Sunday, June 09, 2013

Let The Fun Last A Little Longer

Maoist vice-chairman Baburam Bhattarai describes western powers and their pliant non-government organizations as the biggest obstacle to fresh elections. His boss, Pushpa Kamal Dahal, holds the Nepali Congress, Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist-Leninist and the breakaway Maoist faction responsible for pretty much the same offense.
Collectively, constituents of our political class take turns each day chastising Interim Election Council Chairman Khil Raj Regmi for failing to even set an election schedule. Regmi, for his part, points to the parties’ stalling tactics.
Civil society leaders are mad at everyone. Their principal gripe, though, is a little weird: seven years after entering the mainstream, the Maoists are still behaving like the Maoists. But, then, what good is the grievance industry without grievances?
In the midst of this quite enjoyable mêlée, the Americans were stung the deepest by Dr. Bhattarai’s censure. Ambassador Peter Bodde, according to published reports, rebuked Dr. Bhattarai, but apparently not to his face. The ambassador chose to vent his ire during a meeting with Dahal (who, Maila Baje might add, must have relished every string of words the ambassador managed to construct).
Bodde has been insisting that elections are the only way forward for Nepal. It’s easy to say so when you’re representing a government that has – we now know – a prism to snoop on your own people – supporters and opponents alike – 27/4. Nepalis just want to be sure we don’t trip on the same stone twice without some redeeming purpose.
Dr. Bhattarai, too, agrees that elections need to be held at the earliest. In a sense, he can claim that he had resigned precisely in that expectation. But he prefers these days to insist that the Chinese and Indians both want us heading to the ballot boxes as soon as possible.
It’s easy to understand how badly our northern and southern friends want our western ones out. (When it comes to the eastern ones – the Japanese and Australians, in particular – the north-south convergence tends to get fuzzier, though.)
However, is neighborly concern for their own geo-strategic well-being good enough reason for Nepalis to keep proving how committed we are to the exercise of our inalienable democratic rights?
If the Chinese are so enamored of the people’s verdict, how come they don’t like to test it on their turf? The Indians, too, marvel at the opportunity available in Nepal for widening the political mainstream. Yet their own Maoists find it so hard to make themselves heard through anything less baleful than bombs and bullets.
Deep down, the federalism debate is said to be scaring our neighbors the most, and animating those farther afield. Whether or how Nepal needs to be federalized is something we should be allowed to settle internally. If our neighbors and friends have a problem with this notion of self-determination, then maybe we should quit feeling helpless and start using it to our advantage.
If we can turn any pulsating peril of deeper instability around to something that ends up saving us, that shouldn’t be castigated as extortion. The Chinese and Indians, after all, find that trade-off perfectly fine when it comes to the North Koreans and the Iranians, respectively.
For now, we’re kind of enjoying the touch and tenor of the blame game. Let’s not interrupt the players.