Monday, January 21, 2008

A Coup, But Which One?

So it essentially boils down to whether Nepal will witness a “democratic coup” or a “nationalist” one. From the national discourse outside the corridors of power, the postponement of the April 10 constituent assembly elections seems to be a foregone conclusion. (In private, leading people in power do concede as much.)
Another delay would mark the end of the legitimacy of the Six Party Alliance. Why the trepidation? The masses haven’t marched on Baluwatar, Balkhu or Buddha Nagar desperate to assert their sovereignty.
Perhaps the pain is self-inflicted. As an entity that rose on the public mood of the time, the slightest shift is bound to be perceived as seismic.
Things are moving too fast. Forget the third amendment to the interim constitution that turned Nepal into a monarchical republic. Unified Marxist-Leninist (UML) leader Khadga Oli tells us that the first sitting of the constituent assembly wouldn’t be able to oust the monarchy. (Having absented himself from that vote, he is busy shrugging off the royalist tag.)
The 23-point agreement looks increasingly like a stopgap arrangement until the denouement. Whether the Nepali Congress or the Maoists strike a deal with the military (read palace) first seems to be the only issue.
The fact that senior leaders of all political stripes are fanning across the country on commitment rallies doesn’t seem to matter. How could it? Wasn’t Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala assuring foreign ambassadors of elections until the final hours before their official postponements?
More important, political leaders want elections for different reasons. The situation is spiraling out of the grip of the oligarchy. The proportional representation deal has raised new imponderables.
Echoing UML chief Madhav Kumar Nepal, Maoist leader Mohan Baidya sees them as the only shield against a royal comeback. But his boss, Prachanda, is busy meeting with members of King Gyanendra’s erstwhile cabinet. Logically, aren’t these men (and women?) supposed to be busy plotting another coup?
Nepali Congress leader Sher Bahadur Deuba wants elections to ensure that his son wouldn’t have to go to jail again under a monarchy. But he makes that revelation at an army barracks, one of the pivots of King Gyanendra’s regime, in an inebriated state. (No wonder the generals have lost their enthusiasm for Deuba and are hedging their bets on Sujata Koirala).
Narayan Man Bijukchhe of Nepal Workers and Peasants Party offers such tantalizing tidbits on the New Delhi conclave that inaugurated the peace process that it amazing how his peers in the SPA tolerate him.
The national mood takes the cake, here. The alternative to the greatest democratic exercise is a choice between two military takeovers. Take your pick.