Sunday, December 14, 2008

It’s A Jungle Out There

The man credited with bringing the Maoists from the jungles to the political mainstream now wants them to go back. Not so fast, says top former rebel Chandra Prasad Gajurel. He maintains the Nepali Congress and its president, Girija Prasad Koirala, should be sent to the woods for their obstruction of the peace process.
Koirala seems real upset with the Maoists. Ever since the presidency, which Koirala was purportedly promised during Delhi Compromise II three years ago, slipped away, the octogenarian has revved up on the fast lane of the warpath. During much of his last tenure as head of government, Koirala had bent over backwards to accommodate the Maoists. For a while, the ex-rebels appeared to reciprocate, especially by letting him act as head of state as well.
Koirala appeased the Maoists at the instigation of lieutenants like Krishna Prasad Sitaula and Shekhar Koirala. But the former premier can’t yell at them because they are yelling louder at the Maoists. The setting couldn’t have been more propitious for our usual external purveyors of instability. They instantly swung into action. With enough massaging, Koirala’s ego expanded. He wants to create a broader democratic alliance, but all he can see are clusters of former panchas. Now wonder his deputy, Ram Chandra Poudel, could trash that pitch so easily.
If sending the Maoists back to the jungle were really the solution, Koirala wouldn’t have had to issue a public warning. President Ram Baran Yadav could have used Article 127 of the 1990 constitution to revive that document. (Regardless of what the stars say, restoration of the monarchy is still a no-no, since the ex-king hasn’t shown enough contrition to those who matter.)
Such brazenness probably wouldn’t be enough to undermine the international legitimacy the Nepali Congress has traditionally enjoyed, provided enough sops accompanied it to dispel the appearance of a status quo ante. The Madhesi Janadhikar Forum and Terai Madhesh Democratic Party – and quite possibly a sizeable faction of the United Marxist Leninists – would rally behind the Nepali Congress. The 14 armed factions in the Terai would jointly announce a renunciation of violence and join the mainstream. The last six years could have been cast off as a bad dream. Except… the external purveyors of instability – the southern and western variety – wouldn’t have been caught snoring.
That’s why although Gajurel’s retort might have come late, its import remains undiminished. After the royal palace massacre, the Maoists had clubbed Girija together with Gyanendra as part of the clique complicit in the heinous crime. The former monarch has challenged the Maoists to prove his guilt. But it is more than association Koirala has to worry about.
A month after the enthronement of the new king, Koirala resigned because he couldn’t mobilize the army against the Maoists at Holeri. In other words, he stepped down because the new king and his generals would not let the army massacre virtually the entire rebel leadership reportedly assembled there. The royal takeover of 2005 may have obscured that piece of history, but it certainly couldn’t obliterate it.
As for Gajurel, who languished behind bars in Chennai while most of his comrades were official guests on the outskirts of New Delhi, he must have been tempted to put his thoughts more crudely than how he spoke them. Like, say, how about Girija Prasad Koirala going back to plotting hijackings and counterfeiting cash?