Nepali Times
Psst...petrol's here


Don\'t expect the fuel crisis to ease till about the day before Dasain. Fed up with empty promises from Kathmandu to clear our huge debt, Indian Oil Corporation has been persuaded to resume supplies. The prime minister knows IOC won\'t even speak to him, so when petrol riots broke out last week at the pumps, the old man picked up the phone and called Man Mohanji directly and told him that if IOC didn\'t send oil, the Maoists would use the anger in the streets to spark off an uprising.

Girjau must have been pretty convincing because tankers started arriving from Barauni. But, you may well ask, how come there are still lines at the pumps? Don\'t tell anyone the Ass told you, but the oil is being hoarded at the Amelkhganj and Thankot depots, possibly for a price increase on the eve of Dasain.


The hyperactivity in the political scene these days is due to the fact that the nation is about to go into a two-week Dasain coma. Even the prime minister is hurrying up: he\'s going from snail pace to turtle pace officiating as head of state, head of government, head of the army and head of household.


In fact, our Primordial Minister was so busy playing king this week, he didn\'t realise he had been upstaged by Kingji until it was too late. The prime minister as self-declared head of state went and got his blessings from the living goddess on Sunday. But in a move that was almost as carefully choreographed as the February First coup his erstwhile majesty\'s motorcade waded into Basantapur Sq under cover of darkness. The crowd seemed to have been primed to expect the royal visit and greeted the underground king with "Hamro Raja Hamro Desh". The spin pundits at the palace had even tipped off one of the new tv channels, which broadcast the visit live.

Needeless to say, the prime minister found out too late that his old royal nemesis had pulled a fast one. His reaction was to summon COAS Katuwal to Baluwatar the next morning and find out from him how come the general hadn\'t told the government about the visit. Katuwal reportedly said: "You talkin\' to me?" Or words to that effect. As punishment, the general was summoned again and told to reduce palace guards by half.


The balance of power between Baluwatar and Bhadrakali is based on the tacit understanding that the prime minister won\'t rock the boat on the army. Whether Katuwal knew about Kingji\'s Operation Kumari is not actually as important as whether the COAS can keep royal dissidents within the army quiet and for how long. The prime minister is relying on him to keep things under control but Katuwal is under pressure from the jarsaps. Katuwal was never overly popular because his blood is not blue enough and the Thakuris think he\'s allowed the PM too much say in promotions. Then there are predecessors, like General Conflagration, who think the army chief is (pardon the expression) an ass. If they had their way they\'d make Lionheart prime minister for the sixth time. The Maoists wouldn\'t mind that either, since they ran circles around Deuba during the war.


Now that ambassadorial appointments are out of the way, Foreign Minister Sahana Pradhan is at the UN General Assembly in New York keeping herself mighty busy. On Monday she signed an MoU to establish diplomatic relations between Nepal and the Dominican Republic. We sure have our geostrategic priorities right.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)