Sunday, August 10, 2008

Staying Sane Around Smarmy Spoilers

When Ram Raja Prasad Singh starts blaming India for his defeat in the presidential elections, you are, at first, forced to question your own sanity. Actually, Singh only voiced suspicion over India’s role in his defeat. Still, the distinction does little to dilute our astonishment.
After the 1985 bombings outside Narayanhity Palace and the Rastriya Panchayat and inside Hotel Annapurna, rumors swirled for quite some time that palace hardliners had paid Singh to claim responsibility for their acts clearly aimed at thwarting the Nepali Congress’ non-violent agitation.
Singh spent the next five years across the southern border as a hunted man. He wasn’t your conventional exile, though, having domiciled himself on both sides of the Jange Pillars.
Even in the midst of the openness the spring of 1990 unleashed, Singh couldn’t establish his relevance. It was no small matter to castigate the palace and campaign for a republic during those partyless decades. Singh’s rants contained little beyond the regular after an entire nation had risen up against a politically preponderant palace.
As the Maoists gained ground, Singh would make public statements in support of the new push for republicanism. Beyond that, you heard very little from the man. Some reports suggested Singh was too ill to be a serious political contender, while others believed he was training a new corps of revolutionaries.
The prospect of republicanism sparked by the collapse of royal rule in April 2006 brought Singh to national prominence. It was only after the Madhesi agitation gained steam that he rose in stature. At a meeting in Patna, Singh declined to become titular head of the disparate agitations in the Nepali plains. That was surprising considered the permanence of the “RAW agent” tag he did so little to tear.
The ball started rolling once more after the constituent assembly voted to abolish the monarchy. “I met with Indian Ambassador Rakesh Sood at the inauguration ceremony of the Narayanhity Palace Museum,” Singh confirmed in a recent newspaper interview. He [Sood] was brought by a person and he introduced himself.” Sood stated that Singh was going to have great responsibilities on his shoulders soon and congratulated him in advance.
The Maoists got the message and nominated Singh as their presidential candidate. That choice tarnished the ex-rebels’ nationalist credentials. Singh’s defeat gave the Indians the space to operate under deeper cover. “Many countries wanted to see the revolution defeated….maybe India wanted that, too,” Singh told the newspaper. 
His subsequent revelations exuded much more than traces of suspicion. Insisting that his relations with India were never smooth, Singh said he felt there was nothing in them that could deteriorate further. “The Maoists knew this fact very well.”
Then came this bit that the country did not know too well. “I never supported the New Delhi-sponsored 12-point agreement between the mainstream parties and the Maoists. If the agreement had been signed in Kathmandu, I would have definitely supported it with an open heart”.
Until now, it sounded as if Singh’s objection was to the venue not the value of the alliance. But he reframed the debate. Singh said he had met with Maoist chairman Prachanda for the first time in New Delhi and had told him not to compromise. “I always believed that in a revolution there is no such thing as compromise… however, they compromised”.
Yet Singh had no qualms about becoming the compromise presidential candidate of the Maoists and Madhesi Janadhikar Forum. The swiftness with which that alliance unraveled must have heightened Singh’s soreness. “If I say that I was not hurt after the defeat, I would be lying. But now, I have controlled my composure”. Good for him.
When the newspaper asked Singh directly whether he thought India was behind his defeat, the pioneer republican refused comment. 
After all that Singh said in the course of the conversation, why did the reporter have to spoil the interview?