Saturday, February 02, 2013

Give Us The Back Story, Comrade

Madhav Kumar Nepal
From the way Madhav Kumar Nepal is berating Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai and the Maoists in general these days, it is becoming hard to avoid the sense of betrayal ostensibly gripping the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist-Leninist (CPN-UML) leader.
Each step Comrade Madhav takes up on the denigration ladder, however, raises questions about his own contribution to the emergence of the former rebels in their present incarnation.
Practically, the erstwhile Seven Party Alliance (SPA)’s claim that it brought the Maoists to the mainstream was ludicrous from the outset. Without the organized strength of the Maoists, the SPA, at best, would probably still be agitating in and around Ratna Park for the restoration of democracy. The Maoists piggybacked on the SPA to stake out and solidify their space in the political mainstream. If the SPA is talking about providing that vital cover, then, yes, Maila Baje thinks it has a credible claim.
No amount of vilification from SPA constituents can obscure the reality that the Unified Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist, even in its truncated current form, remains the most potent political force in Nepal. And credit for this goes to the Nepali Congress and the CPN-UML, which legitimized a rebel force languishing in stalemate with the state as a partner against the monarchy.
Yet this could not have been done without the facilitation of India. As many Nepalis had suspected all along, New Delhi carefully nurtured the Maoists with just the right mix of plausible deniability. For those who saw Nepal-India relations hit their lowest ebb in 1999-2000 under a Hindu nationalist-led government in India were not surprised to subsequently learn that the Maoists and New Delhi had reached some kind of settlement in the aftermath of the Narayanhity Carnage.
Of late, we are also hearing how the CPN-UML was a far more active player in what became the 12-Point Agreement of November 2005. The fact that Madhav Nepal held a number of ‘secret’ meetings with top Maoist leaders on Indian soil was enough to tell us how his party just didn’t tag along behind Nepali Congress president Girija Prasad Koirala in New Delhi. With Girija Koirala no longer available to explain what really went on in the Indian capital, Madhav Nepal has an opportunity to provide an answer to history.
How did the Nepali Congress and the CPN-UML conclude that cooperation with the Maoists was better for Nepal than contesting the royal government’s elections and holding then-King Gyanendra to his pledge to restore democracy within three years?
Was Nepali society that far along the continuum of history that the monarchy was deemed a greater threat to the nation’s well being than the rebels who were dexterous in articulating grievances but duplicitous when it came to providing viable solutions?
If so, what specific undertakings had the Maoists provided to the SPA that persuaded the mainstream parties of the democratic conversion of the Maoists?
Did the SPA leaders really believe they were in the driver’s seat? Or did they believe their democratic credentials were enough to constrain the Maoists’ underlying obfuscation and prevarication. And why wasn’t a signed joint statement/declaration issued?
If Indian facilitation was the dominant factor, what specific and credible commitments did New Delhi provide toward a positive transformation? How did the SPA end up shifting the goalposts even after striking that deal with the palace on the restoration of the House of Representatives? 
Were the mainstream parties so alienated by the palace’s supposed intrigues that they could not overcome the predisposition that an amorphous future with the Maoists was preferable as long as the crown was cast aside?
Given all that has happened over the last seven years, Comrade Madhav is certainly entitled to vent his frustrations. But Nepalis have a far greater claim to the full back story.