Monday, August 02, 2010

Let Not Your Hearts Be Troubled

“Nepal royals & Maoists making common cause worries India,” the top Nepal watcher for venerable Times of India intimated us the other day. Quoting unnamed sources that the former king’s son-in-law was lobbying for Maoist leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal’s bid to become prime minister by “trying to buy off some constituent assembly members particularly from the smaller parties,” the correspondent went on to speculate on the motives for the “bizarre development … that is certain to upset India”. (Whether Dahal’s improved tally in the third round of voting had anything to do to royal patronage might be worthy of a follow-up.)
After professing the perfunctory proviso that it was not clear whether the son-in-law was actually on behalf of the ex-king, the reporter went on to blur the distinction. Why would Gyanendra Shah embark on such a venture? “Certainly there is absolutely no chance of the Maoists reinstalling the monarchy.”
Probably not. But who knows what the Chinese are up to? It would be relevant to note that a long-time royal associate turned critic reminded us recently that Dahal had pledged to support the monarchy if Beijing expressly asked him to do so. You could argue that Dahal chose not to challenge that assertion because he had made the purported undertaking at a time the monarchy was an established – and perhaps eternal – fact. But, then, you are also forced to reflect on the Maoist leader’s innate ability not to foreclose any option.
There is a constituency across the southern border that believes the Maoists could win the largest number of seats in constituent assembly elections because King Gyanendra lobbied on the ex-rebels behalf. By urging the Nepalese people to vote in the interest of the nation, the monarch was sending a thinly veiled instruction to his silent supporters to vote for the Maoists. The royalist vote, no matter how minuscule, tipped the balance for the Maoists in many constituencies, according to this version.
Whether the ex-monarch’s apparent rehabilitation among sections of constituencies that campaigned to “teach him a lesson” during 2005-2006 was rooted in that realization remains a strand the TOI reporter chose not to pursue. It would also be germane not to ignore the publication’s penchant for subterfuge. During the height of the Seven-Party Alliance-Maoist engagement in New Delhi, the TOI wrote about how India’s left hand was in the dark about what the right hand was doing. As we all know, both had been firmly clasped together.
In the search for answers, the journo also speculated that, like India’s former royalty, Gyanendra Shah may be searching for some political relevance by aligning his family with the biggest political player in Nepal. Or the former royal family, knowing India’s discomfort with the Maoists, could be looking for something from New Delhi. “Either way, this is not a welcome development so far as India is concerned.”
Judging from other reports, New Delhi sought to make its displeasure known before the publication of the report in what has long been considered the government’s unofficial mouthpiece. Under strict instructions from the Madhav Kumar Nepal government, security officers deployed during the former king’s latest temple sojourn went on the offensive against journalists seeking to ask him a few questions.
The effort to malign the ex-king sputtered. Days after Mr. Shah promptly apologized for the untoward incident, former crown prince Paras drew another impressive crowd (for him) in the Terai, a region throughout monarchy years we were led to believe was the most virulently republican.
There have been further developments that should confound the TOI reporter. Royalist foreign minister Ramesh Nath Pandey suddenly meets President Ram Baran Yadav at a time when the maligned home minister of the time, Kamal Thapa, days after asserting that even the Maoists have started feeling the absence of the monarchy, sets off on a visit to Europe.
Or maybe the TOI reporter, in the grand tradition of the publication, is faking it. Like much of the rest of anti-monarchy constituency that has realized its miscalculation, the journo perhaps wants to make it look like the Chinese alone are writing the script for the next act.