Sunday, March 02, 2014

Politics Of Marginalization And Relevance

Sujata Koirala barely had time to sulk satisfactorily before Mohan Baidya stepped up with assurances that the country was not about let her dad fade into oblivion.
Her deputy prime ministerial aspirations having been quashed in the latest cabinet expansion, Sujata warned against what she considered a creeping tendency toward marginalizing the legacy of Girija Prasad Koirala. Mindful of the political ground that had shifted under her feet since the Grand Old Man’s departure, she vowed to keep the banner alive through social work.
The Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist leader, for his part, reminded Sujata that that was absolutely unnecessary. By reviving the decades-old Tanakpur controversy, the hardline Maoists have brought Girijababu squarely to the centre of the national discourse.
Although the proximate cause of Baidya’s ire was Prime Minister Sushil Koirala’s purported assertion that Tanakpur lay entirely on Indian territory, the apparition of Girija Prasad was immediately apparent.
We can technically contend that the late premier’s engagement in the subject was restricted to whether the Tanakpur accord was an understanding or a full-fledged, and not to ownership of that piece of real estate. Yet we have enough history to establish that anything of that order inevitably touches upon the issue of national sovereignty. Marginalization also remains the prime peeve of Madhav Kumar Nepal. Despite having won the last elections in both constituencies he contested from, the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist-Leninist senior leader hardly wears the countenance of a double victor. Instead, he has emerged as the principal anti-establishmentarian in that party.
With the K.P. Sharma Oli-Bam Dev Gautam alliance having seized much control of the UML parliamentary faction – and set to capture the party organization in the upcoming convention – the former prime minister has started using banter to batter his rivals. Still, anguish is at the core of his appearance.
No, he did not play double after his return from New Delhi and spark the Home Ministry controversy that delayed the cabinet expansion, he clarified the other day. Forget whether Nepal really whispered to Sushil Koirala India’s purported unhappiness over the mercurial Gautam’s taking charge of that vital ministry. The fact that the former prime minister felt it necessary even to try to dispel the impression was remarkable.
Minendra Rijal of the Nepali Congress, too, started railing against double games. His focus was on erstwhile patron Sher Bahadur Deuba, whose private albeit pernicious haggling every step of the way has ostensibly served to undermine Prime Minister Koirala. With Ram Chandra Poudel itching to fully act out the role of party chief, Rijal may have to contend with much more than his ministerial responsibilities.
During all of this, the extreme left and extreme right have sought to burnish their credentials as responsible stakeholders. The relegation of Pushpa Kamal Dahal’s Maoists to the deputy speakership has not sparked much vitriol from the Furious One. Dahal has been calmly insisting that the full focus should be on the drafting the new constitution. Rastriya Prajatantra Party-Nepal’s Kamal Thapa, whose continued No. 4 rank in the assembly is fully contingent upon the chemistry of the Madhesi parties, has gone a step ahead: he has mapped a fast track to constitution-building.
That task would require a modicum of camaraderie between the two principal coalition partners. Their common focus on local elections may be well intentioned but still perplexing, especially with all the bad memories associated with Gautam serving as deputy premier in charge of home affairs during the last elections the UML swept.
And the constitution? Nothing against Subash Nemwang personally, but didn’t he symbolize the last assembly’s utter apathy. So what makes his return to the job so inspiring?
Perhaps that he’s unlikely to convene crucial meetings in his hospital room or flash his frequent-flier card to disguise every political emergency as a medical one.