Sunday, August 24, 2008

The Snub Of The Story

So this is what it has come down to. King Gyanendra infuriates India by easing China’s entry into the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation and is eventually overthrown. The Maoists, whom the Indians used to empower their listless lackeys in the mainstream, do bring down the royal regime. China, which armed the royal regime against rebels who they claimed tarnished the memory of the Great Helmsman, ends up embracing the Maoists.
The Maoists go on to win the largest number of seats in the elections carefully choreographed in New Delhi. The Indian Maoists see the outcome as vindication of their continued armed struggle. New Delhi tries to foist another lackey onto the presidency, this time through the Maoists. But Ramraja Prasad Singh is routed by Ram Baran Yadav, whose Nepali Congress scuttles at the 11th-hour the Maoists’ alliance with the Madhesi Janadhikar Forum’s Upendra Yadav.
The Maoists feign outrage and refuse to form the government. They relent, but set preconditions that deepen the deadlock. Interim prime minister Girija Prasad Koirala gets to attend the SAARC summit, but jawbones about his parleys with the Indian leadership as a way of keeping the job. The Maoists use Upendra Yadav’s men and women as a buffer against the Unified Marxist-Leninists (UML), still smarting from the ex-rebels’ refusal to back former general secretary Madhav Kumar Nepal as president.
The UML seeks the army’s help to checkmate the Maoists. But the generals remind general secretary Jhal Nath Khanal that it was not for lack of will that the royal regime failed to crush the rebels. The Indians pressure President Yadav from cancelling his visit to China, but the Beijing Olympics open without a glitch. Maoist supremo Pushpa Kamal Dahal becomes prime minister. UML ministers refuse to take the oath because Bam Dev Gautam is not designated No.2 in the cabinet. Gautam, who lost the election, is portrayed as just another power-hungry pol, which suits the UML’s Jhal Nath Khanal, Madhav Kumar Nepal and K.P. Sharma Oli just fine.
The Koshi floods spark a rivalry between the heads of state and government in an anti-Indian frenzy. Prime Minister Dahal, for his part, prepares for his first address to the nation. He paraphrases paragraphs from compendiums of King Mahendra’s speeches and flies to Beijing to attend the closing ceremonies of the Olympic Games. By the time he lands in the Chinese capital, Dahal’s trip acquires all the trappings of an official visit.
The Indians feel the stinging slap. But they can’t figure out whether it really came from Dahal. After all, he owed his life and limbs to the anonymity Delhi’s outskirts had provided for so long. So the whack also smacks of Beijing’s drive to contain India from joining the U.S.-led containment of China.
Then Foreign Minister Upendra Yadav defends Dahal’s visit as part of an effort to restore balance in Nepal’s relations vis-à-vis its two giant neighbors. He doesn’t stop there. Yadav warns foreign ambassadors not to expect a free rein under the new government, a day after Indian ambassador Rakesh Sood is a no-show at the prime minister’s departure ceremony.
By this time, the Nepali Congress leader enjoying the closest ties with the Maoists, Shekhar Koirala, has warned of withdrawing his party’s representatives from the constituent assembly if Dahal & Co. veered toward totalitarianism. Rastriya Prajatantra Party (Nepal) leaders irked by chairman Kamal Thapa’s late-blooming bonhomie with the Maoists break away to return to the mother party.
Both factions attend the birthday bash for former queen mother Ratna, who still lives in Narayanhity Palace, at the former crown prince’s residence while the owner is away. The celebrations turns into an intense political conclave at a time when former king Gyanendra was supposed to be writing his memoirs at what is still officially Nagarjun palace.
Before Prime Minister Dahal can draft that eviction order, the former king is said to have made up his mind to settle in Him Shail, the Tahachal residence he inherited from his childless late uncle Himalaya and aunt Princep. Suddenly, for the rumor mill, the ex-monarch’s graceful exit has turned into a strategy for a grand comeback.
Come to think of it, the former king never insisted on that referendum he had obliquely pushed during that conversation with Japanese reporters. Prime Minister Dahal, for his part, has not revised his public assertion as rebel-in-chief that the Maoists would accept a Panchayat-style monarchy if the people so desired. Is there some connection here? Just curious.