Nepali Times
Guest Column
'Promised' land


T he endless bickering among Nepal's political leaders must be because they made promises to each other that they haven't kept.

Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal must have made secret deals with ex-PM Girija Koirala, and both must have
double-crossed each other. So they moan and groan, but never tell us why.

The Maoist and Tarai party cadres take the law into their own hands. The UML's Youth Force is also keen to establish its identity. All of them are claiming their right over the 'promised land' by violent means.

Revolutions are led by interest groups. Dreams of utopia are promised to organise, galvanise, lead and inspire followers to risk their lives. Revolutionary leaders distribute to their cadres the rosy dream of 'winner takes all', which is why the Maoist and Tarai leaders are now in a fix because they have to deliver on their promises.

The main reason for the current crises is the gap between promises made and the lack of delivery by their leaders. The cadres were promised the world, but have realised they can't take it all.

Revolutionary strategy is all about capture. The Maoists first captured the remotest police outposts, then the district capitals, then the property of anyone deemed counter-revolutionary. This strategy is now being replicated by Tarai militant groups. They then captured the constituent assembly, their senior leaders captured the most coveted portfolios, the cadre captured the mountains and Tarai districts. But, there are still some institutions like private businesses, the media, civil society organisations including cooperatives, NGOs and hospitals that they haven't yet captured.

It is clear that the current campaign is to capture what was left. The new frontlines are private business, hospitals, media and civil society organisations. And this why every day Maoist leaders have to make embarrassing public apologies for the murder of businessmen, maiming of journalists, closure of media and other violent activities. Such behaviour by musclemen from the prime minister's own party will be completely counter-productive for him and can precipitate a crisis.

The current problems stem from the failure of the Maoist leadership and their ruling allies to manage the post-revolutionary phase. On top of the political stalemate are the multiple crises of food shortage, even starvation in some areas, soaring inflation, an artificial scarcity of essential commodities, fuel shortage and a crippling power crisis. In the absence of the state, there is open extortion, abduction, robbery, violence and murder.

The Maoist leadership is failing to secure the cooperation of their co-revolutionaries. It therefore seems unlikely that they will be able to produce a constitution that will be acceptable to all stakeholders. The NC won't accept what the Maoists propose and vice versa, the UML has its own agenda, nothing less than a 'One Madhes, One Pradesh' will not be acceptable to the Madhesi parties. And nothing will be acceptable to 101 ethnic groups that want their own state or province and a right to self-determination.

There are intractable disputes over the kind of federalism, over the boundaries of federal units, economic interests, rivers, tourist spots, strategic trading routes, language and dialect, ethnicity and geography. All potential sources of a future constitutional crisis.

We have some lessons from the French Revolution 1789-99. When the post-revolutionary assembly tried to govern, it failed completely. What was left was a bankrupt state, an undisciplined military and "a people debauched by safe and successful riot".

The French Revolution has been described as a "tangle within tangle, plot and counter-plot, ruse and treachery, cross and double cross, true agent, false agent... interwoven so intricately as to be incredible and yet true".

Except for the nearly 17,000 accounted deaths under the guillotine, today's Nepal has all of these elements several times over than what the French had to deal with. Nepal's geo-political vulnerability and domestic emergencies make our transition even more potentially volatile. This stark reality should remind our leaders to be a little more thoughtful and a little less selfish.

Our emperors are naked, but there is no child around to point that out.

Jagdish Ghimire runs a grassroots community development network in Ramechap and is the author of the award-winning book, Antarman Ko Yatra.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)