Sunday, February 17, 2013

Camouflaging The Real Contestations

If you thought the latest contortion in our national jiggery-pokery lacked characterization or content, listen to Johan Galtung. The ‘partyocracy’ that Nepal embarked on circa April 2006 is turning into a ‘technocracy’, in the words of the esteemed Norwegian professor.
In a recent interview with a Kathmandu daily, Galtung asserted that there had been little substantial change since the Maoists joined the political mainstream. The internationally acclaimed ‘father of peace studies’ lamented how Kathmandu remained pitted against the rest of the country in a spiral of exploitation.
The Maoists, despite their war-era rhetoric and response, have failed to empower the people at large. The dissolution of the Constituent Assembly without adopting a new constitution was a symptom of the perpetuation of Kathmandu’s preponderance. The effort to create a government under the chief justice is, in Galtung’s view, is a reaction to this ‘partyocracy’.
Having for weeks railed against the concept of a non-politician heading the government, the major non-Maoist political parties now have relented. Their concession also stems from their own failure to make a credible case. How would a government led by another party leader – in the absence of any elected mechanism – be any different from the incumbent one?
Despite his evident interest in assuming a more assertive role, President Ram Baran Yadav seemed to lack the critical support of the military. You can’t really blame the generals. The last time they stepped out of the barracks, they had merely the Maoists and – later – the mainstream parties to contend with openly. And that must seem like a picnic to them today.
A more ominous – and no less plausible – argument holds that Yadav, by tradition and temperament a Nepali Congress man, was deterred by the same external factors that worked against party president Sushil Koirala’s candidacy for the premiership. Then, of course, a ceremonial head of state appointing a prime minister in the absence of any popular sanction could hardly be countenanced, given the sanctimonious outrage the constitutionally sounder royal rule had precipitated.
To be sure, a chief justice-led election government contains a veneer of legitimacy in our neighborhood. Our legal fraternity has concluded that while such an arrangement would lack constitutionality, it could be deemed a political necessity of last resort.
A political mechanism comprising major parties has been proposed to maintain political oversight over a ‘non-political’ government. Clearly, such a mechanism is intended to ensure that parties remain in control of the political process. Yet there is a downside. The same parties that failed to deliver their promises directly would be able to rule by proxy and then to heap their failures on the peculiarities of the government.
Efforts to ensure automatic dissolution of the chief justice-led government should it fail to hold elections on schedule would mean little without basic clarity on what would then take its place.
In the end, these arguments, Maila Baje contends, are futile. They only camouflage the external geostrategic choreographies that have intensified in the aftermath of Narayanhity Carnage in 2001. The brinkmanship that has been played out in the name of war and peace ever since could hardly be expected to run its course at a time of ever deepening flux in the region and beyond.
Diverse countries and quarters are not only competing for influence in this critical state for their own futures but are also feverishly engaged in limiting their rivals’ options. Some geostrategic issues have acquired an urgency bordering on desperation, as exemplified by the self-immolation by a Tibetan in Bauddha the other day. Be it federalism, secularism or the many facets of social liberalism, the contours of geostrategic contests are visible. As this multifaceted jockeying continues, Nepal, despite public protestations, can hardly be permitted to resemble a stable state.