Saturday, April 12, 2014

Whence Cometh Comrade Nepal’s New Confidence?

When Madhav Kumar Nepal, senior leader of the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist-Leninist (CPN-UML), flew out to New Delhi late last month to visit his ailing party rival Khadga Prasad Sharma Oli, Maila Baje had an ephemeral sense that the former premier was somehow finally waving the white flag.
After Oli won the parliamentary party leadership contest against UML chairman Jhal Nath Khanal, Nepal seemed more aggrieved than the man who had just lost. Nepal subsequently refused to attend a party meeting convened at the bedside of Oli, convalescing in a Kathmandu hospital, saying it went against organizational propriety. But we all knew that the hurt had not abated. Then Nepal began complaining about how he felt he was being sidelined in the party.
But something different happened in New Delhi and Comrade Nepal returned home with new ebullience. He immediately issued a public challenge to Oli and his newfound ally, Deputy Prime Minister Bam Dev Gautam, to face him first in their bid to wrest control of the full party. “Madhav Kumar Nepal is the man who went head to head with [former king] Gyanendra,” he said at a recent party meeting. “I am ready for the battle as I have not done anything to fear.”
Internally, Nepal sought to rein in Khanal by backing him as the justified chief of the High Level Political Committee in place of Maoist chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal, who got the position.
And not quite wasting a moment, Nepal expanded his sights to Prime Minister Sushil Koirala. He called Koirala a ‘coward’ and ‘incompetent’, ostensibly for the premier’s lack of enthusiasm for holding local elections. Nepal is now mocking the prime minister’s frugal and spartan ways, even to the point of describing them obstacles to progress. “A person who prefers to stay in a Kuti (hut) and behaves like a Jogi (saint) cannot resolve the problems confronting the nation”, he said the other day, suggesting that the constitution was unlikely to be promulgated within the stipulated deadline.
Now, nothing seems to have happened within the country that would suddenly embolden Nepal to fire off thus in all directions. The UML, in the run-up to the party convention, is still busy trying to figure out whether the April 2006 uprising was a political or social revolution.
So something must have happened in New Delhi. Did Nepal somehow get a sense that Oli’s health would not permit him to progress beyond his current status in the party? (More to the point, did someone leak Oli’s medical records to Nepal?)
Or did Nepal confront Oli with ‘goods’ he had on him so as to stanch his ambitions. (Those in the know speak of a lot of skeletons in both closets predating the mysterious death of the UML’s founding general secretary, Madan Bhandari.)
Given that Khanal, Gautam and party general secretary Ishwar Pokharel all visited Oli in Delhi, could there be some grand party compromise in the offing?
Or might Nepal’s renewed confidence be traced to separate talks he might have held with an entirely different group of interlocutors somewhere deeper in the bowels of the Indian capital?