Monday, February 25, 2008

What’s There To Be Sorry For?

It’s easy to dismiss Chandra Prakash Mainali’s latest outbursts against India as an exhibition of individual duplicity at its worst. A signatory to the 12-point agreement drafted and signed in New Delhi today wants leaders who went into the Indian Embassy for talks on resolving the Madhes imbroglio to apologize publicly.
In fairness, one must state for the record that Mainali and Narayan Man Bijukchhe of the Nepal Workers and Peasants Party, another signatory to the Delhi accord, at least had the courage to question the intention and impact of such an externally imposed alliance. (It is baffling nevertheless that both are still part of the ruling alliance.)
But Mainali is in a class of his own. At one time, he was the most prominent young communist of Nepal. The violent Jhapa movement Mainali was part of in the early 1970s was almost a legend that deepened with his own daring escape from a Panchayat prison. After the restoration of multiparty democracy in 1990, he became the first leader to publicly admire King Mahendra’s contributions to nation building. He subsequently lost to the more charismatic Madan Bhandari whose ideology of Multiparty People’s Democracy carried the day. But not without mounting a serious effort at preventing the newly formed Unified Marxist-Leninists from abandoning the core tenets of their German and Russian heroes.
Having lost the speakership to the Nepali Congress’ Ram Chandra Poudel after the 1994 elections, Mainali was named supplies minister in the UML’s minority government. The shabby treatment party colleagues meted out to Mainali during the sugar scandal said much about his prospects in the UML. So when Bam Dev Gautam led his supporters out of the UML in 1998, Mainali didn’t surprise many by walking out, too. The creation of the Marxist-Leninist faction hardly settled his politics. In the party leadership contest, Mainali lost to Gautam, who continued to espouse Bhandari’s Multiparty People’s Democracy. The ML’s rout in the 1999 elections precipitated its reunification with the UML, but Mainali chose to stay out. This persistence amid sustained marginalization is something rare and admirable in contemporary Nepali politics.
Through his comments at the Reporters Club the other day, Mainali, who now heads the United Left Front Nepal, has attempted to brighten his nationalist credentials by several watts. He accused the Indian establishment for flaring up the Terai crisis, based on “firm” proof he chose not to elaborate on. (Unless you count his assertion that the top representative at the Indian Consulate in Birgunj is personally disbursing millions.)
Mainali’s other revelation was just as interesting. The Indians don’t have a Nepal policy, he said. They just want concessions from the Nepali establishment. They are using the Terai crisis as a bargaining chip. How many of us really didn’t know that? But it’s different when a member of the ruling alliance says that.
No sovereign Nepali can ever accept the demand for a separate Madhes province, surrendering to pressure exerted from within or without, Mainali claimed. This leads to the inequity of the wider argument being advanced against the one-Madhes-one-province credo.
The hills people never saw madhesis except in their collective image. Sunsari, Saptari and Siraha may have been distinguishable from one another to the migrants from the hills. For those who still inhabited the nation’s rugged terrain, it really didn’t matter whether you hailed from Bara or Banke.
To suddenly claim that there is no contiguous madhes – geographically, politically ethnically or emotionally – is disingenuous. Equally so is Mainali’s plea to madhesis – shared by the ruling alliance in general – to wait until after the constituent assembly elections. If an unelected interim legislature could secularize the state and turn Nepal into a republic, it certainly can oblige the Terai agitators.
Returning to Mainali’s main point, if Nepali leaders could fake illness at the same time to fly to Delhi for medical care only to forge – in the fullest sense of the word – an unnatural alliance, why should venturing into the Indian Embassy be considered such a sacrilege? It saved time, money and energy, didn’t it?