Monday, January 18, 2010

Learn from the past

There are hardly four months left for the term of the Constituent Assembly (CA) to expire. Looking at the politicians’ demeanor, it does not appear that they are genuinely concerned about the impending crisis. The day-to-day struggle for political survival has sucked out the sense of responsibility from Nepali politicians. Drafting the constitution seems to be the last thing in their mind. In a populist nation, where mere shifting of blame can get one out of trouble, their carefree attitude is well-justified.

Insincerity in Nepali politics becomes evident from the ongoing political mess. The political mess that the Maoists created by trying to get rid of Rookmangud Katawal last year is yet to be sorted out. Now, we have a High Level Political Mechanism (HLPM) under the leadership of Nepali Congress (NC) President Girija Prasad Koirala with Pushpa Kamal Dahal and Jhala Nath Khanal as members. Interestingly, one of the three men in-charge to sort out the existing mess is also the man (read Dahal) who created the mess in the first place. It is the Nepali way of righting the wrongs: Make the troublemaker a troubleshooter.

Some may find it as the only way to move forward, but as far as I am concerned, such measures will invite more problems than they can actually solve. The never-ending quest for shortcuts has led us to where we are now. It may troubleshoot the current problem but creating such a mechanism is wrong on so many levels. Measures like this one will allow personality cult to develop and turn the so-called top leaders into indispensable nannies. Common men’s faith on institutions will eventually fizzle out if the elected bodies such as the CA are bypassed, repeatedly. Solution to the existing and future political problems—this definitely will not be the last one—should be explored in the CA, not outside. Plus, a nation cannot and should not be run through never-ending series of deal makings.

Before getting into the necessity and fixes that mechanisms such as HLPM can bring about, it is necessary to take a step back and examine who creates these never-ending series of political mess, for which, we need these extra-constitutional mechanisms. The latest one started with the reinstatement of former Nepal Army Chief Katawal. Dahal and his men in the name of establishing civilian supremacy obstructed the CA for months and forced numerous nationwide strikes. After being unable to coerce the coalition members, Dahal is now all set to find a solution through HLPM. If you connect the dots, it becomes crystal clear that there is a method to the Maoists’ mode of operandi. Dahal and his top-level subordinate are using the Madman theory of politics!

While the politicians of the major political parties such as NC and CPN-UML often appear reasonable, which is not solely because of their level-headedness but compulsion, Dahal and his comrades warn Nepali public in general, and politicians of opposition parties in particular, that there is a mad figure hovering in the background who could go off the handle anytime. The unending series of nonsense that Dahal’s men were engaged in has not stopped altogether even after Dahal has been inducted as a member of the HLPM. Only last Friday, the Maoists’ waved black flags at President Dr Ram Baran Yadav in Panauti, Kavre district, when he arrived there to inaugurate a ceremony marking the Makar Mela. Dahal’s men are continuously engaged in activities that are aimed at undermining the strength of the state. If asked, none of the leaders at the helm of the affairs will own responsibility for such actions. As usual, they will shrug it by portraying it as an isolated incident. Over the years, the Maoists have perfected the Madman theory. By openly threatening the nation with bloodshed and turning gullible intelligentsia into fellow travelers through their populist agendas, the Maoists in Nepal have been able to achieve what other insurgent groups in South Asia can only dream of.

While Dahal and his men have mastered the Madman theory and have been using it very effectively to their benefit, the politicians on the other side of the isle such as Ram Chandra Poudel have perfected Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf nicknamed as “Baghdad Bob” theory—keep on claiming supremacy till you are doomed. Like Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf, Saddam Hussein’s information minister, who claimed that there were no American troops in Baghdad and that the Americans were committing suicide by the hundreds at the city’s gates while the American tanks were rolling a few hundred meters from the location where he held the press conference, Poudel and the likes continue to bask upon past glory. Recently, during his speech at the Chatham House in London, Poudel put the blame for current instability and chaos squarely on the Maoists and vowed that the NC would not let the core values of open society, parliamentary politics, human rights and accountability be compromised. Poudel must be living in Bagdad Bob’s fantasy world to have missed what the Maoists did recently to his colleague duo Minendra Rijal and Prakash Sharan Mahat, who also represent NC in the current government. Rijal was manhandled and Mahat’s official vehicle has vandalized by Maoists cadres.

If history has taught us anything with regard to talking to the Maoists in the dark corridors, it is this: Striking deals in dark corridors gets us nowhere. There is a method to their madness; you got to understand that and learn to deal with it effectively. The only way to tame the Maoists is by defeating their agendas in the CA. Remember, living in a fantasy world got Bagdad’s Bob nowhere and the result will not be any different for those suffering from Baghdad Bob’s syndrome in Nepal. Wake up!

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