Sunday, May 04, 2014

Tableaus Of An Open-Ended Transition

Prime Minister Sushil Koirala’s assertion the other day that democracy in Nepal remained to be institutionalized was striking. And the venue made it all the more so.
It’s unclear how the participants at the 24th General Convention of the Federation of Nepalese Journalists (FNJ) took that statement collectively. If they greeted it with the same resignation with which the prime minister made it, Maila Baje feels our scribes easily could be forgiven.
The prime minister, after all, made it a point to remind the assembled journalists of their great role in strengthening democracy. While establishing that there was enough culpability to go around, Koirala also dangled the promise of every working journalist owning his or her own car within ten years, if things went right. (Sorry, nothing about non-working scribes there.)
It would have felt good to be able to attribute this admission by the leader of the party that has been at the forefront of Nepal’s three epic struggles for democracy over the last six decades to the unique challenges our country faces. Across the world, nations have faltered and flourished in institutionalizing democracy over the same time span. King Mahendra still gets a lot of grief for having enunciated it, but the Air and Soil Theory of Politics does have a ring of truth to it.
Still, Koirala’s claim is an act of brazenness – and one, to be fair to the prime minister, that spans the political spectrum. Dr. Baburam Bhattarai has made a post-election career of plugging the need for a new force. In doing so, the chief ideologue of a party that has not fully shed its totalitarian ambitions not only admits the erroneousness of the armed insurgency as an agent of change; he implies that none of the assorted communist factions have the capacity to take Nepal forward. If Dr. Bhattarai’s latest call is but a ploy to unseat Maoist supremo Pushpa Kamal Dahal, he might have done a better job of camouflaging it.
Remarkably, the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist-Leninist (CPN-UML) has conceded the centrality of capitalism in Nepal. This comes at a time when the principal capitalist country in the world is demonstrating nostalgia for Soviet-style regimentation in the name of fairness and equality.
Still, the CPN-UML is needlessly debating whether the April 2006 uprising was a political or social revolution. Undoubtedly a manifestation of Nepalis’ quest for change, the event was part of the externally inspired color-coded revolutions spiced up by the imperatives of a budding strategic partnership between an evangelist administration in the United States and a secular one in India, the latter possessing a virulent communist strain.
Once the confusion of that concoction becomes clear, it is easier to understand the true character of that spring of discontent. But to be able to do that honestly, the CPN-UML would have to quit pretending to be a communist party.
Ultimately, the parties’ ambivalence stems from the fact that they do not have the monarchy to kick around anymore. Turning the transition into an open-ended travail thus becomes expedient for the players. As long as the international community continues legitimizing such inconsistency as evolution, all is well.
Truth be told, our leaders would love to excoriate the many external hands in public, and some have trained their guns on the West. As for the hand right around the corner, every pol knows that’s the kind you don’t bite – and certainly not with their kind of appetite.