Sunday, November 04, 2012

Consensus Without Concord

Cutting through the political cacophony over the Dasain holidays and their aftermath, it seems consensus has retained its supremacy in the national conversation. Yet the sound that emerges is not a sonorous one.
President Ram Baran Yadav, who has for the umpteenth time warned how he would not remain a mute spectator to the political torpor, nevertheless wants a collective recommendation from the parties on how to proceed.
UCPN-Maoist leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal, whose flip-flops Maila Baje believes have ceased to be a serious factor in any solution, now wants the parties to name a consensus candidate for the premiership.
The incumbent, Dr. Baburam Bhattarai, while not averse to making way for a suitable successor, insists he could work economic miracles if he got another 10 uninterrupted years on the job.
Maoist vice-chairman Narayan Kaji Shrestha, enjoying his own bewildering moment in the sun, proclaims that elections would be held in April-May next year. Never mind that the parties cannot agree on whether the voting would be for the Constituent Assembly or for a new parliament.
The rival Maoist faction has named Ram Bahadur Thapa Badal as its candidate for premier. But the ‘hard-line’ faction is still caught between the imperatives of capturing the state and competing in open politics.
Such talk is passé to CPN-UML leader Madhav Kumar Nepal. He thinks the Maoists have already captured the state. The real challenge, according to him, is to pry open the ex-rebels’ fists to the extent possible. His party colleague K.P. Oli, for now, at least, is too sick to make any splash. UML chairman Jhal Nath Khanal seems to have become the least relevant of the trio following the ethno-regional fissures within the party.
For once, Sushil Koirala of the Nepali Congress has taken a firm stand. But his decision to go for fresh parliamentary elections is being challenged every moment from every possible corner. Sensing that Sher Bahadur Deuba and Ram Chandra Poudel lack the ability to amount to much on their own, Sujata Koirala has staked her claim to the premiership. (The other Koiralas, while quiet on the surface, must be preparing to checkmate her.)
The Madhes-based parties, locked in their own internecine battles, have generously ceded the initiative to the big parties. However, they are primarily aiming to hold on to what they have got.
All this has emboldened Surya Bahadur Thapa of the Rastriya Janashakti Party to step up to the plate. Unfortunately, time – in all its manifestations – is not on his side.
Amid this muddle, Finance Minister Barsa Man Pun thinks he has figured things out. If the president tries to make even the slightest iniquitous move, the Bhattarai ally maintains, the country will either revert to the rule of King Gyanendra or become involved in civil war. Now, does Pun think most Nepalis consider the alternatives politically or morally equivalent?