Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The ultimate betrayal

Finally, by nominating Ram Raja Prasad Singh for the post of president, the Maoists have officially ended an era of consensus politics. An eternal journey with the Maoists, which the Nepali Congress (NC) and the United Marxist Leninist (UML) told us was necessary to build a "New Nepal," is in lurch, after the Maoists have shut the door on the NC and the UML and have decided to build a "New Nepal" on their own.

Things are shaping up to be pretty odd. With the Maoists' latest act of betrayal, Nepali politics is, slowly but surely, getting confrontational. With the Maoists resorting to, my-way-or-the highway attitude, the settling of political vendetta will take the center-stage. Constitution making is the last thing in the minds of politicians. For the Maoists, it is all about how to consolidate the power, and for others, how to contain the Maoists and maximize political bargains.

The mainstream political parties of yesteryears are back to the square one. In 2005, an autocratic monarch had shut the door on them, and now, after three years, it is the very party that they helped spread base in the urban center repeating the act. Is it fate's cruel prank or inability on the part of UML and NC politicians to understand and tackle authoritarian tendencies?

Was it expected? Oh, yes, except a few greedy power-mongers within the NC and the UML, who thought that protracted ideological decay was worth it, everyone else were well aware of the Maoists' intent, and saw betrayal coming. Short term power mongering over long term political survival was almost certain to yield the consolidation of state power, but with the Maoists at the helm.

The NC and UML were bound to get betrayed. It was just a matter of time. It is not only because the Maoists' modus operandi is based on betrayal and lies, but also because the Maoists' strategic end goal: the establishment of a one-party communist republic directly conflicts with the end goal of the NC and UML. Anyone following the Maoist insurgency can easily tell that, at no point throughout the entire period of insurgency or the peace process has its leadership or the surrogates expressed anything but a full-fledged commitment to the establishment of a dictatorship of the proletariats. Any misrepresentation of the Maoists' strategic intent has come from outside the party -- mainly from the power-mongers within the NC, UML or the left-leaning civil society.

Had Girija Prasad Koirala not allowed the peace process to be reduced to an "appease process" by fulfilling each and every demand raised by the Maoists, the situation would have been quite different now. Had he taken time to dispassionately evaluate the Maoist machine, he would have understood long ago that the Maoists are in this to win -- not to compromise, or become mainstreamed or to play by anyone else's rules but their own.

The Maoists were successful in clouding his judgments by dangling "Presidential Lollypop" in front of him. Once the Maoists started doing that, their anti-social and undemocratic means were simply shrugged off as negativities associated with the transitional phase.

The NC and UML should learn a lesson from how the Maoists have done "business" to date. Their failure to put oneself inside the Maoist mind and see things as they see them, to understand their beliefs, strategy, and supporting tactics have put ordinary cadres in far flung villages in a very difficult position.

In the last two years, the fat cats within the NC and UML might have profited financially, but when it comes to grassroots cadres, they are worse off than they were three years ago. In the tarai, they have to face the wrath of the secessionists like Nagendra Paswan and Jay Krishna Goit, and in the hills, newly mushroomed ethnic militant groups have made their life miserable. It is not only the NC and UML cadres that are having a hard time in the changed political context, but there is another group called Internally Displaced People (IDPs) that did not benefit a bit from the grand coalition of the last three years. They are the forgotten heroes, whose woes both the NC and the UML chose to ignore.

What next? The Maoists will use different combinations of muscle power and ballots to eliminate all marginal threats to their expanding power base. Whether this process of elimination occurs figuratively or literally, whether through perversions of democratic process or through decrees will get clearer in the days ahead.

There is a very little evidence to support that the Maoists will play by the democratic rule book. They will pretend to act democratic as long as it benefits them to do so, but that does not mean that the Maoists have embraced multi-party democracy. They have already started to interpret their victory in the CA election as unconditional support for the full execution of the 'Prachanda path." The chances for a radical party to continue carrying out radical policies in the changed political context should not be negated. It would be a mistake of Himalayan proportion to rely on liberal interpretations of what the Maoist leaders say.

Puspa Kamal Dahal is not that foolish to adopt North Korean-styled one party rule in the current geopolitical situation, but he will do everything to ensure that there is no threat to the Maoist regime from the political opponents that believe in Western-styled multi-party parliamentary democracy. With the brigade of brigands (YCL) at his disposal and the state's security forces under his control, it will not be very difficult for him to find other ways to subvert political competition and administer social control.

The future of the mainstream political parties of yesteryears such as the NC and the UML and the new entrants like MJF and TMLP will largely depend upon how quickly they can reinvent themselves and provide credible alternatives to the Maoist writ. They have a very difficult role to play: checkmate the Maoists and appear constructive to the general populace at the same time. Or else, they will be painted as obstructionists. With security apparatus under the Maoists' control and YCL in villages, the Maoists have more than they need to win elections. The last thing you want to do is give them a chance to vilify your personality.

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