Sunday, December 14, 2014

Finding Faith In Alien Encounters

There are times when you wonder whether our foreign friends really want us to get a new constitution. British Ambassador Andrew Sparkes’ recent open letter advising the drafters to ensure that religious conversion is enshrined as something approximating a fundamental right is one of those times.
The substance of his letter is not the point here, conforming as it does to Western nations’ eagerness to promote Christianity and its Good News in our hapless homeland. Nor is the question why the top representative of a putative ‘Englistan’ emerging from fertile ground of hedonistic secularism would so brazenly ignore developments at home.
The timing of the ambassador’s letter is what inspires Maila Baje to question his motives. Our political class has enough on its hands with its self-imposed constitutional deadline looming. The Hinduism/secularism has the potential to create problems that would dwarf those stemming from federalism. In fairness, the British envoy advocates religious freedom in general. But you don’t need special skills to detect the Christian tone of that dog whistle.
Sparkes wasn’t the only alien muddying our waters. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi did that by advising us to devise a consensus-based constitution instead of a numbers-driven one. That pleasant plea basically provided a paradigm for prolonging the stalemate, given that each political party in the constituent assembly won seats on the basis of their own manifestoes on the constitution.
With such incongruities having stepped in, the Nepali Congress and the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist-Leninist (CPN-UML) have reverted to what they do best: devising a new power-sharing platform. In other developments, Nepali Congress leader Khum Bahadur Khadka has seized the Hinduism banner from Rastriya Prajatantra Party Nepal (RPPN). The latter party now has only the monarchy as its exclusive agenda. With RPPN President Kamal Thapa’s personal relations with the last monarch said to have cooled, factional rivalries have overtaken that organization. Leaders have taken to defending their lethargy to the former monarch’s apathy toward a restoration.
So entreaties for the status quo ante have started coming from the ostensible purveyors of newness. Weeks after Nepali Congress leader Ram Chandra Poudel publicly defended the intrinsic virtuousness of the 1990 Constitution, CPN-UML leader Oli advocated its modification into the new one.
Although both leaders tried to walk back their comments, the mere articulation was enough for the Maoists to begin twisting themselves into pretzels. Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal claims that he is shrewdly manipulating the two principal parties, while his deputy, Baburam Bhattarai, insists having a basic outline of the constitution by January 22 would be an achievement.
The teeth have long since come off the Maoist tiger, and it will ultimately accede to anything as an act of self-preservation. But comrades have to act as if they are putting up a fight. Bhattarai thus claims his people can accept the Nepali Congress-UML concept of federalism so long as the two main parties can persuade the janjatis of its merits. (What about the madhesis, comrade?)
A President Sushil Koirala and a Prime Minister Oli might even try doing that in earnest, if only those pesky foreigners just knew when to shut up.