Monday, January 4, 2010

Will 2010 be any different?

Nobody can tell for sure if 2010 will be any better than the year 2009. It is difficult to predict what the year 2010 holds for Nepal not because of the uncertain nature of Nepali politics but because the power to shape Nepal’s future no longer lies in the hands of Nepali politicians. The ruling coalition, although technically legitimate, continues to remain in power despite its lethal incompetence for a simple reason - India wants it to remain in power. The government is rudderless and more interested in its day-to-day survival than anything else.

It might be intellectually taxing for external observers trying to make sense out of how a twenty-two party coalition with diverse political ideologies and agendas continue to sail through by shutting out the largest party in parliament, but for someone that keeps a close eye on Nepali politics, it is not anything puzzling or new. Nepali political parties have long been transformed into subservient clients by India and this is not the first time that they are herded at India’s behest. An inconvenient truth about Nepali politics is that over the years India has successfully transformed Nepali political parties into subservient clients.

The fall of Pushpa Kamal Dahal’s government over the Rookmangud Katawal’s controversy is a clear depiction of what could happen if a party dares to outgrow its client status. The withdrawal of support to Dahal’s government by the coalition members was the inability of the members to act against the Indian directives than anything else. The politicians in Nepal know very well that acting against the master’s wishes could prove to be fatal, politically.

Peace in Nepal, in 2010, is only possible if the Maoists realize the danger associated with letting the stipulated time for constitution-drafting expire. Once the CA term expires, it will be easier for the government that India puts together to go after the Maoists.After the fall of the Maoist government, Dahal and his fellow comrades have been trying their best to arouse nationalist fervor for political expediency. For people, who have closely watched the inception of the Maoist insurgency and its subsequent growth over the years, the role that India played in grooming Nepali Maoist party and unleashing it as a political force is no secret. The Maoists’ and India’s path crossed when Dahal tried repeating King Mahendra’s game of playing China card against India. In doing so, what Dahal and his fellow comrades failed to understand is that the internal political dynamics and the geopolitical realities had changed drastically over the years. Unlike B P Koirala, who then was unwilling to turn Nepal into a client state, there are way too many politicians that are happy to execute that role now. Dahal and his men were way off in calculating the level of India’s penetration in Nepali politics.

Out of power, the Maoists are now playing the nationalist card to drum-up support basically to force India to engage them. The Maoists know very well that in a nation with approximately half of the population around twenty-six years in age, which boasts of Nepal’s uncompromised sovereignty, anti-India rhetoric will always play out well. For these youngsters that grew up witnessing rising political corruption, lawlessness, and increasing Indian involvement in Nepali politics, it is quite natural to fall into the Maoists’ jingoistic trap. But before falling into the trap, it is important that the younger generation try and understand what the Maoist party that grew on Indian benevolence wants to gain out of the latest nationalist tirade. It is important to make sure that the Maoist party, which would definitely not have been what is today without India’s material and moral support, uses the support of the nationalists, especially the younger generation that boasts of uncompromised sovereignty of Nepal, to safeguard Nepal’s sovereignty, but not as a bargaining chip to outbid other clients’ will to serve Indian interests.

So what does it look like in terms of achieving peace and stability in 2010? The chances are slim! The chances are slim because the party that has the majority in the parliament is yet to realize the consequences of slowing down the process of drafting the constitution. After May 28, 2010, when the term of the CA expires, the political capital that arose from CA electoral victory will no longer be there for the Maoists to boast upon. There will be no venue for the Maoists, except for the streets, to vent their anger.

The politicians of the current coalition most of whom have been reduced to poodles that are willing to tirelessly wag the tail at India’s behest will be the ones that will benefit the most if the constitution is not drafted on time. If the Maoists are real nationalists, they should realize that the best way to reduce Indian interference in Nepal is by ensuring that there is a constitution by the end of May, which will ensure future elections. The Maoists can reduce Indian interference by winning elections handsomely even though some danger of Indian-administered split of the party will always remain a possibility. Let the actions replace rhetoric this time around.Peace in Nepal, in 2010, is only possible if the Maoists realize the danger associated with letting the stipulated time for constitution-drafting expire.

Once the CA term expires, it will be easier for the government that India puts together to go after the Maoists. As a matter of fact, many politicians within the various political parties want that to happen. With no safe haven to seek refuge in, unlike in the past, the Maoists will be at the receiving end. The Maoists still have the real opportunity to translate the impending crisis into an opportunity. Speed up the constitution-drafting process so that elections can take place in future.

With the kind of support the Maoist party commands on the ground, Dahal can once again emerge victorious. All he has got to do is control criminal activities that the YCL and his militant labor union are engaged in. A little extra effort to win the support of educated and civilized mass that the Maoist party lacks at the moment will do no harm.If Dahal fails to the see the writing on the wall and act swiftly in the next couple of weeks, we will not have peace anytime soon. Peace will only come after India completely turns the Maoist party into one of its subservient clients ready to serve Indian interests.

No matter what it says, India wants Nepal to be a client state and they have not been this close anytime in the history of Nepal in realizing their goal.


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