Sunday, October 26, 2008

What Really Ails The Republic?

Our nascent republic is in danger, Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal warns us. Is this an acknowledgment of failure from the omnipotent former rebel in chief who, in war and peace, brought the once-unimaginable kingless country into the realm of the real?
Or is it an invocation of the urgency of preserving the status quo until he can mount a full-throttle frontal march? Perhaps it’s just experience speaking. The role reversal from rebel to ruler must have its ramifications on his raves and rants.
The source of it all must be his successes on the international front. Instead of drawing bouquets for his whirlwind diplomatic dealings, Dahal is mired in internal rifts between the purists and the pragmatists. Top Maoist leaders in the cabinet – irrespective of their own ideological variances – are now clustered against hardliners in the party.
No matter how abhorrent the tail wagging the dog really is, the Maoist ministers know they don’t have arithmetic on their side. Renaming the party, recalibrating the integration of former rebel fighters and reshaping the republic all depend on the resoluteness of the rank and file.
It was impossible for the other parties in power to desist from striking when the iron is so hot. Unified Marxist Leninist (UML) leaders take turns speaking of the government’s inevitable collapse. General secretary Jhal Nath Khanal, mindful of his tenuous hold on the party leadership, plays safe by speaking from both sides of his mouth.
Former UML chief Madhav Kumar Nepal, who quit the party leadership after a humiliating defeat in both of his constituencies in April’s elections, now insists he can’t be a constant quitter by rejecting all offers coming his way. The fact that fellow loser Bam Dev Gautam exudes republican radiance in the deputy premiership must have played a part in Nepal’s rethink.
Madhesi Janadhikar Forum (MJF) leader Upendra Yadav seems to be using his foreign portfolio to expose Dahal’s innermost intentions on the future of the former People’s Liberation Army combatants. One MJF minister has threatened to pull out of the cabinet over the government’s non-responsiveness to the demands of the Terai. Vice President Parmanand Jha complains he has nothing to do. That assertion comes after his supposedly ceremonial boss, President Ram Baran Yadav, tells the BBC that the monarchy has no chance of making a comeback.
The Nepali Congress, publicly shunning the prospect of sharing power with the Maoists, embarks on a nationwide revival campaign. (See how the term “revivalism” has acquired new respectability after the abolition of the monarchy?) The Congress initiative, if anything, reveals the indispensability of Girija Prasad Koirala to the party’s future. Even Sher Bahadur Deuba now says it would be impractical to edge Koirala out of the leadership.
Contrast that with Deuba’s abortive bid to wrest the party leadership at the Pokhara convention in early 2001, arguing that Koirala’s shoulders had weakened with age. (It was interesting to note how, during the height of the campaign, Deuba himself was stricken by acute shoulder pain, prompting a goodwill visit from Koirala.)
Ram Chandra Poudel, senior vice-president of the Nepali Congress, badly wants the party’s legislative leadership position but, apparently, not badly enough to produce an explanation as to why he thinks he would be the best candidate.
The perplexity of our domestic players alone cannot be blamed for our creeping collective malady. “[H]istory and experience prove that foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of republican government.” No, that’s not a line Dahal will use somewhere down the line. It was delivered by the first American president, George Washington – a one-time chief of a rebel army – in his farewell address.