Sunday, January 04, 2009

High Priests Of Parody

The tragicomedy at Pashupati should not obscure the wider wackiness of the week. The prime minister complains that Nepal’s two giant neighbors are stepping back from their commitments of full support to his government. The vice-president of the republic’s largest democratic party vows to take to the streets to defend the incumbent army chief. And the leader of the sole monarchist party represented in the constituent assembly insists there can be no alternative to the current Maoist-led government.
Having confronted the complexity of his equidistance/equiproximity rigmarole, Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal could do little else than blame India and China for his abysmal record in power. (Apart from, of course, accusing the Unified Marxist-Leninists of playing the role of ruling as well as opposition party.) Could the premier be at fault here? Did he pledge, while in Beijing last year, to create a fully integrated nationalist army mindful of northern sensitivities, only to assure his hosts in Delhi that the former rebels were never raised to be in the national army?
Dahal’s own lieutenant, Chandra Prakash Gajurel, lambasted the Maoist-led government’s non-performance, saying it had hardly done 10 things during its first 100 days in power. Defense Minister Ram Bahadur Thapa, trying his best to unseat Chief of Army Staff General Rukmangad Katuwal, finally claimed that domestic and foreign power centers were driving a wedge between the government and the Nepal Army.
Nepali Congress Vice-President Ram Chandra Poudel sustained defense of Gen. Katuwal really doesn’t amount to much, operationally. His threat of full retaliation should the government replace the army chief is empty bluster. That the vice-president of the Nepali Congress should make such a vigorous defense of the chief ideologue of the maligned royal regime says something. Many of us familiar with Gen. (Ajaya P. Nath) Katuwal’s pre-CoAS penmanship agreed with his claim that the monarchy was only cleaning up the mess created by the mainstream parties and the Maoists.
The Nepali Congress may have been overcome by a bout of institutional amnesia here. Poudel, at least, should have recalled the excruciating periodontal/endodontic pain while under detention of the army-backed royal regime. Or perhaps Poudel, like many other leaders of his party, envisages himself as a potential chief of an army-backed Nepali Congress government should things get out of hand.
It takes supernatural political courage to mount full-throttle support of the Maoists during these fluid times. And much more so for Rastriya Prajatantra Party-Nepal president Kamal Thapa, who sees the inevitability of the restoration of the monarchy almost everywhere he turns.
Could Thapa’s assertion be an indication that the Maoists might be the first ones to demand that the issue of the monarchy be put to a referendum? Even during the viciousness of the insurgency, the Maoists had said they would accept any verdict the people gave, hadn’t they? Or should we be worrying about a mass boycott of Shivaratri festivities by Indians?