Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Narhari Acharya & Red Scare Candor

Score one for Narhari Acharya. The leading theorist of the republican wing of the Nepali Congress has let it be known that the Red Scare has pushed his party closer to the palace.
Not that Acharya's statement breaks any new ground. Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala, the supreme commander of the April Uprising, has earned much criticism – and rare praise – for advocating a ceremonial monarchy.
Yet he has justified that as an imperative driven by Nepal's internal and external realities. It's Acharya's candor in articulating the specific reason that is significant and should clarify the emerging dynamics in weeks and months ahead.
Before the April Uprising, many Nepalis thought Acharya – and his fellow republican Gagan Thapa – would emerge as the principal voices of a post-royal regime Nepali Congress. When Koirala, during the height of his rants against "regression" described the duo as agents of the palace, many Nepalis were infuriated by the octogenarian's intolerance for talent.
Acharya, like Thapa, has become a voice in the wilderness. During the royal regime, the security forces scoured his computer hard drive and seized his republican treatises. Now, under a decidedly "democratic" Nepal, Acharya is forced to push his agenda at a venue in India.
For a while, Nepali Congress luminaries like Ram Chandra Poudel argued that Koirala's attachment to a ceremonial monarchy stemmed from his personal sentiments, not those of his party. Today Poudel, too, seem to have been sensitized enough by the gains the Maoists to acknowledge the virtue of silence as far as the palace is concerned.
There may be larger imperative here. However you may want to define it, the Nepali Congress remains an embodiment of the Koirala legacy. The same factors that led B.P. Koirala to abandon his original infatuation with communism and strike a posture of a more moderate brand of socialism would prevent him from ever forging a common front. B.P.'s rabid anticommunism may have set back the democracy movement by a generation. Ganesh Man Singh, who parted with his late colleague in building an alliance with the communists, brought down the Panchayat system. Yet Singh would go on to find enough space in his own Nepali Congress.
As a politician, Girija Prasad Koirala has proved far more skillful than any of the Congressmen. One reason has been his ability to use the communists as a prop to boost his party's pragmatic side. Having gone so far to enlist the Maoists' support against the royal regime – something put to pen by Dr. Baburam Bhattarai in some of his livid moments as essayist – Koirala was quick to acknowledge how victory necessitated a correction. The Seven Party Alliance and the Maoists can squabble eternally over who really forced the palace to capitulate. Without Koirala's leadership, it is doubtful the hordes of Maoists masquerading as diehard democrats, could have dominated international headlines. Prachanda and Dr. Bhattarai's urgency in claiming full credit for the April Uprising only hardened the wily old man.
Girija Koirala, central to the Nepali Congress' plots to assassinate Kings Mahendra and Birendra, could easily claim the 1990 movement as a victory for the panchas – and by logical extension – the palace.
It's hard to believe that hardened radicals like Narhari Acharya and Gagan Thapa could have failed to see the difference between a avowedly republican platform and their party's decision to delete its traditional reference to the monarchy from its statute.
Whether they were prepared for the promptness with which a Prime Minister Koirala would – to rephrase B.P.'s memorable reference to the shared vulnerability of the royal collar and his own – stick out his neck for the king is altogether a different matter.