Sunday, February 01, 2009

A World To Win

If India thought it could woo the Maoists by freeing Mohan Baidya and Chandra Prakash Gajurel in 2006, then the wait is proving excruciatingly long.
Baidya accused New Delhi the other day of trying to split Nepal. His allegation came days after Gajurel stated that the Maoists are prepared to unleash yet another “massive” struggle to “institutionalize” Nepal’s new republic. Which, coupled with Maoist chief and Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal’s eagerness to replace the 12-point agreement with a new understanding, takes a decidedly anti-Indian tone.
Days after their homecoming, Baidya and Gajurel established themselves as chief critics of Dahal’s ensuing pro-Indian tilt. (Remember his obsequiousness at the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit?) Dahal was forced to remind the two men that they would still be in Indian prisons had he not dragged Pakistan’s ISI before extending the olive branch.
Whether the duo, one-time allies of Dahal in seeking an alliance with the palace in tunnel warfare against India, has brought the Maoist supremo back to the fold remains unclear. What is clear, though, is that the anti-Indian tirade has begun to energize influential Indians. It’s not for nothing that an assembly of Nepal hands in New Delhi late last year wondered aloud how best they could defeat the Maoists in a post-constitution election. The options ranged from rigging the elections to deploying Gurkhas – retired and serving – against the former rebels.
The Maoists seem prepared for such an eventuality. (Remember Dahal’s contention during the debate in the late 1990s over whether to deploy the military against the insurgents that the Maoists’ ultimate goal was to fight the Indian army on Nepali soil?)
The creation of the Unified Communist Party Nepal-Maoist through the merger with the CPN-Unity Center last month was touted as the first step toward the consolidation of a communist front. The international climate, in the aftermath of the global financial collapse, seems propitious. When Finance Minister Dr. Baburam Bhattarai told the neo-conservative Washington Times last year that the Maoists were moving toward capitalism just as the United States was turning socialist by virtually nationalizing the banking sector, he wasn’t speaking about his group’s ideological conversion. It was his way of saying how a new Communist International was an idea whose time had come.
Domestically, the Maoists are making the most out of their rifts – if they are at all real. The hard-line-moderate struggle lets them bolster both flanks. Defense Minister Ram Bahadur Thapa may be locked in a public war of words with Chief of the Army Staff Gen. Rukmangad Katuwal, but his party is fully capable of offering him the ambassadorship in London in exchange for a graceful exit.
By portraying Nepali Congress president Girija Prasad Koirala’s proposal for a “democratic alliance” as a coalition of the rich and powerful aimed at overthrowing the Dahal government, the Maoists can undermine the preeminent democratic party’s credentials and widen class cleavages that would harm it the most. All the while, Dahal can plead for sympathy and patience for his unenviable task of truly mainstreaming the Maoists.
Should the going get really tough, Dahal can go on national radio and television and tender his resignation to the Nepali people. And Baidya and Gajurel can claim to have been vindicated regardless of whether India really plans to split the Terai from the rest of the country.