Sunday, February 10, 2013

Viciousness of Victory

Fresh out of an ostensibly historic convention that supposedly reinforced his position as party supremo, Unified Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (UCPN-M) chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal is having a hard time standing his ground on something less pivotal.
Dahal’s proposal to have Chief Justice Khil Raj Regmi head a caretaker government and pull the nation back from the political abyss found few takers where it really mattered. The Nepali Congress and the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist-Leninist (CPN-UML), salivating to salvage the Maoist misadventure, are infuriated by this perceived bid to delegitimize professional politicians.
Legal eagles, too, are bewildered by Dahal’s prescription. Those supporting it seem to be doing so out of ideological fealty of sorts. Blistered by the all-round derision, Dahal did what he does best: he denied he had ever etched such a proposal in stone.
Clearly, the man thinks he is still waging war. It’s been close to seven years since his side triumphed against the monarchy – not fair and square, though. But that didn’t seem to matter. The Maoists went on to become the largest party in elections deemed largely free and fair by the international community.
Prime Minister Dahal, within his first 100 days as premier, had met the presidents of China and the United States and the prime minister of India, each of whose governments had once armed the palace and mainstream parties to crush the Maoist rebels.
The ‘people’s war’ glorified and romanticized in contemporary literature as the second coming of Mao Zedong was, in reality, a patchwork of audacious armed offensive, crafty prevarication and outright obfuscation. We now hear stories of how easily Dahal melted away physically and psychologically on the battlefield. His top lieutenant, Dr. Baburam Bhattarai, bore his pen with such lethality that at times the swords seemed to drip with far less blood. The chief ideologue is exhausted to the point where he can’t pretend to defend his government.
Maoist tomes on the inevitability of radical change were literal translations of the international revolutionary movement that invigorated the ideologically attuned with their mandatory catchphrases and cadence. Those uninitiated in such weighty matters were impressed by the obtuseness of the prose because it extolled class hatred and havoc.
The monarchy with its old roots, baffling ritualism and purported remoteness was easily discredited by the votaries of revolutionary change. The mainstream parties were deemed conflict- and corruption-prone, even by those who were in a position to recognize that their shenanigans were thrust upon by the compulsion of electoral politics and that multiparty democracy was not going to operate free. Ethnic, linguistic and regional fault lines made the ground more fertile for geopolitical machinations. The international non-government sector possessed more than enough resources to uncover new injustices and install them in a cantankerous echo chamber.
In a sense, all this was beside the point. The Maoists got the opportunity they had sought and were now supposed to implement their vision of a new Nepal. Instead, they have kept us all on edge. Was the party split manufactured to avoid having to deal with Nepal’s real problems? Was their anti-foreigner tirade merely a ruse to attract interest parties and then make their own compromises to stay in power? Is the party’s new commitment to economic growth under a democratic framework a camouflage for, well, who knows what?
Even dissemblers need a modicum of credibility to ply their trade. Padam Kunwar, the Maoist cadre who slapped Dahal in public a few months ago, had no money to bail himself out of the episode. In his magnanimity, Dahal ended up paying for the man’s freedom. Kunwar thanked Dahal for coming to his rescue, but seemed not the least bit remorseful for his original action. A fitting metaphor for the Maoist chairman’s plight, indeed.