Monday, May 02, 2011

‘Recklessness’, Revelation And Revisionism

By blaming the Nepali Congress’ “recklessness” for King Mahendra’s takeover in December 1960, UCPN-Maoist vice-chairman Baburam Bhattarai may have imperiled his position as our top democrats’ favorite Maoist.
The politically correct version has long held that King Mahendra’s enormous autocratic ambitions led to the overthrow of Nepal’s first elected government and three-decade proscription on multiparty politics.
In subsequent years, deposed prime minister B.P. Koirala had been willing to factor in other national and international developments that worked to the monarch’s advantage. But Koirala’s party has steadfastly and singularly peddled the line of royal ravenousness.
This version has enjoyed almost universal acceptance in the political mainstream, including within our splintered but strong communist movement, a key beneficiary of the royal takeover. So much so that sections of the post-monarchical community of ex-panchas have articulated that assertion without the slightest trace of awkwardness.
So when someone of the stature of Dr. Bhattarai offers an alternative version of history, it is bound to acquire extraordinary attention. But, then, the man has been quite elastic in his assertions, configuring them in tune with the times.
During the second peace talks he conducted with the royal government, in 2003, Maila Baje recalls, Dr. Bhattarai asserted that peace was achievable precisely because the political parties that had mangled the 12 previous years were finally out of the way. Yet when those talks faltered, Dr. Bhattarai lumped Bhimsen Thapa’s and the Ranas’ rule together with that of the monarchs’ to depict a 240 years of crude kingship.
Still, a few questions are in order. Why would Dr. Bhattarai run against the current at a time when he needs to clear all the hurdles he can on his path to the premiership? Could this be a ploy to secure the Nepali Congress’ support for extending the constituent assembly? Failing that, he could then place responsibility for any post-May 28 “accident” squarely on the largest democratic party.
Because of the proximity of the event, Dr. Bhattarai probably didn’t find it necessary to recall how it was the Nepali Congress which led to then-King Gyanendra’s first takeover on October 4, 2005. Or he simply might not have wanted to humor the last monarch so early in the game. Maybe he wanted to perpetuate the guessing game that has held the Maoists in good stead in times of war and peace alike.
As for the Nepali Congress and Satra Sal, Dr. Bhattarai perhaps felt he was merely underscoring what the party understood all along. The fact that two-thirds of its 74 elected representatives in the lower house eventually joined the Panchayat system may not necessarily connote recklessness, but it is certainly revealing.