Monday, September 27, 2010

New Roads To Yesterday

*The head of government cancels his trip to New York City because the United Nations secretary-general refuses to meet him.

*The Nepali Congress ponders its next move as its dynastic head, an ailing Koirala, is in hospital.

*The chatterati expect politics to take a new turn when the ceremonial head of state returns from visit to China.

If there is any remaining hope of newness in Nepal, it surely seems to be in the refurbishing of the old. But what else can the people do?
How sensible is it to blame an assembly that has outlived its two-year life for failing to produce a prime minister even after the eighth ballot? And how different might any such premier be from the incumbent, whom voters had actually packed off into retirement?
The tentativeness of the peace process is gripped by the tantrums within the major parties. Even before all the results from the much-touted unity convention of the Nepali Congress came in, the Sher Bahadur Deuba faction began complaining of the underhanded tactics Sushil Koirala and his loyalists used to secure victory. Individuals may be free to switch camps with abandon in Nepal’s self-proclaimed most democratic party, but the convention seems to have widened emotional differences.
Within the CPN-UML, the ruling and dissident establishments are busy trying to demolish the other. But the real battle is over whether the party should align with our northern or southern neighbors, with or without the generals.
It is hard not to join in the glee over how the Maoists are now reaping what they had sown vis-à-vis the prime ministerial election process. But the ex-rebels do not seem to have exhausted their ability to amaze. After chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal’s withdrawal from the contest, his deputy, Mohan Baidya, now insists that the Maoists would even ready to be a part of a CPN-UML or Nepali Congress-led government if it helped toward forging national consensus. Having done so much to set the two mainstream parties apart over the past weeks, the Maoists have shown that they now need to compromise for a new government.
The international community is understandably perplexed. Clearly, UNMIN wants to abandon the field with the same fervor its critics desire to evict it. The whole brouhaha earlier this month was only about the manner. UNMIN now gets to get out on its own terms, by blaming the parties.
Amid the wackiness, hope springs eternal among some. Civil society leaders Daman Nath Dhungana and Padma Ratna Tuladhar want the protagonists to sign a new understanding, urging civil society to play a new role. But can these self-appointed messiahs go scot-free, especially since the ridiculousness of the 12-point agreement and aftermath was purely papered over by civil society’s insistence that the parties could work things out? Just because these men and women are back to donning their lawyers’, doctors’ journalists’ and activists’ hats does not absolve them from complicity in the chaos.
These are indeed remote issues when you see a caretaker government set to stay in office longer than K.I. Singh’s full-fledged administration had. All eyes are on President Ram Baran Yadav, but where is his gaze? The relevance of the question becomes apparent now that Nepal Workers and Peasants Party president Narayan Man Bijukchhe, the most vocal advocate of presidential rule, seems unsure of whether the incumbent is capable of upholding that responsibility.