Nepali Times
State Of The State
Among the alchemists


Pushpa Kamal Dahal needs to change his dress designer. He wore a black-and-red track suit while talking to the media during the central committee meeting of his party the other day. Good to see him so relaxed, but the man needs to start behaving like a head of state (and government?) that he is soon to be.

The chairman is known to be sensitive about his appearance. The gelled swept back hair, the Stalin moustache are all carefully planned. Without the dress, address and paraphernalia of voodoo, a shaman has no appeal. And so it is for Dahal.

The list of miracles the Maoists need to work are lengthy. Dahal thinks that integration of his fighters with Nepal Army will take place miraculously, Gyanendra will voluntarily depart from Narayanhiti, political parties will be falling over each other to assist him run the coalition government in the coming days. He thinks he will attract foreign investment, encourage domestic industry, control prices, rein in trade unions, ensure better wages, respect private property, resettle the landless and accelerate the capitalist economy even as he prepares the country for inevitable rise of \'New Improved' brand of socialism. Dahal studied agriculture at Rampur Campus under American mentors, he should have also taken alchemy.

Baburam Bhattarai studied urban planning and appears to believe that a 20 percent economic growth rate is possible, trickle down economy will do wonders, and Nepal can ride the relative easy road to prosperity upon the vehicle of hydroelectricity, herbs, tourism and entrepreneurship of Nepali industrialists. We have heard that before, and need to know what has changed in the last two years to make it all possible now.

Shadow (and aspiring) foreign minister CP Gajurel freely admits his party needs miracles to happen. Apparently more foreign aid will begin to flow because Nepal has voted in the first ever Maoist government in the world. Donor agencies will forsake all conditionalities to support this blast from the past. Overnight, the bureaucracy will turn squeaky clean, traders will begin to pay taxes honestly, the army will agree to be frugal, and Nepal will become a country of milk and honey.

Hisila Yami believes that privatisation of water distribution in Kathmandu valley is the first step towards social justice. Melamchi will come on stream because her technical advisers have assured her so, affluence will drive on the six-lane road from Bhaktapur, and housing for the urban poor will materialise out of thin air. Who said the Maoists are atheists?

The grandstanding is aimed at the next general elections. Dahal has declared that the new constitution will be miraculously written within one year (Interim Constitution allows 24 months) and the elections to be held soon after will give his party the mandate to rule for another 40 years. He has his plans of continuous miracles for 10, 20 and 40 years. He seems to have forgotten to factor in the Nepali people, the real miracle-makers. If Maoists continue to expect too many miracles, it is doubtful any of them will come true.

It's a fractured verdict, the Maoists need the confidence of the other parties. Due to the drubbing they got at the polls, it will probably take a while for the NC and UML politicos to collect their wits and talk to Dahal and his fellow magicians. But there is also the MJF now, and they can always do to Maoists what Maoists have been doing to others for last two years: threaten to take to streets to pursue their agenda.

Dahal looked more dependable in his turtle neck and beard. The Maoists need to subject themselves periodically to a reality check. Perhaps the YCL still has its use, it can be depended upon to declare war on the party headquarters just as the Great Helmsman commanded his Red Guards to do against "revisionists".

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)