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As Prachanda walked up to the stage in Naya Baneswor on Tuesday, he surveyed the crowd - rough estimates suggest there were more than 20,000 people - and smiled broadly.

In their subsequent speeches, both Prachanda and Dr Bhattarai reveled in this show of strength. "We wondered if the masses here are just our activists or ordinary citizens. If it includes the common people, our opponents should get the message. But if they are just our cadre, is there any other party that has such a large number of activists in the capital?" The crowd roared with approval.

The protest rally - organised within a day - was a measure of Maoist organisational strength, discipline, and ability to channel the energy of the crowds. Compare this to the NC and UML, who have not had a single mass meeting in Kathmandu to counter Maoist propaganda in the last eight months.
This fact of Maoist strength and their need to maintain it is crucial in understanding why Prachanda said what he said, and its potential implications.

Prachanda's first priority is to maintain his primacy within the party. He knows it is this massive organisational apparatus and his control over it that gives him power. He will feel the pulse of the party cadre, and judge what he needs to do to keep the majority of the other leaders on his side. With three rounds of agitation not delivering results, there was restlessness. Kiran and company, who want to scuttle any deal that would 'betray the revolution', were eager to raise the stakes. Prachanda decided he had to play along.

So why did he zero in on India?

Firstly, there is an element of truth in what was said. The trust deficit between Delhi and the Maoists is the single most important reason for the present impasse. But Prachanda's list of five bilateral issues is hogwash - the India-Maoist relationship did not go sour because of Kalapani or Susta, nor will it blossom with the resolution of those issues. But his point about there being no solution without a deal with India is spot-on. The rest of the political class and the mainstream media are angry with him for blowing the cover on the fiction of independence the Kathmandu establishment has assiduously cultivated. Nepal has been and remains only a partly sovereign country. Going public only reveals that private India-Maoist talks are going nowhere, and that the Maoists feel India is out to squash them.

The second reason is that Maoists can sense that there is increasing resentment against India on the streets of Nepal.

They calculate that land issues will win over the dispossessed rural peasantry and Dalits; the ethnic card will win over a broad-based segment from the marginalised elite to the semi-educated youth in district headquarters and smaller towns; but it is the anti-India card that will win them the support of the Kathmandu hill-origin youth, the lower middle class as well as the older royalist conservative constituency. By projecting the Madhesi parties as having sold out to Kathmandu because of pressure from Delhi, they even hope to generate support in the Tarai.

The third reason is that the only way Prachanda can create space for himself within the party to deliver on any promises to the NC-UML or internationals is by sounding radical in public.

Why else would he end the House obstruction a day after his fiery speech? The Maoists even agreed to discharge the disqualified from cantonments before the third phase of their agitationspeaked. One part of the Maoist strategy is to prepare for a confrontation, communicate with multiple constituencies, paint India-President-Army-PM as the pantheon of villains, and flag up the possibility of a right-wing takeover. But they will also cooperate and keep doors open for a compromise. Both strategies go together, and by publicising the first, the leadership defuses pressure from the hardliners and creates space to work on the second. What is certain is that Prachanda's public stance will not win him friends in Delhi. There is a sense in the Indian establishment that Prachanda has failed to be a mature leader once again, and succumbed to the hardliners - proving the Maoists cannot be trusted.

Prachanda's nuanced analysis may have been partially correct. But it is unhelpful in resolving the present impasse and could descend to mindless bigotry on the streets.

Dealing with Delhi, Editorial - FROM ISSUE #482 (25 DEC 2009 - 31 DEC 2009)
Parliament to resume - FROM 18 DEC 2009
Maoists want talks with Delhi - FROM 18 DEC 2009
End on a high - FROM 25 DEC 2009

1. Arthur
What a strange argument. Plain speaking is "unhelpful". To avoid "mindless bigotry on the streets" one should seek "friends in high places". Perhaps this kind of argument makes more sense in Nepali than in english. Or perhaps not...

2. ashuosh
'Tis strange indeed, the way Nepali talking heads think. In their desire to "rationalize" Maoists actions, they forget the head and tail of their own logic.

3. jange
Mr. Arthur's statement are understandable. The author makes the mistake of assuming that the Maoists are a political party and therefore he has to do some pretty convoluted intellectual acrobatics to find a logical reason for their actions. See them for what they are- a mafia organisation with political slogans, and all will be clear. Then their actions will be explicable and logical. As the saying goes- There are none as blind as those who do not want to see.

4. Ashuosh
Of course, Prashant Jha's fault is not as bad as the commentator who think that if he keeps repeating the same lie over and over again, it'll become true.

5. Sargam
Arthur's way of reasoning is all but English. Maybe he is from Norway or Pakistan. He seems all the time spinning his wheel, and at the same time appears to be sucked in the vortex between mediocrity and a crashing bore.

6. Arthur
There may be a simpler explanation for the author's convoluted intellectual acrobatics. The author may himself understand what is going on (as he sometimes seems to in other articles) but may feel it would be "unhelpful" to speak more plainly to the english speaking middle class in view of the mindless bigotry of some of them. There is nothing puzzling about preparing for a confrontation while keeping doors open for a compromise. How else would any rational political leader behave? The need to "rationalize" this with convoluted explanations about "hardliners" may reflect the fact that readers are only familiar with the pretend politics of intrigue and not with how real political conflicts are conducted. As for ending the Parliamentary obstruction the day after, why would one need to continue to obstruct Parliament in order to force acceptance of civilian supremacy when one has just demonstrated power to stop the whole country? Are the Kathmandu middle class so blind they still cannot see which party is strongest in Kathmandu itself? Such a huge "mafia"!

7. Patriot
I approve Prachanda's public call for dialogue with India, and his courage to openly irritate India with the accusations. I dont understand critics who claim he has in a way surrendered our sovereignty. Our sovereignty was always only 'partly' ours and Prachanda has only reiterated that. It is parties like NC, UML who have sold our sovereignty to India. Nepal needs fair relations with its neighbors to develop and we must have the rights to cultivate productive, long-term relations with both India, China. We must resist all foreign interventions of the most blatant form that NC, UML promotes.

8. Satya Nepali
To the writer and all others who believe that Nepal has always been only "partly sovereign", Nepal has, in the past, been as sovereign as our limiting geography permitted! Our sovereignty has certainly declined in recent years, and this is man-made. It's purely due to the activities of our so-called leaders. However, all those who question the existence of a sovereign, independent Nepal should go back and read some pages from our history. The shallow utterances of this bunch displays little more than their own ignorance of the ideal, zeal and bravery of the many Nepali men and women who valorously gave up their lives for the sake of an independent and sovereign nation. It's sad that such a legacy is treated with such little respect by the many armchair commentators of today. But it's more a reflection of their own personality than aything else. How can we expect anything great from those who cannot appreciate the same in others??

9. Satya Nepali
Jange, I'm sorry to say, but I think you're quite wrong to think the Maoists are nothing more than a mafia i.e. criminal organization. That too is an under-appreciation of its own kind...

10. jange
Satya Nepali, comment 9- Just reflecting on my encounters with them so far. I am willing to change my mind on the basis of experience. So far, I have tried to get them to behave like a political party but to no avail.

11. rahul singh
Well, Prashant's analysis is right in tactical question of maoist manouevre but one has to understand it's not just about tactics but also about strategy. What Prachanda adressed in CA-"National sovereignty and Foreign policy" is the bitter reality of Nepalese political history. Maoist a genuine Self-made Political force without any A,B,C,D-international player support has comeup here with it's sole Mass Support-no-body can have benifit of doubt...The day Maoist will quit it's radical agenda, Maoist would be tagged the greatest so-called Democratic Force in Nepal...They won't surrender, that's the Problem for many ill-wishers of this Poor Little but very influential country....

12. Patriot
Satya Nepali, sorry to say, but you are simply nit picking on my comment to the point of getting personal ... which is ridiculous. When I say 'partly sovereign' I am trying to tread the grey area where we are sovereign but not fully so. Pls dont derive your own half baked conclusion that I am being disrespectful to those ancestors who have sacrificed their lives for Nepal's independence. Your immature sweep-it-all-under-the-rug attempt to silo my comment erodes the obvious meaning that I am trying to say. Your inability to get the meaning of otherwise such a simple statement is appaling, like one of those many wanna-bes who will blow something obvious way out of proportion, pretty much like our politicians.

13. Satya Nepali
Patriot, I really didn't mean to offend you. I'm sorry the phrase "armchair commentators" may have been a bit confusing. I meant to refer to Jha and other columnists of this paper rather than the reader-commenters. If you know in your heart what your values and opinions are, then there's no need to take offence at my statements. The fact is, through many editions of this paper, I've picked up this sense that its columnists (and this paper itself to be frank) seem to have a low opinion of our history, or are ignorant of its details. They seem to believe that the Nepali sense of nationalism and sovereignty is just a myth. They are quick to label anything "patriotic" as "ultra-nationalist" and so forth. Now, I agree it is a difficult exercise to draw the line between a healthy and positive sense of patriotism and a negative, fanatic one. And of course, there is no point being fanatically nationalist in today's age. But, to me, this paper seems to be a bit over-zealous to make anything approaching patriotism seem totally out-of-whack. Not sure if other readers share this view too. But I guess this article was the tipping point for me, and I blurted out what I did. No offence to you.

14. Satya Nepali
Jange, I hear you. Many Maoist supporters and activities seem criminal. But for the inner core of the CPN-M, its leaders and idealogues, I think it's just another weapon, another instrument in their toolbox, for the achievement of their ultimate goals.

15. syangjali
Nepalese do not have a sense of nationalism as the word implies. It's only our sense of grievances that come alive when poked and take many forms. Anti-Indian sentiment likewise is truly a result of deep-seated grievance against our own poverty, stupidity, and incapacity. We spill the beans where we see the bucket empty.

16. Ram Shyam
Oh! Sovereignty, Wait, I will ask Ambassador of India in KTM about it and let you know. It was all started by Mr. Tribhuvan Shah- a King of Nepal taking refuge in Indian Embassy. And, Nepal Army Chief is also a honorable Army Chief of India, what about the reverse? Mr. Kapoor, an Indian Army Chief and perhaps the honorable army chief of Nepal, has right to say anything about Nepal's internal politics, something he will not dare mention of his own land. Good luck, long live Madhav Nepal and Nepal's sovereignty.

17. Satya Nepali
Syangjali, Ram Shyam, I can understand that many people are skeptical of things like nationalism and sovereignty these days. All I can say is, don't let the current shitty situation get to you too much. Just because our leaders are screwing things up, don't let that affect your sense of dignity and pride. Every nation emphasizes the positive aspects of its history and downplays the negative to keep up its morale. We too need to do the same. Focus more on the positives, friends.

18. A V Samikkannu
Going by the NT article and the 17 reactions to it , to an outsider like me, it seems that the elite sections of the Nepalis are a totally confused lot when it comes to the question of the chief contradictions that beg for a reasonable resolution at the present juncture of their national life.That Prachanda and his party are not dogmatic but verily pragmatic in their dealings with both India and their compatriots has been very well borne out by their sayings and doings both during and after their short stint in Government. As they have captured power on the slogan of annulment of monarchy as well as assertion of the Nepali sovereignty they could not countenance any compromise on those scores; not only that; their mainstay being the underdogs of the erstwhile tiny kingdom they will surely thwart any attempt from any quarters to undo the gains of the democratic revolution . so they are well within their rights to employ all kinds of tactics to achieve their objective. PS; TO call a Party that has driven the last nail in the coffin of theocracy in that Himalayan Nation as a bunch of ruffians is not only to insult the collective genius of the toiling masses but also to vulgarise their democratic aspirations! A V Samikkannu ,Pappireddippatti, Tamilnadu, India.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)