Nepali Times
Plain Speaking
The Gambler


Prachanda is playing three high-risk tactical games. The Maoist chairman's primary objective is neither a national unity government, nor the constitution or peace process. It is to split the UML. His political strength, bargaining power, and leverage have been the highest when a faction of the UML has been with him. During the presidential elections, if the UML and Maoists had been together, they would have got their man into office.

If Jhalanath Khanal had stuck to his word, the Maoist-led government would have successfully sacked General Katawal. If a large section of UML MPs had not raised the banner of revolt on 28 May, the Maoists would not have got the 3-point agreement on favourable terms.

Prachanda is banking on Khanal's ego and ambition, and the old 'progressive' streak of many UML MPs. His preferred outcome is obviously to get the UML to back a government under his leadership. If that is not possible, due to resistance from Madhav Nepal and KP Oli, he will throw the 'left unity' card and back Khanal as PM. If Nepal and Oli publicly oppose this, they risk earning the wrath of many party members. If they do block it, Prachanda is hopingKhanal Ė with Bamdev Gautam's help Ė will split the party.

Prachanda's inability to convince his other comrades and Khanal's reluctance to split off his own party while he is chairman will be the biggest impediments to this plan. Either way, this will not resolve fundamental issues since the three key actors of the process remain India, the NC and the Maoists. And the first two will be in a confrontational mood if this scenario comes to pass.

Prachanda's other gamble is to persist with the status quo on the PLA. The PLA is an asset for the chairman, in both inter-party and intra-party games. The former combatants remain a source of power and money for the party institutionally, and Prachanda personally. Barsha Man Pun's clear support for Prachanda as PM has shifted the balance within the party.

Prachanda may make the appropriate noises, but will not complete the process of integration till he is back as PM, and can extract a governance structure Ė both a presidential system and a relatively favourable federal map Ė that helps the Maoists. Some within the party continue to stick to the old Maoist diktat of needing a People's Army and are reluctant to give it up at any juncture. Others are arguing that if giving up the army can help 'preserve existing achievements', including legitimate state power, it is worth it. But a powerful argument Ė across the pragmatic-dogmatic divide Ė is that if PLA integration does not help them exercise control over the Nepal Army, then the original intent is defeated

Either way, any drastic movement on integration Ė either a separation into three camps or a commitment on numbers and modality Ė will be difficult to achieve. This in turn means the constitution-making and power-sharing processes will remain stuck.

Prachanda's third step is playing on India's fears in public, while continuing to lobby desperately in private. His support for the Naxalites and opposition to Operation Green Hunt is based on the calculation that the Indian establishment will become worried about possible links, and go back to the logic that motivated the 12-point agreement of detaching the Nepali Maoists and the Indian ultra-left and undermining the latter, an argument reiterated by former RAW chief PK Hormis Tharakan this week in a rare opinion piece. If this does not happen, and India continues with its hardline stance, he hopes that open solidarity with Indian Naxalites will block Baburam Bhattarai's chances too, since people in Delhi will argue against allowing any Maoist back into power in Nepal.

But Prachanda perhaps does not understand the limits of his power. There is little tolerance in Delhi, or the embassy, for these kinds of games. It has taken a lot Ė the extension of the CA, hectic lobbying by some key people, the calculation that the Maoists have been relatively weakened and their internal divisions Ė for Delhi to give this process a last chance. Prachanda should just look at the militarisation of the open border, and the recent killing of Naxalite spokesperson Azad, to understand the changes in India's attitude to both Nepal and Maoism in general.

How Prachanda's multiple gambles play out will determine the immediate future of Nepali politics.

10+2 for public health, KUL CHANDRA GAUTAM
Green hunt, PUBLISHER's NOTE
Conflict of coverage, CK LAL
Stuff of dreams, INDU NEPAL
What's sticky?, ASHUTOSH TIWARI

1. DG
Prachanda is enfant terrible   or  enfant gate of our politics. He reminds one of Peter Sellar in the movie "The Mouse that Roared."

2. jange
Looks like the Maoists have only their patrons, RAW, left supporting them.

3. suman
No personal offense to Prashant, but his tone always seem to contain a hint of scolding for us in telling us how to be a good boy and  behave appropriately against the big brother India.  Reading between the line: he tells us (e.g., Prachand) how we should be towing the Indian line.   He often takes Nepal's situations and aspirations for granted while analyzing the Indian interests.

I would expect some change of tone next time he puts down the pen and does one of these columns.  This "pro-Indian interest viewpoint" is getting old... 

4. hange
suman, I couldn't agree more; it's always, "India wants this, India will not approve that," with Jha.  While a good writer, Prashant really needs to get past this mental block: our futures may be influenced but are not decided in Delhi.  Just look at our last elections for proof.  India can make our decisions difficult: but we can still make them and they are definitely ours to make.  Hopefully our politicians have more breadth of vision than Jha but, chances are, they have even less.

5. ashis
Suman you have not read this guys pieces. He was opposed this government when India supported this government with every thing. He was backing the Maoists. I remember he was angrily question India in some Indian papers. His allegiance is to Maoists. I think he is practical and knows India's power in Nepal that is why he tells his comrades to work with them.

6. ashis
And Prachanda has been out of powr because he has not heard India. So Jha is giving a good lesson

7. Sushant Sharma
RAW's mole in the Maoist den?

8. Gole
Father Raw is waiting The  Return of the Prodigal Son.After solving their internal squabblings, they can fulfill  their mentor's conditions then  they can form their government.

9. Danny
The Gambler.
  Advice to the Gambler.:
The best throw of dice is to throw them away.
Gamesters and race- horses  never last long.

10. kris
I agree with you. Prahcanda is creating fear. He is evil. People should stop backing him. I hope Maoist will find another party leader.

11. john
unfortunately, what he writes is what happens in Nepali politics. Our politicians see the gameas  incomplete unless little bit of India is added into it. Home grown politics for nepali politicians is easier said than done. Much we may dislike what Prashant says like Suman did, I think the truth is, there is no political flavour of our own without Indian ingredience. Sorry.. we have to live with it

12. suman
A columnist's job is to give us a fresh perspective too. He always paints a gloomy picture about our politics and the nationhood.  This is fine, but telling us to tow Indian line --translation: because we are poor, worthless, small nation, corrupt, out of their league, against Indian interest, messy--  in every piece is not very good.  He gloats on Indian state craftmanships and tells us "that's the way it, and they will have to do what's necessary to protect their interests."   This bending over backward surrender mentality needs to change about us Nepalis.

Why can't he stand for Nepal and tell the Indian ambassador to go shove it, instead of telling our politicians to put their tails between their legs!  Sometimes, a respectable news magazine like Nepali Times can tell the Indians to back off!  Just because our politicians don't do it does not mean that we citizens should surrender too. 

13. hange
ashis, actually, Prachanda is out of power because he resigned.

14. Arthur
Its well worth studying the referenced article "This time in Kathmandu" by former RAW chief P K Hormis Thakaran at this link.

Although India has turned away from the positive policy towards real change in Nepal that he advocated in an earlier article welcoming the Maoist victory in CA elections, his recent analysis confirms that India has gained nothing from that turn and would be better off returning to a positive attitude.

Opposing democratization of the Nepal Army and integration of the two armies with accusations that it would mean one party Maoist domination rather than safeguarding multi-party democracy has failed as a policy. The former RAW chief understands that it is India rather than the Maoists that will have to change policy. Why can't Prashant Jha grasp that?

The Maoists are not going to surrender their army while the semi-feudal army remains unreformed.

That should be the central focus of any analysis of current tactics. Pretending that is only the position of "dogmatists" and could change makes Prashant Jha sound less anti-Maoist than the UMLs and NC and just anti-Prachanda (and anti-dogmatist).

But it only results in confused analysis. There are no gamblers in the Maoist party leadership who would risk their lives and everything their movement has fought for on trusting to the goodwill of a feudal army.

Once you grasp that the terms for peace included democratization of the Nepal Army and integration of the two armies and won't change, the current situation becomes less incomprehensible.

Nepal will remain in transition until those terms are carried out, whichever party or coalition holds office. The transition would be smoother and quicker with a national consensus government as originally agreed. Or the old parties can continue to weaken themselves and strengthen the Maoist opposition by demonstrating their corruption and incompetence in different permutations. It is entirely up to them.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)