Nepali Times
Plain Speaking
Past imperfect


Maoist impatience, high-handedness, refusal to renounce violence, arrogance, duplicity and stunning ability to antagonise multiple forces simultaneously have all contributed to the present mess.

But does that give moral legitimacy to the new political arrangement that is about to take office? Can the Madhav Kumar Nepal-led formation address the key political issues that confront us today: integration, justice, constitution writing, changing the state structure, engaging with disenchanted communities, and providing services?

While Nepal is the face of this government, he is obliged to five masters who will behave like independent power centres. The first is General Katawal. If anyone kidded himself that the army is apolitical or the chief is just
another neutral soldier, the myth has been shattered. Not only was he the trigger for this crisis, he has invested enormous capital in engineering the alternative coalition, using his leverage with old NC conservatives, the MJF right wing and the Oli faction.

Pushpa Kamal Dahal's reference about how a few are talking about being Rajpakses and treating Maoists like LTTE was a direct take-off from Katawal's conversations with certain interlocutors. Katawal will expect to have a say in crucial political issues. Showing Katawal who's boss will be Nepal's biggest challenge: a task he may not live up to because of the debts owed.

K P Oli's stance led the UML to take a strong position on Katawal's dismissal, and his backing is allowing Nepal to fulfill his dream. Oli will have a veto over key decisions. Knowing Oli's visceral anti-Maoist stand, his skepticism about the peace process, and his opposition to most demands of the marginalised, do not be surprised if there is little political will to find common ground with the Maoists.

Bijay Gachhedar, who along with Khum Bahadur Khadka and Govind Raj Joshi, made the 1990s synonymous with corruption and opportunism is the third hero of this alliance. He will be justly rewarded for veering the Forum away from the Maoists.

Do remember that till the end, he neither wanted the elections to happen nor the monarchy abolished. Along with Sharat Singh Bhandari, he was encouraged by the army to join the MJF. Gachhedar, who has a stellar record of systematically ruining whichever ministry he has headed, is in the running for deputy prime ministership and the home portfolio.

The fourth in line is President Ram Baran Yadav. Whether you agree or disagree with his action on Katawal, Yadav is no longer a ceremonial head but a political figure. His reply to the SC show-cause notice admits as much. Parties which constitute almost half the CA, Maoists and MJF, have officially termed his action unconstitutional.

Yadav has been engaging closely with politicians in the run up to the government formation, and it is clear where his preferences lie. Even if he does not cross the line publicly, he will play a behind- the- scenes role in key political decisions.

And the fifth character is Rakesh Sood, unarguably the most unpopular Indian envoy here in the last decade. Contrary to Maoist propaganda, India kept a relatively hands-off approach in the past eight months and did not plot to oust the government. But the Katawal episode changed that, making them angry and insecure and enhancing their intervention.

Nepal could not have cobbled this together without the moral, political and financial support extended by Lainchaur. Indians have an interest in ensuring that the government does not fail miserably. And Nepal will be most amenable to taking advice and instructions. It is unlikely MKN and these five musketeers are capable of responding to the politics of grievances and aspirations that engulf this country.

This is not a plea for Maoist or Upendra rule. Neither is it an attempt to equate Maoists with politics of change. The mismatch between their rhetoric and actions is clear after their stint at the top. The real point is that the old discredited conservative guard is back. This is a plea to re-engineer the broader peace compact.

Even today, there are only three forces capable of doing that. Only a re-energised GPK who sheds his bitterness can counter the loony right-wing tendencies in the alliance he is backing. Only a more honest PKD who sheds his duplicity and dogma can rebuild this process. And only an Indian government which thinks constructively can be the external guarantor by using its leverage to encourage consensus instead of polarising forces further.

Otherwise, welcome the anarchy, conflict and political stalemate that lie right ahead.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)