Tuesday, February 20, 2007

‘Reactionary’ Ruminations

The Seven Party Alliance monopolizes the levers of power and the Maoists are inside the interim legislature. Yet King Gyanendra – “Asia’s most humiliated man” in the words of one staunch critic – can still speak with candor and conviction. No wonder the new aristocracy is up in arms.
Consider the core complaint: King Gyanendra attempt to “justify” his February 1, 2005 “coup”. Is that a crime? Moreover, if justifying the unjustifiable were the issue here, the royal message would hardly have warranted a murmur of protest.
The content is not in dispute. The sequence of events that led to October 4, 2002 is before everyone. As for the 15 months after the February 1, 2005 takeover, the king has taken responsibility for its failures – without losing an iota of his conviction. Clearly, it’s his reference to “successes” that has riled his critics.
Like most things in life, success is a relative term. It’s not much fun living in a twilight zone once you recognize you’re about to be stuck eternally between light and dark. The promise of a new Nepal loses its luster when the purveyors act little better than medieval clan chieftains.
Our eight chiefs have the power to rule by decree but they are deadlocked on virtually everything. We don’t even know what happened to Commerce Minister Hridayesh Tripathy’s resignation letter, if he ever submitted one to the prime minister.
On the other hand, listening to Pasang Sherpa and Upendra Yadav put forth their grievances on BBC Nepali Service in almost chaste Nepali, it becomes truly hard to forget King Mahendra. If that much-maligned Article 127 of the last constitution has started acquiring new respectability, don’t blame the palace.
Given the thoroughness with which he has been exposed since that Global Leadership Conference in New Delhi, Maoist chairman Prachanda is perhaps entitled to the loudest grumble. His refrain that feudal forces within and reactionaries forces abroad are trying to obstruct the constituent assembly elections in an effort to save the monarchy does sound state. But it begs the logical next question. Why? Weren’t these external forces the same ones that helped sideline the palace in April?
What changed over the months? China’s downing of its own satellite, thereby reverting Nepal to Washington’s pre-9/11 China calculus? Or recognition down south of the risks inherent in the Yechuri Option? Coupled, of course, by the swiftness with which Nepal has returned as a keyword on India-datelined terrorism stories. Our northern neighbors, too, must be wondering whether loktantra has had a hand in all that fuss Richard Gere is making about a handful of illegal border crossings.
After his recent speech, Gen. Dilip Shamsher Rana came in for familiar criticism from familiar quarters. Could there be a new factor at play here, such as, say, disenchantment within the ranks over the equation of a professional fighting force with a band of trigger-happy thugs reared in a belief system the rest of the world hates far more than it does the monarchy?
Clearly, the only gamble King Gyanendra took on February 1, 2005 was in tethering his agenda too tightly to the north. Could our next reactionary revival come with western and southern -- in addition to northern – support?