Monday, February 11, 2008

In The Name Of Thy Daughter

With Dr. Kidney having accelerated his political convalescence, Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala has now begun assuring us that the constituent assembly elections would be held as scheduled on April 10.
It’s too early to tell whether Koirala’s intervention in expediting the extradition of Dr. Amit Kumar has improved his stock in New Delhi. Regardless, the premier cannot afford any lassitude. Any indication of irrelevance is a no-no when King Gyanendra has begun raising his profile. The last time that happened, Maoist leader Prachanda helped catapult Sher Bahadur Deuba to power.
True, things are different for Koirala this time. Daughter Sujata has become acceptable as his successor to the principal external stakeholders. Domestically, he needs to fortify her credentials as the modern-day Jang Bahadur our nation of malcontents secretly longs for.
Prime Minister Koirala recognized all along that if the Nepali Congress was to survive politically, it could not afford to resemble the communists. He just wanted Sujata to raise that banner. Playing the Maoists and monarchists off against each other seemed fun for a while. Moreover, who knows when the premier would get to be acting head of state again? But when the question of succession in the family neared, the palace held much more attraction.
Nobody has been able to hold the designation of Minister Without Portfolio with any degree of firmness since Damodar Shamsher Rana in the Panchayat years. For Sujata, it came as an opportunity to train for the real job.
Not that she fell short. The raids on the Maoist Young Communist League offices she ordered seems to have touched off more anger within Home Minister Krishna Prasad Sitaula’s camp than among the Maoists. If the Maoists are to provide the justification for that political realignment everyone is talking about, Sujata needs to do more to make the ex-rebels’ blood boil.
She should have sufficient time for that. Since becoming minister, Sujata has entrusted her pro-monarchy agenda to the principal dissident faction in the party. Her campaign to revive the 1990 constitution, too, could be best left to the deepening political uncertainty.
By wooing over the military, she can expect to reinforce the Nepali Congress’ backbone. But competition is tough on that front. The UML and the Maoists are already active players. If the left struck a deal with the right first, then the whole succession could unravel.
Papa did have to step in and preach, what with the bevy of delegations arriving from India in advance of that country’s widely anticipated policy shift on Nepal. Surely, the Indian left, right and center would want credible and candid updates that could go into a coherent strategy before the mandarins upstaged the babus.
It was one thing for King Gyanendra to cozy up to Beijing. Many leading Indians considered him pro-Chinese from the moment he ascended to the throne. It is altogether another for someone Delhi had hailed as South Asia’s greatest statesman to flaunt the China card on something as sensitive as fuel supplies. And the public revelations on official Indian complicity in hijacking and counterfeiting? (No wonder Dr. Kidney could deny “snatching” organs with such a straight face.)
The Chinese are probably already briefed well by their study centers mushrooming across the country. For the Americans, keeping the Indians and Chinese wary of each other has lost none of its Nixonian virtue.
If father and daughter can keep their stories straight, that might be just enough for now. Depending, of course, on what now means.