Monday, July 30, 2007

Prachanda’s RAW Deal

Did Maoist-in-Chief Prachanda and key lieutenants slip into Silgudhi for a couple of hours the other day, ahead of the party’s crucial fifth plenary session? The comrades won’t tell us. They probably want us to keep guessing.
So here are some thoughts. Was the visit intended to improve the ex-rebels’ relations with their revolutionary international allies angered by their eagerness to wage peace? Or was it an effort to assuage comrades closer to home that the Nepalese rebels are still wedded to lighting that regional inferno?
It’s more likely that Prachanda & Co. ventured across the border for urgent discussions with their handlers in India’s top spy agency, the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW).
After sneaking back into Nepal, Prachanda changed his tune. He began insisting that the Maoists would not quit the government. (So much for the fracas over the sudden deployment of guards from Nepal Army’s “killer” battalion to Maoist ministers.)
So what’s the deal here? If anything, it must revolve around the issue of republicanism. For RAW – or at least the dominant section therein – the monarchy has always been the principal problem. As long as the representative of the creator of the modern Nepali state continues to wield influence in any shape for arm, the logic runs, India would stand to lose.
Consider that contention this way. Every assertion of Nepaliness – which the monarch institutionally and psychologically is inclined to exercise – has been castigated as an abiding quest for autocracy.
What about the firestorm in the interim legislature blaming Indian embankments for the deadly floods in Nepal? The king has no nominees in that body. With Nepaliness having survived the sustained marginalization of the palace, RAW knows it has an uphill battle.
Make no mistake. The end of the monarchy would not guarantee success for RAW. In the ensuing instability, Indian sleuths nevertheless hoped to fortify their posture. That’s why they were so anxious to present the ambivalent political, military and bureaucratic class in New Delhi with a fait accompli.
From RAW’s perspective, the Maoists were ultimately supposed to supplant the palace. The so-called October Revolution was supposed to have inaugurated a new era of hegemony. A year and a half down the road, the ex-rebels don’t seem terribly excited about showing the king the door.
Worse, they are hobnobbing with the Chinese in what may turn out to be a grand palace-Maoist alliance for consolidating Nepaliness. RAW certainly didn’t invest so much over a decade to see Nepali Maoists take that great leap northward.
Sure, some Maoist hardliners are miffed by the way their party has been relegated to the eighth constituent of the ruling alliance. For RAW operatives, the republic cause could come in handy here. The problem is, this group is more anti-Indian than the rest of the bunch.
India had arrested Mohan Baidya and C.P. Gajurel in an effort to preempt any Maoist-palace deal. By depriving Prachanda of these two “nationalist” allies, India forced the Maoist chairman onto an overt pro-Indian path he had purged his deputy, Dr. Baburam Bhattarai, for having traversed. In exchange, Prachanda persuaded New Delhi to free both of his allies.
Neither seems to have shed his skepticism vis-à-vis New Delhi’s motives in Nepal. Baidya has become the leading critic of Prachanda’s obsequiousness to India. Gajurel is building bridges to China faster than the Indians can assemble demolition crews.
So what might happen next? Will the Maoists, duly admonished by RAW, persuade other members of the interim legislature to abolish the monarchy right away and then promote themselves into constituent assembly elections? Or will the ex-rebels declare Nepal a republic during their upcoming meeting?
Either way, Prachanda has fortified himself. It’s hard count the number of times he has reminded us how King Gyanendra is under no compulsion to pack up and leave Nepal just because interim legislators or ex-rebels say so.