Sunday, May 24, 2009

Prophylactic, Actually

A poisoned plant? What did Pushpa Kamal Dahal expect from Madhav Kumar Nepal? A lot of things, it turns out.
When then-premier Dahal catapulted Unified Marxist-Leninist (UML) leader Nepal into the Constituent Assembly voters had doubly barred him from, the Maoist chief clearly wanted to preserve his flank in his wider battle. Getting Jhal Nath Khanal elected as the head of the UML was at the center of the grand realignment.
If Nepal could be weaned away from Oli, then things would be fine. Of course, Nepal could easily have declined Dahal’s magnanimity, if not by pointing to the mockery of the moment than by pondering the betrayal he endured in the presidential election.
But Nepal had that historical rectification to complete. Madan Comrade had been haunting him for far too long. Nepal had positioned the UML into power, mainstreamed the party, and credibly checked the Nepali Congress, yet people couldn’t quit seeing the halo of Madan Bhandari all around.
So Nepal accepted Dahal’s CA overture saying he couldn’t keep shirking responsibility at such a critical juncture in the nation’s life. If he lost the elections from two constituencies, well, he had paid his dues by resigning the leadership of the UML, which he wasn’t required to. If Dahal considered him worthy of CA membership over the wisdom of the people, then that was the premier’s problem.
The same logic allowed Nepal to assume the chair of the constitutional committee. The man was the principal communist architect of the doomed 1990 constitution. And, yes, the Maoists considered him appropriate enough to lead the drafting of the document that is to make the cleanest break with the past.
Of course, Dahal thought he had found a clever way of blaming the Nepali Congress for the 1990 fiasco. But with the Nepali Congress as divided as the rest of the parties ideologically and geopolitically, it was hard for Dahal to keep up with the shifting alliances in our wider political firmament.
With the resignation ploy having boomeranged on him, Dahal probably hopes India’s native embrace of Nepal to compensate for the dud the civilian-supremacy jingle has become. For a fleeting moment, though, one wondered whether Nepal would actually decline the premiership. But then Madan Comrade remains such a fixture in his mind that he probably wouldn’t have let him do so.
And nor would Krishna Venkatesh Rajan, the Indian ambassador in Kathmandu with whom then deputy premier Nepal had struck such a personal friendship during the first half of 1995. (Can we ever forget the glee with which Nepal, attending the 23rd wedding anniversary of the Rajans fourteen years ago today, cut that piece of cake and offered it to Mrs. Rajan?)
Former ambassador Rajan’s arrival in Kathmandu precisely at this moment could certainly not have focused merely on telling us that New Delhi had no role in the ousting of the Maoists. Dahal, for his part, gets to proclaim that Nepal is still something of an Indian colony and rouse his cadres for the next phase of the revolution. This poison is much more of a prophylactic.