Nepali Times Asian Paints
PRASHANT JHA
Plain Speaking
War games


PRASHANT JHA


The politics over CA extension is based on the assumption that the Maoists are bluffing. They need the CA the most for they lose a legitimate source of strength if it is dissolved. At the last minute, they will - irrespective of whether Madhav Kumar Nepal resigns - back the amendment to extend the CA by a year. They may lose face, but they live to fight another day.

This could well be true. The Maoists allow the CA to end, and they will be blamed for being 'anti-peace and anti-constitution'. They will have to be on the streets even as others continue to enjoy power, despite the diminished legitimacy of each state institution. So the party will be under immense pressure not to play 'spoiler'. And the risk of a confrontation - where the objective conditions do not favour the Maoists - would rise up.

In the politburo meeting early this week, there was disappointment at the failure of the strike and questioning of the leadership's judgment. But another refrain was how the present process was failing to deliver the 'change' the Maoists had hoped for and that it was time to consider fresh ideas.

The dogmatists tried to capitalise on the disillusionment and said that the principal contradiction was no longer with the 'remnants of feudalism', but with 'expansionists and its brokers'. Mohan Baidhya (Kiran) and Netra Bikram Chand (Biplab) proposed a new united front with 'nationalists' (read royalists and conservatives) against India. This would have been a total reversal of the party line since 2005, and was rejected. The 'democratic republic' line prevailed, but it was concluded that unconditional support to the extension would be meaningless, for the fundamental political disagreements would remain. The final decision will now be taken by the central committee that meets from Friday.

But the focus on the Maoists has neglected other layers around the politics of extension.

The ultra-left (and the ultra-right) have a shared interest in seeing the end of the CA with sections of the Indian establishment. Delhi feels that the Maoists are the most vulnerable at the moment, and they should be allowed an extension only if they sign on the dotted line and deliver on commitments. But Indian sources also add they will go along with the general mood of the domestic factors.

Echoes of this, predictably, can be found in the decision of the NC central committee-parliamentary party meeting which made extension conditional on Maoists delivering on issues in the package deal. But leaders like parliamentary party chief Ram Chandra Poudel, who fancies himself as the next PM, supported an unconditional extension. Incumbent NC ministers also went along with the cabinet decision to extend the CA by a year.

For once, Madhav Nepal's role will be crucial. His role over the past year has been to sit tight, and ensure there is no broad agreement between parties, for he would then lose his job. Some of his aides suggest that Nepal does not want to be in the saddle so he is held responsible for the dissolution of the CA, and is contemplating resigning on May 28 if there is no deal by then. But his conscience is flexible and the temptation to enjoy Baluwatar for some more time could overwhelm it.

One of the most astute observers of Nepali politics has likened all this to Chakravyuha - a battle formation in the Mahabharata designed by the Kaurava commander, Drona. The Pandava warrior Arjun's son, Abhimanyu, knew how to break into the ring but not how to leave it. He died while trapped inside.

By locking themselves into difficult positions, Nepali politicians have entered the battle. They hope to have left enough manoeuvering space to get out. We will soon find out if they have succeeded.

Correction: In the second paragraph of this article, the hard copy read "And the risk of a confrontation that will favour the Maoists rises." This should in fact read "And the risk of a confrontation - where the objective conditions do not favour the Maoists - would rise up."

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1. jange
All Nepali political parties, except of course the Maoists, got into this mess 15 odd years ago when the Maoists started their violent campaign. All the parties hoped that the Maoist violence would enable them to further their own agenda and that the violence would have no negative impact on them. They are only now realising that political development CANNOT come through violence and belatedly decided to take a stand.

Had the stand against using violence as  a political tool been taken 15 years ago we would have avoided thousands of deaths and billions of rupees of destruction. Not to mention the setback by at least a decade of the social and political development of Nepal.


2. Nick Sharma
Curious- who is the astute observer?? 

3. Arthur
What a strange analysis. Who is actually trapped by the peace process and Constituent Assembly elections like Abimanyu entering the Chakra vyuha?

The old parties are stuck with the fact that they cannot return to military rule and civil war. If they agree to actually complete the peace process and introduce an agreed Constitution they will be faced with losing state power at elections afterwards. If they they don't, they still cannot govern for long without facing elections.

Both ways they continue to lose support and the Maoists continue to gain support.



4. Shyam Limbu
The writer is utterly confused. In his perpetual quest for showcasing progressiveness, he initially glorifying Madhesh uprising. Now, when  the opportunist madhesi leader, who are nothing but converts to cash in madheshi agenda have run out of juice, the writer is glorifying the Maoists. This is what happens when you spend more time in pub drinking and discussing politics with 20+ hippies without real proper degrees and understanding real politicking. Spend sometime reading and you will soon know that the road your godfathers in the Maoist party want to embark is no different than that of Hugo Chavez. If and when they have their day, you will slip to your maternal uncle's home in India, but millions like myself will be in lurch. Stop drinking and start reading!


5. saroj rana
How is this piece glorifying the Maoists? Isn't it showing us the internal maoist dynamics, who in NC wants extension, and the big brother's interference.

How have his past articles glorified Maoists?

Last week, he wrote:
The Maoists derive a degree of their strength through their coercive apparatus. The logic of the peace process was that they would have to give up these structures, primarily the PLA...The Maoists seem to recognise that playing a double game on the PLA (saying it is under the Special Committee while maintaining an iron grip) is no longer possible.

Two weeks ago, he said:
Maoist protests are strengthening precisely these groups and weakening the progressives within NC and UML. In fact, there are sections within the Maoists who have an extremely unholy understanding with certain arch-conservatives, all in the name of 'nationalism'. And both these groups may want to see an end to the CA. The Maoists also have to realise that their own actions while in government sowed deep doubts about their intent and the onus lies on them to allay those apprehensions. And an urban insurrection is not possible given both the domestic and international situation.

Three weeks ago, before the strike, his piece said:
Kiran and company seem to think mass mobilisation, infused with a semi-violent apparatus, can enable them to capture the state. But the pragmatists within have argued that for a janabidroh to succeed, four elements are necessary – popular mass upsurge; a militant party apparatus; a division within the state security forces, especially NA, with the lower levels refusing to shoot; and support of sections of the international community. At best, the Maoists have the first two. Even there, the popular support of the middle and lower middle class in Kathmandu cannot be guaranteed given their 'vacillating' nature. Moderates in NC and UML, one might argue, would also get pushed towards the right-wing, ruining existing achievements. The Maoist premise is that the non-Maoist politicians will get cold feet, the security organs will not want to get into a confrontation, and India will then try to stitch together a deal rather than risk a conflict with unknown results. If they do arrive at an agreement, the calculated gamble will have paid off. But if the non-Maoist camp does not blink, given that many feel the Maoists are bluffing (since they need a CA extension the most), then this could well go over the brink.

Jha's Madhesi politics will break the country.  He should be accused of that. But read his pieces carefully; the guy has information that comes from reporting and access to sources.


6. saroj
And Arthur - you really think elections will happen in this country as long as the PLA remain in the cantonments and there is a chance of Maoists winning. Announcing elections will be another way to trap Maoists. Doesnt your Marxism show you that.

7. hange

"But Indian sources also add they will go along with the general mood of the domestic factors."  (?!!)

Jha, that is so very kind of India to actually let us "domestic factors" decide our own future!  The condescension with which our southern neighbour views & treats us is only eclipsed by your further misconception that all Nepali politics originates from South Block.  It doesn't.  While I disagree with the means the Maoists have employed and doubt the sincerity of PKD & BRB, there can be no doubt that the rank and file cadres are a true peoples' movement.  A domestic movement.  One that the Indian political aficionados completely miscalculated in the last elections. 

Methinks you put a little too much faith in the words spoken by a few in New Delhi.  They can't handle their own Naxalite problem, what makes you think they can handle our issues?  Hell, they can't even turn old Delhi into a respectable place for habitation.



8. Arthur
saroj rana #5, I agree with you that Prashant Jha is not "glorifying Maoists" at all. It is just that he actually tries to analyse Maoists instead of simply shouting at them angrily so people who can only shout at them think this is "glorifying".

On Madhesh issues I think he writes with more knowledge. On Maoist issues you think he has good information and sources. I am less sure of that. For example he writes as though he was present at Maoist politburo meetings. But such meetings are private.

#6 Yes I do think elections will happen with the PLA still in cantonments and with the Maoists likely to win. It has already happened once and, since Maoists are now the mainstream and majority, the only way I think it could not happen for a long time is by military rule (in which case the PLA would not be in cantonments but fighting the NA).

If the PLA did not exist then of course the Royal Army would have been used to prevent Maoists winning elections (eg by not holding elections as under the Panchayat). But civil war didn't work so I don't think most of the anti-Maoists (apart from a few) want to try civil war again.

I must admit that I do not understand Nepalese politics and especially the current situation well enough to be confident about what I think is happening now. Of course it is impossible for a foreigner, especially one who does not speak Nepali at all, to have a good understanding. But I feel more confused than usual about what is happening at the moment.

My confusion is because it seems obvious to me that the UML and NC would be in a completely untenable position if they tried to govern for long without a Constituent Assembly and without elections. They depend on a "democratic" cover. The panchayatis tried to do it and failed, so I don't see how UML and NC could even try.

On the other hand a lot of the evidence does not support my assumptions. In particular there is little talk of holding fresh elections, except from the RPP and sections of Congress, neither of whom could hope to win (though the RPP might grow at the expense of Congress).

My guess is that it is simply part of the mindset of all the english language commentators that "democratic elections" means elections won by anti-Maoist parties so elections that would be won by Maoists simply cannot be held - it would be "undemocratic"! On that basis they would imagine that since Maoists won the CA elections the most "democratic" thing is to simply dissolve the CA and not have elections until, magically, the "democratic" parties could win.

But that seems to make so little sense in the real world, and I have so little understanding of this strange mindset, that I am only speculating as to how they think.

Also I would expect the RPP and Congress to be even more inclined to this mindset, and less likely to be talking about elections. So I am puzzled.

I don't understand what you mean by "Announcing elections will be another way to trap Maoists." Please explain how it traps the Maoists.


9. kumar kafle
A little , i agree with Arthur, but i need to ask  to Saroj on how the future election traps the maoist?

LATEST ISSUE
638
(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)


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