Thursday, November 25, 2010

Our Managers of Contradictions

Mohan Baidya and Dr. Baburam Bhattarai had gone into the Maoist plenum at Palungtar hoping to tame their boss. They seem to have succeeded, albeit not without having shamed themselves a bit.
Most of the delegates at the conference, we are told, admonished Pushpa Kamal Dahal to cut back on his verbal machinations. The chairman’s multi-speak, far from managing contradictions, was tarnishing the party’s image. The reprimand undoubtedly thrilled the two vice-chairmen.
But they, too, had their earfuls. Baidya was asked to consider his age and health before opening his mouth. At his stage of life, many delegates feel, guardianship would be his best contribution. His radicalism, in any case, only ignored the country’s ground realities.
The latter – a favorite Bhattarai term – was not propitious for the junior chairman, either. Ideological eloquence has its time and place, but certainly not when it comes to publicly airing internal rifts. The top rebel penman seemed to enjoy the least support among the People’s Liberation Army.
In a sense, the Maoist conclave has institutionalized the status quo. Sail on comrades, but do not rock the boat, at least not in public view. For the rest of the country, the conference has shown how profoundly the three-way split pervades all echelons. Dahal, Baidya and Bhattarai cannot stand one another, but they cannot stand alone, either. The prospects of any two coming together against the third, if anything, appears to have receded amid such diffusion of dissidence.
Yet none of the men is likely to abjure his position. Dahal by nature, Baidya by outlook and Bhattarai by attitude are incapable of reinventing themselves.
The ringing affirmation that the Maoists remain a divided house marks the first success for the architects of the 12-point accord across the southern border. To their diffident political masters, these designers proclaimed how the Nepalese rebels could be employed to strike at the royals and then neutralized. Today, the Maoists cannot afford to abandon the mainstream, nor can they expect to monopolize it. With the other political forces in far more pathetic shape, Nepal will continue to hemorrhage. ‘Nepalization’ will stand beside ‘Bhutanization’ and ‘Sikkimization’ as metaphor not only for a process but also for prescriptions specific to time and space.
The emaciation of the Maoists may or may not deprive the Indian Naxalites of any of their ideological fervor. Clearly, the denigration of their Nepali cousins would allow the Congress, BJP and the mainstream communists to use the Indian insurgency to advance their own politics. Might it still be prudent to write the Maoists off? Who knows how they might employ their current divisions to open up new possibilities – internally and regionally – when contradictions abound everywhere?