Wake up, prime minister

From Nepali Times, ISSUE #367 (21 SEPT 2007 – 27 SEPT 2007)

KAPILBASTU – Seen from this troubled corner of Nepal, where there has been a massive loss of life and property since Sunday, the resignation drama being played out in Kathmandu is scandalous. The irresponsibility and self-absorption of the Maoist organisation is astounding.


Nepal is now a hotbed of a score of mutinies, and the Maoist attitude is bound to embolden radicals and opportunists everywhere. It will sideline the moderates trying their best to fight the tide of populist mobilisation and inter-community strife. The state administration is quite absent and civil society is just navel-gazing as the country burns.

By resigning from an unstable interim government, Pushpa Kamal Dahal has actually emboldened the king. The Nepal Army, unreformed for having carried on a dirty war on behalf of Gyanendra, is eagerly waiting for another opportunity to ‘serve’. We can thank Mr Dahal for this renewed ambition.

The Maoists had little thought for the rest of the country as they sought to tackle their internal contradictions, the push of hardliners within, and an expected humiliation in November polls. Having failed to train the cadre for pluralistic politics over the previous 18 months, the Maoists seemed willing to reverse their journey into open politics as defined by the 12-point agreement.

But despite the harsh words from the Khula Manch on Tuesday, the Maoists do not in fact have a Plan B. After all, the ‘people’s war’ was abandoned because it was not working, and a return to the jungle will not be sustainable. The world community would turn quite unsympathetic, all-powerful India would not be amused, but most importantly an alert populace would not take to renewed rebellion as meekly as in the past.

For a while, it seemed the Maoists were willing to abandon their entire future because of momentary panic over expected election results. But the moderates at the helm know that in that direction lie fragmentation, dissipation and oblivion. All sensible citizens hope the Maoists will remain united, the party that will fight (peacefully) for the underclass as the political spectrum evolves.

Fortunately, the word out of Baluwatar is that the comrades might have pulled back from the brink. Forced to the wall by hardliners during the recent plenum, accused of having given up on the revolution, Mr Dahal needed to roar convincingly and threaten all manner of dire visitations.

Even as the Maoists sent in their papers, however, they didn’t reject the comprehensive peace accord or the Interim Constitution. They remain in the interim parliament and their fighters are in the cantonments. As we went to press on Thursday afternoon, Girija Prasad Koirala had not accepted the resignations.

Much of what’s in the Maoist 22-point demands is the result of governmental apathy and must be addressed urgently. But with the Maoists shifting goalposts, the UML and NC were not in a position to trust the two main political demands for ‘full proportional’ elections and immediate declaration of a republic. The Maoists could have called off the polls after parliament adopted a republic resolution.

The Maoists may be satisfied with a declaration on a republic to be passed by the interim legislature. That would be the compromise acceptable to all and would in fact reflect the overall evolved stance regarding kingship. On the other hand, the formal goodbye to Nepal’s historical monarchy would be left to a sovereign, elected, Constituent Assembly.

Tuesday’s Maoist shock treatment may have some side benefits. Koirala could wake up to the call for a more process-oriented peace where decisions are less ad-hoc and personalised with delegation of authority and better communication partners in government, especially Madhab Kumar Nepal.

Koirala will be a failure as statesman if he cannot control the country’s drift. It takes gross negligence for a country such as this to be so fragmented. The Maoists can take part of the blame, but so must the prime minister. He must wake up to immediately to restore law and order, provide services to the people and give all of us the sense that there is a government.

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