Monday, May 14, 2007

Chewing On Koirala’s 20-Percent Kernel

The monarchy, according to Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala’s fresh calculation in Biratnagar, has shrunk to a fifth of its pre-April Uprising size. With the Chinese ambassador having formalized the premier’s concurrent status as head of state, Koirala is perhaps being a little generous – even allowing for his hometown-induced exuberance.
This reckoning is bound to enrage Prachanda further. The former (and soon to be?) rebels were already warding off the wrath of fellow Reds in the UML for having registered a proposal in the interim legislature to abolish the monarch without, so to speak, due process.
Illustrating his point, Koirala explained to reporters that King Gyanendra was busy visiting temples and so on as part of a long but inexorable path to citizenry. The monarch, according to other sources, may be doing so as part of his elaborate but surreptitious coronation.
Over a year after his regime collapsed, King Gyanendra reportedly maintains his executive-monarch schedule. He maintains regular office hours, voraciously reads newspapers and magazines, meets with people from different backgrounds and attends to household responsibilities.
Between October 2002 and April 2006, King Gyanendra didn’t seem terribly excited about scheduling a coronation. True, a few auspicious dates were being thrown around, but little else. With the monarchy in suspension, even facing the prospect of abolition if the Maoists have their way, this could hardly seem a propitious time for a coronation.
On the other hand, a king so overt with his religiosity and ritualism could not have envisaged such a seminal event without proper sanction from the planets and constellations.
What about the secrecy? Hanuman Dhoka Palace, the traditional venue of coronations, hasn’t shown signs of the festivities. Is the surreptitiousness in conformity with the stars, too?
Or is the old palace being readied for a new role? One report a few weeks ago said it was being set up as the secretariat of a new royal regime once the Young Communist Leaguers finally shed their civvies. Narayanhity Palace, so prompt in rebutting all manner of speculation, has been silent on this one.
And rumors are flying in all directions. Now we are told that the United Nations has made contingency plans to evacuate its staff to New Delhi should things get any worse. Clearly, the organization remains seared by the August 2003 attack on its premises in Baghdad, which claimed several international civil servants, including the top UN official responsible for Iraq. The UN had refused to relocate to Amman, citing that the anti-American groups would remember that the international organization had tried to prevent the invasion until the very end.
Unlike the ex-Baathists, jihadists or whoever the attackers were, our Maoists have already accused the UN of doing Uncle Sam’s bidding in Nepal. Of late, Prachanda has been warning against efforts to undermine the Maoists. His one-time mentor, Mohan Baidya, has candidly explained why a republic cannot await a constituent assembly: national and international forces are creating anarchy to sway public opinion towards the relevance of the monarchy.
As for Koirala, well, he’s too consummate a politician to have blurted out that 20-percent figure for nothing. The Chinese ambassador’s bow and stretched hands may have symbolized the loss of a power the monarchy had enjoyed even under the Ranas. But Koirala knows the envoy was acting in conformity with an interim constitution reflecting the tentativeness of all things Nepali.
The premier’s real message from Biratnagar this time, as far as Maila Baje is concerned, is his warning to legislators stalling house proceedings of an onset of a dictatorship. The last time we heard someone make that prophesy in the midst of political bickering and Maoist machinations, we were merely months away from February 1, 2005. And, let’s not forget, communications minister Mohammed Mohsin was just the spokesman for the government.