civil society entered into its own 24-point accord with the Maoists.
A political outlet, therefore, would depend on whether the Nepali Congress is swayed more by Devendra Raj Pandey or Ramesh Nath Pandey. And, yes, don't discount the UML's capacity to play the spoiler.