Sunday, July 15, 2012

Comrade Madhav Should Know Better

Madhav Kumar Nepal is an uncharacteristically angry man these days. Although the senior leader of the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist-Leninist (CPN-UML) is among the first to be ticked off each time former king Gyanendra makes a public pronouncement, our comrade seems extraordinarily outraged this time.
Indeed, Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai has made the perfunctory threat to withdraw the state privileges the ex-monarch continues to enjoy if Mr. Shah persisted in his waywardness. CPN-UML chairman Jhal Nath Khanal, too, has been quite vocal against the ex-king this time around. (His contribution to the rewriting of history lies in absurd assertion that the then-king was on the verge of fleeing the country.)
Krishna Prasad Sitaula and Sujata Koirala of the Nepali Congress have tried to make their mark (for their own obvious personal reasons), but have failed to persuade their Nepali Congress party to take a stand on the Mr. Shah’s latest comments. Maoist leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal seemed the most restrained in his reaction to the ex-king’s expressed desire to play the role of national guardian.
Comrade Madhav, too, seems to have mellowed a bit over the days. Having first categorically denied the existence of any agreement between the Seven Party Alliance (SPA) and King Gyanendra to retain the monarchy, the former prime minister now acknowledges that their agreement was limited to the resurrection of the House of Representatives.
The comrade’s personal antipathy for the ex-king is understandable. After all, he had urged the palace to form an inquiry commission to probe the Narayanhity Carnage to shore up public faith in the institution (before reversing his agreement to serve on the panel the new king formed.)
Over the ensuing months, Madhav Nepal – at least according to the Maoists – would rush to the palace to brief the monarch on the ‘secret’ talks the left parties were holding with the then-rebels across the border in Silguri and Lucknow.
Even after the palace snubbed his petition to the monarch requesting to be appointed prime minister, Comrade Madhav declared ‘royal regression’ had been ‘half corrected’ and pushed his party into a coalition with Sher Bahadur Deuba’s faction of the Nepali Congress.
When King Gyanendra took over full control of the state between February 2005 and April 2006, Madhav Nepal ended up being the prominent leader incarcerated the longest. (Deuba, it must be recalled, was in detention on a corruption case.)
Madhav Nepal’s personal travails notwithstanding, common sense suggests that intrinsic to the SPA’s acceptance of a peremptory royal resurrection of parliament dissolved by a duly elected prime minister (an act endorsed by the Supreme Court) was acknowledgement of the continuation of the monarchy. But, then, common sense has long since been a commodity our political class gives ordinary people scant credit for.
No matter how you look back, ‘People’s Movement II’ was clearly aimed at ending autocratic monarchy laced with the hope of bringing the Maoists into peaceful politics. How the SPA, the Maoists and certain sections in India saw virtue in maintaining ambiguity in the text and in discouraging a joint SPA-Maoist 12-Point Agreement has been highlighted recently by Professor Sukh Deo Muni. But such machinations were not clear to the Nepali people when they took to the streets. Sure, there were anti-monarchy slogans raised during the public demonstrations. But they did not represent the thrust of the movement.
Yet this is not why Maila Baje believes Madhav Nepal should be careful while categorically ruling out return of the monarchy in any shape, manner or form. Impossibility, after all, is the last thing Madhav Nepal should be talking about, considering his own political trajectory.
Did Madhav Nepal ever contemplate dominating the CPN-UML the way he did for much of the party’s existence when founder general-secretary Madan Kumar Bhandari was alive?
Furthermore, did Comrade Madhav expect to become prime minister after he lost in both constituencies he contested during the elections to the constituent assembly in 2008?
And, above all, did Madhav Nepal expect to become a player in drawing up a new constitution after having failed so miserably in foreseeing the woes the 1990 document he helped draft would eventually face? (Let’s not even speak of Comrade Nepal’s complicity as leader of the opposition in defacing the latter part of Nepal’s 1991-2002 experience in parliamentary democracy.)
Eventually, the Nepali people will determine the future, as the former and would-be monarch himself clearly said during his television interview. In a saner world, Comrade Madhav himself would have recognized the absurdity of talking the way he is these days.