Jun 8, 2012

Absurdities, contradictions and dangers galore

By M.R. Josse

treacherous and wilful strangulation of the Constituent Assembly (CA) on 27 May 2012 by its very constituents, what is the nation confronted with today?
Bluntly diagnosed, it is this: the scary proliferation of a mass of political absurdities and contradictions bubbling in a seething caldron of racial and ethnic tensions, stoked by an assortment of disparate Machiavellian forces out – by hook or by crook – to undo the ultimate forging of a modern nation-state in 1768 out of the then-plethora of tiny warring principalities.

It was through such an accomplishment that Prithivi Narayan Shah laid the foundation for the creation of a modern Nepal that eventually took its place in the comity of nations, averting falling prey to the great scourge of the times: the indignity and rapacity of British imperialism.

One of the most conspicuous political absurdities flowing from the CA’s deliberate murder is, without doubt, that despite crowning himself with that monumental failure, Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai (BRB), had the gall to reward himself by claiming that he would lead the country to fresh CA elections – never mind that the Interim Constitution simply does not have any provision for a second election for the CA.

In fact, instead of immediately putting in his papers to President Ram Baran Yadav, BRB even took it upon himself – without any consultations with other political parties – to announce a date for that supposedly upcoming event!

An associated silliness is the myth that has been sedulously flogged by some interested quarters that BRB is in fact a closet ‘liberal’ – and thus to be preferred over many others in his political grouping, including his Chairman, the inimitable Prachanda, and the ‘hardliner’ Vice-Chairman, Baidya.
Rather, BRB by his unconstitutional 27 May misdeed has proved – if proof were ever necessary – that his highhandedness and intolerance of constitutional niceties are but manifestations of his inherent political character: a dyed-in-the-wool totalitarian who acts in the manner of the classical elected dictator.

It is against such a backdrop that one must ask: who is/was the Kathmandu-based diplomat who first spread the legend of BRB the ‘liberal’ or the fiction that the one-time JNU wallah is a Deng Xiaoping clone!

However, to return to the mainstream of this essay, it will be most timely or apposite to question at what cost BRB will continue to cling on to power? Phrased otherwise, how many innocents have to die, be injured or displaced before he steps down in the face of mounting public anger and protests? How much more destruction of public and private property must be witnessed before he sees the light?
Or, how many more debilitating bandhs and organised disruptions of orderly life – and to uninterrupted supplies of daily essentials – must we all endure to satisfy his dogged insistence to soldier on – to use a buzz term much in use these ‘loktantra’ days – ‘at any cost’?

Possibly, more political contradictions abound on the ground that there are holes in the more reeking cheeses. Let us begin with those seen, post-CA demise, in the UML. According to multiple media reports, in the past week that party has been stymied by efforts to resolve problems arising from divergent concepts of federalism – the very same issue that contributed to sinking the CA Titanic.
The contradiction, in this instance, lies in the fact that while the UML’s official stand in the CA was opposed to that of the Maoist/Madeshi combine, a section of that very part now seems keen to align with their political adversaries, apparently at the drop of their ‘bhadgaoley’ topis.

A gaucherie of another sort has, meanwhile, emerged from the ‘Grand Old Party’, the NC. As much was made evident when 61 of NC’s former lawmakers at a Kathmandu press conference on 3 June not only ‘demanded’ that the CA be ‘revived’ but, in fact, urged the president to ‘remove’ the constitutional hurdles in that regard.

Does the president have the constitutional ‘right’ to do that? And, pray, what do others, including the general public or ‘lok’, and the other political parties, think of such a hare-brained suggestion? Do they really thing that, like Lazarus – once again, to quote the Bible, much in vogue in ‘secular’ Nepal – the mordant CA will ‘rise from the dead’?

While it is perfectly understandable that the former CA-types would like to continue to enjoy their lollies and jollies – preferably without putting in an hour of honest labour – it is simply amazing that they treat the issue of the CA’s dissolution so nonchalantly – after four years, four extensions, and under four governments’ captaincy, when in fact their mandate was to complete the job of writing a constitution in two years’ time!

Don’t – for God’s sake – they realize that they are making buffoons not only of themselves but, I’d venture, to add in the process demeaning ‘loktantra’ with its lofty political goal of creating a ‘naya’ Nepal nirvana?   

By the way, let’s not leave out the Madeshis in this wondrous tale.  Among them, too, contradictions have emerged. First, there are those that between the Madehsi Morcha and the “Broader Madeshi Morcha” (BMM) with the latter, led by Upendra Yadav, formally calling on the president to dismiss BRB.

Second, there is the curious case of Sarat Singh Bhandari – a non-Madeshi former CA member of the Madeshi Janaadhikar Forum-Democratic, who behaves in a more-Catholic-than-the-Pope mode – challenging his one-time, friend, philosopher and guide, Deputy Prime and Home Minister Bijaya Kumar Gacchedar, to prove who has a greater number of cadres as followers!
While on this theme it would surely be remiss not to mention that Upendra Yadav has expelled three Maoist Madeshis from his Morcha, including the PM’s press adviser!

Other ungainly contradictions, gentle readers, are also strewn across the post-CA political chessboard. Among the more serious are growing indications that the phenomenon of ethno-federalism is now beginning to take its heavy toll on the party-system, the bedrock, one would assume, of multi-party parliamentary democracy (or even ‘loktantra’, if you will).

Quite aside from the case of the UML, referred to earlier, there is the inexplicable one that even the putative ‘Maoist’ party has replaced ‘class’ considerations with the priority of ‘ethno-federalism’ and all that comes in its wake. Was that the case with other Maoist parties, including that in the time of Chairman Mao Zedong? Not to my knowledge, at least.

As an aside and resorting to pun, I must confess to having failed my communism classes at university because of poor Marx!

Equally notable is that contemporary Nepali politics has become increasingly devoid of political ideology, leading one to wonder into which political desert we are heading. Given the fact that, increasingly, racial bigots are threatening dire consequences to those not advocating ethno-federalism, this is bound to be resisted – and stoutly so – keeping in mind’s Newton’s third law of motion: to every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

It is here, then, the danger of a re-ignition of ethnic strife or open conflict comes into play. Given the state of political polarisation in the country on/around the issue of federalism, it is entirely possible that Nepal will descend into a state of primitive tribalism.

Are the so-called “progressives”, including the Maoists, aware of that grave danger? Do they sincerely believe that extraneous forces have not fanned this issue and poured all manner of funds and input into the ethno-federalism debate – for their own vested ends?

Or, could it be that the Maoists are playing a more sinister game: to climb on to the ethno-federalism bandwagon, secure a more than two-thirds majority at the next election, and thereafter to create a one-party Maoist state in their own image?

After all, not all have quite forgotten that Prachanda in his 2 January 2007 Shaktikhor video address to his cadres assured them that his political strategy was to capture the state by taking the other political parties down the garden path? Does this not explain BRB sticking on to his post – come what may?  

This, of course, puts a new spin of the so-called ‘imminent’ split of the Maoist party, a news story that is making front-page headlines these days. While it is difficult, and unwise, to be too categorical about it, I would urge caution before jumping to facile conclusions. For one thing, never forget that the radical group is equally in favour of ethno-federalism as is the so-called establishment wing.
Finally, while the president continues, for the time being at least, to be frozen in action – after his correct decision describing BRB as ‘caretaker’ PM – it is not a posture he can continue forever especially as 22 parties, including the NC and the UML, are now committed to calling for the PM’s resignation from the streets, a tactics long favoured by the Maoists.

With the Maoists and their co-partners determined to resist, something has to give: there is only so much time that the president can stay mum.

Courtesy: People’s Review

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