Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Sitaula: Between Prachanda And Ganapathy?

Canceling a scheduled meeting with a European Parliament delegation, Home Minister Krishna Prasad Sitaula left for India on Monday on a three-day ‘religious’ visit. Finance Minister Dr. Ram Sharan Mahat has been designated by Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala to look after the Home Ministry during Sitaula's absence.
Sources close to Sitaula said he was heading for the Indian state of Jharkhand to pay homage to a saint named “Thakur Baba”. A pretty odd time for the Maoists’ chief confidant in power to be leaving the country. On the other hand, Nepal does need all the advice – political, spiritual and extraterrestrial – it can get at this critical juncture.
Maila Baje couldn’t help delving a little deeper into the matter. Sitaula, under fire from his own Nepali Congress for granting a string of concessions to the Maoists, is suspected of having inserted the clause on dissolving the House of Representative without the prime minister’s knowledge in the eight-point accord.
With that row now imperilling the peace process, could Sitaula have gone for consultations with the principal architects of last November’s Seven Party Alliance-Maoist accord?
For a politician who barely tries to conceal his admiration for every bit of official advice emanating from across the southern border, flying into New Delhi would have not been prudent. Could the ordinariness of Jharkhand have been intended to obscure the substance of Sitaula’s consultations? Whisking him away to New Delhi from Jharkhand wouldn’t be that difficult, either.
Or could the pilgrimage merely be a cover for the shifting dynamics in the peace process. The principal government interlocutor, demonized by his own party, seeks solace in the company of a seer.
The minister who steps in is known for his closeness to foreign stakeholders farther afield. (Would Crown Prince Paras’ game of golf with American Ambassador James F. Moriarty have merited so much column space in The Washington Post several months ago if Sitaula had been the Nepali Congress politician grumbling?) Watch out for the next statement from each side on the imminence or otherwise of a Maoist-inclusive interim government.
Maybe Sitaula is away in Jharkhand for serious political discussions on the peace process – with leaders of the Communist Party of India (Maoists). Remember Ganapathy, Prachanda’s Indian counterpart? Yeah, the guy with whom Prachanda issued a statement reiterating their “pledge to fight unitedly till the entire conspiracies hatched by the imperialists and reactionaries are crushed and the people’s cause of socialism and communism are established in Nepal, India and all over the world.”
Sitaula may be getting the rap at home for capitulating to Prachanda. From Ganapathy’s perspective, Prachanda is culprit. Each step the Nepalese rebels take toward the mainstream represents a betrayal of the revolution India’s Naxals envisage.
Remember Prachanda’s rosy rhetoric on creating that South Asian Compact Revolutionary Zone? His Indian allies are working hard on carving out their component of the structure, only to see the Nepalese rebels repudiate it for the sake of imminent political power.
No wonder Prachanda, Dr. Baburam Bhattarai and others seem to feel far safer inside Nepal these days, although there is very little that would prevent Ganapathy from ordering cross-border hits. I guess the question really is, did Prachanda ask Sitaula to mediate with Ganapathy?