MIN RATNA BAJRACHARYA
It is as if the Maoists in the ruling coalition are allowing things to fall apart, or at least not doing anything to stop it. There are only eight hours of power a day, the inflation rate is irrationally high, there is anarchy on the highways and businesses are on the verge of mass-closure.
Yet, inside Singha Darbar there are no indications that any of this unduly concerns the government. Instead of assuaging the public, politicians from the prime minister down issue daily warnings of state collapse or wild threats of takeover.
The Maoists are not even trying to hide the fact that they want to use social upheaval for complete state capture. They have said they want a constitution that establishes a one-party people's republic, and will seize power by force if anyone opposes it.
Baburam Bhattarai said in Butwal last week: "We have 40 per cent (in the CA) so not one word in the constitution can be written without us. Either it will be the kind of constitution we want, or there will be no constitution."
To many, such demagoguery shows that the Maoists have never been serious about democracy. In the past six months they have tried to bring the economy to a standstill through militant unionism, unleashed high-profile attacks on media, tampered with religion, deliberately interfered in the bureaucracy, judiciary and now the army.
Business is thoroughly demoralised and private schools that educate two million students are on the warpath. On foreign policy, the Maoists are actively playing the 'China card', antagonising India. The Madhes, which was settling down, was set on fire again with the feckless decisions to move service centres and then lump the Tharus with the Madhesis.
"Even after being elected to power, they still think power comes from the barrel of a gun," says Pradeep Gyawali of the UML, "there is no room in their ideology for the universal values of democracy."
After the Maoists swept the elections last year, there was hope that they would be dynamic and different, but there is growing frustration at the lack of delivery.
Political scientist Krishna Khanal predicts: "The Maoist strategy of seizing power by creating chaos will not just cause further suffering for the people, it will consume the Maoists themselves."