Sunday, July 06, 2008

Maoists Face The Surreality Of Newness

The stars seem to have gone retro on the Maoists after their electoral surge in April. The Madhesi parties rose up in defiance moments after Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala finally announced he would step down.
Now former Gorkha soldiers are warning of an agitation should the comrades proceed with their plan to end recruitment. (It was, let’s not forget, Nepal’s major victory from its defeat in the war with the British.)
The Unified Marxist-Leninists (UML), despite their recent bonhomie with the Maoists, have set up their own brigade of brigands to counter the Young Communist League. With enough revolutionary shine, the UML might gain far more than the men and women it lost to the Maoists in the early years of the People’s War.
The Nepali Congress is proving more resilient than the average runner-up in a hung assembly. From the way Prime Minister Koirala tricked the nation into believing his intent to resign was an actual resignation, it is clear the wily octogenarian is far from a spent force. The split in the Nepali Congress on addressing the Madhesi issue could be contrived for a much wider objective.
Both sides of the One Madhes debate have accused the government of betrayal. Even amid the emphasis on collective responsibility, it must not have been easy for Prachanda to hear J.P. Gupta club him together with Koirala and former UML chief Madhav Nepal as Indian agents for having signed the pre-election accord with the Madhes-based parties. With the monarchy gone, the feudalism tag has centered on the upper castes dominating the major parties. As the largest one, the Maoists are particularly vulnerable. A coalition of the petrified is coagulating. The political class is worried about the emerging polity. The civil service is horrified by Forestry Minister Matrika Yadav’s penchant for toilet-training as a mode of re-education. The fourth estate is worried about its own freedoms. Geopolitically, things are in a state of flux. India’s home minister keeps assuring his country that Nepal’s Maoists share nothing beyond ideological ties with the Naxalites. But sections of the Indian media have the opposite view and have been reaffirming it with energetically in recent weeks. Supporters, too, are sending thinly veiled messages. One Calcutta newspaper suggested how Gyanendra Shah’s birth chart remains royally propitious. That came after a news service opined that the monarchy could make a comeback if political infighting continued.
The Chinese lifeline, on the other hand, is listless. It will probably remain so until the Olympics Games are over. And who can say what will happen then. The Chinese, after all, have reduced Prachanda to begging for an invitation. Beijing’s Nepal pointman, moreover, has conveyed his country’s expectation that the new premier would visit India first. The Americans cleverly stepped in after the elections to clarify how they never equated the Maoists with Al Qaeda. But they have done little since.
With the transition to the premiership becoming so thorny, Prachanda must be scared stiff of what might await him in power. If the Maoist rank and file still expect an October Revolution, they probably realize it may be mounted against them.
Obeisance to the south has thus become the Maoists’ strategy for survival. Mohan Baidya, in a swift turnaround, now believes the threat to Nepal’s sovereignty does not emanate from India. Dr. Baburam Bhattarai cancelled his much-hyped trip to Kolkata to accept the felicitations of ideological soulmates.
Prachanda speaks every couple of weeks to one Indian media organization or the other on how he wants better ties with India based on new realities. It must be hard to figure that one out – and the rest of it all – when newness is becoming so surreal.