Monday, May 08, 2006

(Counter)Revolutionary Command Counsel

It must be a testimony to our twisted times that, in a matter of a fortnight, Nepalis have graduated from discussing a nebulous “total democracy” to deliberating on the threat of a “counterrevolution.”
On the surface, things are moving according to the Seven-Party Alliance + Maoist (SPAM) plan. Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala and the reinstated House of Representatives are taking all kinds of confidence-building measures to woo the Maoists. His Majesty’s Government will soon be known as the Government of Nepal. If the Unified Marxist-Leninists have their way, the Royal Nepalese Army (RNA) is increasingly likely to shed its regal prefix.
Maoist Chairman Prachanda thinks the speed at which the country is heading toward a constituent assembly is too good to be true. He’s started wondering why hardcore royalists like Pashupati Sumshere Rana have suddenly become the most ardent champions of a body conceived to formalize the abolition of the monarchy.
The general atmosphere, however, still seems so conducive that Prachanda feels it may be time to emerge from two decades in the netherworld.
Beneath this rosiness, cautionary notes abound. At a recent program, military experts warned of a military coup should the legislators further delay the rechristening of the RNA. All kinds of conclusions, moreover, are being drawn from King Gyanendra’s resumed religiosity.
The mood in India, too, seems to have turned a little somber on at least three dimensions. Some analysts have started speculating on how long Nepal’s squabbling political class can expect to sail smoothly between two armed institutions – the monarchy and Maoists.
Others close to the ruling alliance in Delhi are wondering how Kathmandu’s newly empowered politicians could end up trusting Indian Marxists more than Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
Yet another group of Indians seem embittered by the greater faith the Nepalese political leadership has placed in the United Nations on the question of monitoring the emerging peace process. (Surprise, surprise.)
The recent visit of Karan Singh, the son of the last maharajah of Kashmir, underscored the influence “Nepalese feudalism” continues to wield in India. It’s getting better. Pratapsinhrao Gaekwad, the 35-year-old son of the youngest brother of Baroda's last ruler, will be tying the knot with the daughter of RNA chief Gen. Pyar Jung Thapa. (No disrespect to Gen. Thapa’s upbringing and background; the political vocabulary permits the interchangeable usage of the terms monarchy and the military.)
It’s another Thapa who has sounded the most ominous warning, at least in Maila Baje’s view. Former prime minister Surya Bahadur Thapa’s Rastriya Janashakti Party (RJP) is concerned by the spate of political decisions the government and the legislature has been making. No prizes for questioning decisions of an executive and legislature of questionable constitutional standing. The RJP goes a step further.
Fearing that such a trend might lead to anarchy, the party has urged the government to prioritize the “genuine” Maoist issue to guarantee security and unobstructed movement to the people.
A meaningless rant from yesterday’s man? Of the three ex-premiers who have served Kings Mahendra, Birendra and Gyanendra, Surya Bahadur Thapa is the only one who stood against the palace’s 15-month direct rule. (The other two, Dr. Tulsi Giri and Kirti Nidhi Bista, served as the executive monarch’s deputies.)
More important, though, is the perception that, among all the principal politicians in Nepal, Thapa commands the greatest respect across the southern border – and thereby enjoys the full aura and privileges that come with it. It would be prudent to mark his words.