Monday, December 20, 2010

Chitwan Mêlée And The Back Stories

Paras Shah and Rubel Choudhary are probably having a hard time counting the number of people thankful for the Chitwan fracas.
The Nepali Congress has managed to paper over – if temporarily – the rift created by party president Sushil Koirala’s contentious appointments. Sujata Koirala, who was on the verge of striking an alliance with Sher Bahadur Deuba to prise the general secretaryship away from Krishna Prasad Situala, has now been emboldened to go it alone, courtesy of her live-in son-in-law.
Sitaula, it emerged early on, was the man who instigated a hesitant Rubel to file the complaint against the former crown prince. But Maila Baje feels that was aimed more at influencing the Nepal component of Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s talks with his Chinese counterpart Wen Jiabao in New Delhi. Bringing all those skeletons out of the Mandikhatar closets while Sujata was abroad was secondary to Sitaula’s last-ditch effort to disprove the inherent inanity of the 12-point agreement.
The Maoists, for their part, managed to forge a semblance of unity between Mohan Baidya and Pushpa Kama Dahal factions as well as name India as the principal enemy. Granted, they clubbed “domestic reactionaries” with our southern neighbor. But the ex-rebels’ end-justifies-the-means reaction to the Paras controversy put all that in context. Chief dissident Dr. Baburam Bhattarai did rail against ex-royalty for trying to fish in troubled waters. But when he blamed the current leaders – his rivals within the party included – for emboldening them, Bhattarai sense of glee was unmistakable.
The Chitwan mêlée allowed the CPN-UML to deepen indecision on whether to espouse ideology (Maoists) or expediency (Nepali Congress) in going forward. That is no mean achievement for a party that exacerbated the farce succeeding the resignation of Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal. As for the pro-monarchist Rastriya Prajatantra Party-Nepal, rumors of a rift with the ex-royals seemed to be just that, considering the sustained street action.
The Americans were frantically trying to contain the embarrassment likely to result from the Wikileaks revelations on Nepal. Yet Indian Ambassador Rakesh Sood, who faced Maoist black flags in Dhankuta, was the greater beneficiary. The Ministry of External Affairs’ public embrace of the ambassador did little to appease Sood or brighten his prospects in Nepal. With the hands of the law having reached the former crown prince, a public offense case has been filed in Solukhumbu against the local Maoist leader for hurling shoes at Sood over two months ago.
The special treatment police meted out to Rubel must have emboldened the kinsfolk of all the other drivers of new Nepal. Whether the women and children will be off limits, allowing the principals to monopolize the name-calling and finger-pointing, is another matter.
What else might have gone on behind the crescendo is anybody’s guess. If there were unusual arrivals or departures – aircraft as well as individuals – at the airport, someone somewhere must have taken note. Less visible would have been any private deliberations at key venues.
If Nepal were to take a decisive turn in the new year, it would be hard not to see the ambience – if not entirely the essence – of this period as a key spur.