The Maoists are preparing for a final showdown to coincide with their six-day banda from 5-11 February and the 10th anniversary of the revolution. They are said to be preparing to blockade Kathmandu, ambush army convoys escorting supply vehicles and to make daring attacks on army bases around the capital. According to their plan to 'climb on the shoulder and hit the head' the rebels are expected to be active against political and military targets in and around the Valley. The aim seems to be to convince the residents of the capital that the royal regime has neither been able to restore peace nor ensure supplies. The other dangerous aspect of this plan is that it stems from their plenum declaration in Chunbang that they want to shorten the war and take it to a decisive conclusion with minimum civilian casualties. That is why they seem to want to repeat Prithibi Narayan Shah's feat of encircling the Valley and blockading it. Earlier Maoist blockades were more psywar oriented, whereas this time it is expected to be part of a concrete military strategy.
However, as the deadline for the banda approaches, there seems to be no effort by the government to try to counter its effects. The chairman of the council of ministers hasn't yet finished his district tour. The ministers are too busy splitting parties to pay much attention to the threat from the Maoists. Artificial shortages of gas and other supplies are already evident and black marketeers are having a field day. The king's adviser, Sharad Chandra Shah has just been discharged from B&B Hospital with an unspecified disease and vice-chairman Tulsi Giri has such severe back problems that he is not even attending his office.
Meanwhile, the political parties are preparing to bring in 500,000 people into the Valley for their pro-democracy rally on 20 January. The combination of the Maoist military threat and the rallies on the streets are expected to be a big challenge for the regime. And if the Maoists simultaneously start raiding several district headquarters are once, the army will be overstretched to defend he capital or the districts? The only antidote to this is for the government to immediately start negotiations and to restore the people's representatives. The international community has advised that there is no military solution to this crisis and the regime can't defend itself just on guns and batons.
The advantage for the Maoists is also that the security apparatus is preoccupied with providing security for the municipal elections and the government is distracted with conducting the polls. The ultimate result of all this disaffection could be an urban uprising which is what the Maoists want.
PIC: RAMESHWOR BOHARA