Friday, May 9, 2008

The bewilderness

With the successful conclusion of CA polls, all eyes are on India and the United States now. The extent to which India and the US will recalibrate their policy vis-à-vis the Maoist victory in Nepal will determine whether or not the Maoist government will have a smooth sailing.

Puspa Kamal Dahal's assertion that the Maoists are in for a long haul might prove true unless international players like India and the US tighten the screw on the Maoists and provide support to the democratic forces, which at this point in time appears highly unlikely. For India, a nation that has a substantial security and economic interests in Nepal, it simply does not make any sense to overrun a party, which has both: A private militia and people's mandate to govern. And, why should India stick to the old guards if the new kids on the block are willing to render similar services? As far as the United States is concerned, it has already outsourced its Nepal policy to India. Due to the lack of any major interest in Nepal, the US is expected to continue toeing India's policy towards Nepal.

Those in the NC and the UML who think India will not abandon the horse that served their interests faithfully for almost two decades should rethink why India should stick with a horse that lost badly in a high stake derby. They should reconcile with the fact that India loves to bet on a wining horse. If we look around, it becomes evident that, for India, its security and economic interest is far more important than democratic rights of citizens of foreign nations. Indian government's cordial relations with Myanmar's repressive junta and Banngladesh's military rule speak volume about how India hoodwinks international community when it comes to its stand on democracy.

When India can roll-out the red carpet for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran, it can definitely do so to keep Puspa Kamal Dahal at its arm's length. It is just a matter of time. The very minute India extract promises from the Maoist comrades on issues related to India's security, democrats in Nepal will be on their own. With time and change in political stature, international actors' betting preferences do change.

For the NC and the UML to beat the Maoists, they have to completely overhaul their current strategy of trying to appear more progressive than the Maoists. Nobody is going to buy that. If the NC and the UML really want to succeed, let the Maoists do what they do best, and you do what you do best — resonate with the people that are at the center of the political spectrum. It is virtually impossible to defeat a party whose very basis of existence is grounded on proletarian agendas by trying to appear more progressive than them. One of the reasons why the NC and the UML had to face humiliating defeat might have to do with this unwarranted political shift. When you, as a centrist political force completely abandon what you traditionally stood for, loyal supporters that are attached to the party on the basis of ideology have no inclination or incentive to remain wedded to the party.

Surprisingly, even after the humiliating defeat, the NC and the UML have not abandoned the Maoist-style of doing business. In a rat race of proving itself more inclusive, visionless and petty-minded politicians at the NC's helm of affairs have chosen to sacrifice people like Radheshyam Adhikari, Harihar Birahi, and Manmohan Bhattarai that make up the NC's intellectual backbone. Instead of nominating these individuals that could have made a significant contribution in drafting a liberal constitution, bewildered NC's leadership decided to nominate semi-illiterates en masse. Does this act of wholesale nomination of semi-illiterates for a responsible job of drafting a constitution, which requires a great deal of technical expertise, really serve the purpose? If the answer is no, then how justified it is to pay bench-warmers as constitution makers? Where is the fiscal responsibility?

Establishing a herd of semi-illiterates to warm benches rather than nominating experts like Radheshyam Adhikari, who have been practicing law for decades, is neither fiscally responsible thing to do, nor a good strategy to counter the Maoists' desire to mould the constitution to their liking. When will the air headed idiots within the NC realize the gravity of the situation?

In a way, the recent CA election results might prove to be blessings for those who really want to practice principle-based politics within the NC and the UML. As it will take considerable time and effort to dislodge the Maoists from the power and defeat them in the upcoming parliamentary and local elections, the fat cats within the NC and the UML that have made a fortune by remaining in power for the last two decades might not have the required patience and the desire to stay put. However, there is no guarantee. If they still decide to hang around, the dedicated cadres that really want to see their party come back to power should revolt. Now is the time for some purification.

Shashank Koirala of the NC and Shankar Pokharel of the UML have the potential to bring back the lost glory. They are neither populist nor tainted. They can actually unite the party and put up a good fight against the Maoists. In order to defeat the Maoists, you got to prove that you are different. So far, by trying to hijack their political agendas, the NC and the UML have been blurring the difference between their party and the Maoists. In the absence of visible difference, people will continue to support the Maoists.

After forming the government in the next couple of weeks, the Maoists will do their best to negate the exiting threats. The threat of takeover by the army will be negated by merging the PLA with the national army and promoting the likes of Kul Bahadur Khadka within the Nepal Army. So the only way left to bring down the Maoist government to its knees, if needed, is through revolution in the tarai. At this point in time, only Madhesi regional parties such as the MPRF and TMDP have the power to unleash enough violence to choke the power structures in Kathmandu. It is, thus, crucial for the NC and the UML to remain in good terms with these regional parties.

At this point in time, the NC and theUML neither have an agenda for counter mobilization nor have the required strength to fight back. So the days ahead are not going to be easy for them. But the game is not over yet. There is one more chance and that is the upcoming elections. In order for the NC and the UML to win the upcoming elections, they need to restructure their party and come up with a sound counter-mobilization strategy. Try to do it right this time around.

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