Monday, April 23, 2007

Matrika’s Hierarchical Theory Of Speaking Out

As our Maoist ministers scurry to stamp their mark on statecraft, Matrika Prasad Yadav has emerged the clear frontrunner. The track is tortuous and the finish line still hazy. The race so far has some salient features.
Krishna Bahadur Mahara, the seniormost ex-rebel in the cabinet, is in a bit of a disadvantage. First, he had to abandon the claim to the deputy premiership in the interest of saving the peace process. Then he got the information and communication portfolio, making him the spokesman of a government most of whose policies and pronouncements his party probably disagrees with.
Dev Gurung was the first senior Maoist to insist that his party had lost faith in Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala and would not join the interim government. Regardless of whether that was a crude bargaining ploy, his portfolio is unenviable. Having to restore the local infrastructure his party destroyed during the decade-long people’s war is arduous enough. Gurung now has to share part of that responsibility with Hisila Yami.
Should the ex-rebels, by a stroke of good fortune, really achieve that daunting task, Yami could end up getting all the credit. She has a spouse with great media skills.
Long before she met Dr. Baburam Bhattarai, Hisila learned a thing or two about the public limelight as a daughter of litterateur Dharma Ratna Yami. She understands the striking legacy that sometimes entails.
As deputy forest minister in Matrika Prasad Koirala’s government, Papa Yami once hit the headlines by issuing a statement that touched on the fuzziness of Nepal’s foreign and domestic policies. Papa Yami condemned B. P. Koirala for accusing Indian Ambassador Chandreshwar Prasad Narayan Singh of interfering with Nepal’s independence.
The deputy minister described such charges, which were quite widespread then, as “meaningless propaganda of ungrateful elements who have fallen from power.” Urging “progressive elements” not to be misled by such rants, Papa Yami concluded: “The role played by His Majesty [King Tribhuvan] and the Indian ambassador in bringing about the recent change in Nepal has been no less important than that of the people.”
Dr. Bhattarai, like Ms. Yami, obviously finds it convenient to forget that episode of Nepali history. But he still seemed to have taken his father in law seriously. After April Uprising I in 1990, Dr. Bhattarai could be seen badgering potential reviewers to take a look at the hagiography of Papa Yami that had just come out.
As women, children and social welfare minister, Khadga Bahadur Biswakarma probably has the easiest job. With the fair sex and younger ones already in the employ of the People’s Liberation Army, the Maoists can afford to sit back and relax on that front. With respect to social welfare, well, one of the few good memories Nepalis have of the insurgency is that anti-alcohol campaign.
Of them all, Matrika Yadav is under the greatest urgency to act. The Madhesi Janadhikar Forum and the Janatantrik Terai Mukti Morcha factions have undercut his claim to have emancipated the other half of Nepal. In power, he has the responsibility of preserving a resource that has the least likelihood of being saved. Yadav’s inauguration coincided with the uncovering of a sandalwood scandal.
If life has handed Yadav a lemon, he has been quick to make lemonade. The pitiable plight of our forests has allowed Yadav pick a fight with the military, challenge Prime Minister Koirala over jurisdictional issues, and excoriate other ministers for their lack of cooperation.
He has now propounded the Hierarchical Theory of Speaking Out: A new Nepal cannot be built in an atmosphere where wardens cannot speak out against the director general; where the director-general cannot speak out against the minister; and where minister cannot speak out against the prime minister. Call this a fusion of Chinese Cultural Revolution-era denunciations with our own scorching ancient grievances.
In one sense, Matrika Yadav is the only minister who really believes the interim government is coalition between the Seven Party Alliance and the Maoists, not one where the eight parties have struck a partnership of equality.
The Maoist high command’s sheer inability to get this message must enrage Yadav. When can we expect you to speak out at Prachanda and Dr. Baburam Bhattarai, Matrika babu?