Friday, December 21, 2007

Divided They Stand

Wearied by the re-
assembly-election-first rigmarole, Maila Baje decided the other day to take solace in a once-favorite refuge: the Reporters Club. The fact that Rastriya Prajatantra Party (RPP) president Pashupati Shamsher Rana was scheduled to speak proved an added attraction.
Quietly taking a seat among relatively younger scribes, one was enthralled by Rana’s fieriness. Admittedly, the newly re-elected RPP chief’s threat to launch a decisive movement against the Six Party Alliance-Maoist combine if the interim legislature voted in favor of a republic was little more than bluster. Considering the latest allegations of fraud gripping the recent party elections, it’s doubtful whether any significant number of RPP activists would join street protests.
Rana’s support for a fully proportional representation system was hardly surprising, either. Ostensibly, the RPP expects to gain seats commensurate with the popular votes it would get, something it was denied during each of the three parliamentary elections since 1991.
Where Rana really excelled was in his articulation of the RPP’s agenda for the constituent assembly elections. Claiming that the seven parties in power – Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala hasn’t accepted the Maoist ministers’ resignations – had appropriated the people’s rights, Rana said he would exhort the people toward regaining their sovereignty.
In his impeccable Nepali, amplified by a near baritone, Rana built a sturdy case against a government that, by all reckoning, is bent on perpetuating itself into permanence. The RPP chief’s finger-wagging from the lectern prompted scribes around Maila Baje to scribble along. How much of those notes would be reflected in news coverage was a different matter.
As Rana spoke, Maila Baje couldn’t help marvel at how Panchayat-era politicians, despite their own rifts, have emerged as the preeminent voices of the opposition. Former prime minister Surya Bahadur Thapa, like Rana, is a member of the interim legislature. His reflections in the house draw some news inches and airtime. It’s Thapa’s comments at public functions that tend to provide the people with a broader perspective of current events.
Kamal Thapa, home minister in King Gyanendra’s regime, handles hostile questions with great aplomb. In a recent BBC interview, questioner after questioner seemed genuinely intrigued by his open support for the continuation of the monarchy.
Rabindra Nath Sharma, chief of Kamal Thapa’s breakaway RPP-Nepal, has been enduring physical blows in his campaigning for the monarchy. Largely credited with masterminding Lokendra Bahadur Chand’s and Surya Bahadur Thapa’s return as premier with UML and Nepali Congress backing respectively, Sharma recently said he did so to expose the two main parties’ greed for power.
Divided the ex-panchas most certainly are. Maybe that’s why they're standing.