Sunday, December 18, 2016

Perpetuation Of The Eternally New

Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal’s use of the anniversary of King Mahendra’s Paus 1 takeover to warn us of the dark clouds of inauspiciousness hovering over today’s polity may have been purely coincidental.
It is hard, after all, to conceive that anyone could have choreographed with such precision the ongoing controversy over the latest proposal to amend our new constitution. Yet the coincidence has been enough to rankle our top Maoist.
Two of Dahal’s main comrades in arms during the decade-long ‘people’s war’ have denigrated the current experiment in rather scathing terms. Mohan Baidya, who broke away in 2012 to form a more hardline group, has called for an abrogation of the current constitution. Dr. Baburam Bhattarai, who left the party three years later to form the Naya Shakti, lately has described the New Delhi compromise of November 2005 as a mistake.
Now, neither man has suggested reversing course. Baidya wants a more ‘people-oriented’ constitution. Bhattarai’s problem is only that the 12 Point Agreement should not have been signed on Indian soil.
Still, from Dahal’s perch, those may be moot points. The nation is in no position to go forward in any radical way. At least not yet, especially when the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist-Leninist seems to have become more conservative than the Nepali Congress.
Always a nebulous concept, ‘New Nepal’ has lost much of its luster since the April 2006 uprising. Bhattarai’s party – the quintessence of newness, at least in form – hasn’t done much by way of drawing a viable roadmap.
The alternatives, therefore, are between preserving the status quo and shifting gears in reverse. Republicanism, federalism and secularism being the three pillars of the existing order, Dahal – as the principal protagonist – is justified in mounting a spirited defense.
What is also true is that people like George W. Bush, Hu Jintao and Manmohan Singh and the dynamics they represented – and responded to – in the process of becoming external catalysts of change have become ancient history. Our national protagonists may still believe they control the content, but the context has changed.
The Maoists can mock the CPN-UML all they want for masquerading as nationalists when they were the ones responsible for the Mahakali ‘sellout’ in 1996. But that criticism only serves to underscore the contextual change Nepali politics has undergone.
Evidently, Dahal as prime minister is in the best position to grasp that reality, but he can’t be seen anywhere in public as preferring one of the aforementioned pillars over the others to forge a national compromise. While Dahal knows he may not afford to dither for too long, he won’t capitulate without drawing everyone else into the muck. SPAM stood for the Seven Party Alliance and the Maoists.
To preserve the status quo, therefore, the leadership must become more creative in creating and controlling chaos. Crying wolf over a supposed threat to democracy doesn’t quite cut the ice. Mounting a rebellion as prime minister to preserve republicanism, secularism and federalism? Now, that’s a new one, even for Dahal.