The two mainstream parties, which jointly drove Nepal’s second democratic experience (1990-2002) to the ground but ended up blaming the monarchy, have been struggling for sustenance in the emerging scenario.
The Maoist crutch that helped them surmount the palace’s snub ended up debilitating the two mainstream parties. Instead of bragging how they brought the Maoists from the jungles to the mainstream – their default mode during much of the post-April 2006 delirium – Nepali Congress and UML leaders are today reminding us what kind of incorrigible barbarians the ex-rebels really are. From their incessant criticism, you kind of feel sorry for the Maoists. How much easier it must have been rebelling against the existing order with utopian promises.
What really led the Maoists to split remains unclear to this day. The ideological differences the Mohan Baidya camp cited were not compelling then. Since the split, the Baidya-led Maoists have been trying to define themselves as something different. And how times have changed. Baidya and his loyalists can’t hope to foment an uprising aimed at capturing the state when more and more Nepalis are feeling the absence of any state to speak of.
At the beginning, the Chinese seemed to be patronizing the Baidya group, but the party does not seem to have established its viability in terms of Beijing strategic purposes. In retrospect, the mandarins up north probably used the Baidya faction just get southern-tilting Pushpa Kamal Dahal and Co. to straighten up a bit.
Now that Baburam Bhattarai’s infatuation with Chinese President Xi Jinping’s ‘dream’ has sections of the Indian press worked up, Baidya probably detects an opportunity. But weighing that against the potential blowback from the Chattisgarh massacre – perpetrated by Nepali Maoists’ ideological soulmates down south – will not be easy for a man who has regretted abjuring armed action.
Fearing marginalization, pressure is ostensibly building among some Baidya loyalists to return to the mother party. Others have engaged in so much name-calling that they figure they can’t go back with a straight face. On the other side, many have prospered in the post-split Dahal organization. They would be hard-pressed to crowd the deck without palpable potential electoral gains. All of which would, then, depend on how many Maoists actually feel elections are a near-term possibility.
The Nepali Congress and UML, no fans themselves of immediate elections, could find themselves baiting and badgering the two Maoist factions as long as they can. If Khil Raj Regmi were a traditional politician, our political class would already be demanding his head. All the Nepali Congress and UML can do now is ask Regmi to resign as chief justice.
Regmi was deemed a credible candidate for the premiership, Maila Baje recalls, precisely because he was the serving chief justice. Why, then, do the principal mainstream parties consider Regmi’s real constitutional post as an obstacle? This, to be sure, is a question no less vexing than why the Maoist factions split and now want to reunite.