Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Great Imponderable

President Ram Baran Yadav’s call on political parties to name a unanimous candidate for the premiership by November 29 has triggered an interesting variety of responses. The opposition Nepali Congress and Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist-Leninist have been thrilled enough to withdraw their anti-government protests. (A great excuse to end what had become a tepid enterprise anyway.)
From the other end, the Maoist-led ruling alliance has denounced the president’s move as anti-constitutional. Within the ruling faction of the former Maoist rebels, party chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal and Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai seem to share opposite views.
The Maoist chairman does not seem to be in a mood to immediately question President Yadav’s motives, although Maila Baje feels he has characteristically provided enough room for skullduggery as events unfold.
The prime minister – at least in the voices of two leading surrogates – foresees doom. Devendra Poudel, a top Bhattarai aide, calls the presidential appeal ‘unconstitutional’ and even a precursor to a full-blown coup.
Finance Minister Barsa Man Pun – another key Bhattarai loyalist – believes Yadav’s activism is ultimately aimed at restoring the 1990 statute, complete with the monarchy and official Hindu statehood, perhaps even with the connivance of the rival Maoist faction led by Mohan Baidya.
As the principal putative target of the president’s activism, it is natural for Dr. Bhattarai and his loyalists to sound the loudest alarm. The prime minister must have been rankled also by the fact that the president’s call came merely a day after he had, in a televised address to the nation, asserted that he was ready to step down if a broader national consensus could be forged.
Still, let us assume for a moment that the magic consensus premier does happen to emerge in some form. In the implausible event that Dr. Bhattarai succeeds in transforming himself into a premier supported by all the parties, would he be able to overcome the bad blood his very existence in the high office has generated thus far?
Mahant Thakur of the Terai Madhesh Loktantrik Party, the man many consider likely to emerge as the consensus premier, is a respected former Nepali Congress member. He was the unlikeliest of the politicians to go regional amid the post-2006 realignment. Yet what situation might a line-up of a Madhesi president, vice-president and prime minister create at a time when grievances – real and manufactured – show no sign of abating?
A technocrat, a former Supreme Court chief justice or a civil society luminary might represent as a welcome departure from professional politicians taking turns. But where will such a personality turn for the organizational backbone to press ahead on what promises to be an even more tumultuous road ahead?
Responding to a virtual government censure of his call, President Yadav insists that he would abide by the (interim) constitution in all his actions. Missing from the entire debate are the people.
No anecdotal evidence based on public participation, private confabs or social-media activism can substantiate what they really desire. Having gained full sovereignty, they are justified in their discontent. Yet, truth be told, they are equally entitled to doing nothing. This is the great imponderable, indeed, that drives and derides us all.