The present political disarray has resulted because none of the parties have been able to judge, and coherently answer, two questions. Do they want the next elections, and when? Do they want a constitution, and how much can they compromise to get that?
The Maoists remain the strongest organised force. Their internal assessment is that despite greater disillusionment, voters are willing to give them another chance. This week's revelation that 65 per cent Nepalis are poor shows why the Maoists have a readymade constituency. Ethnic minorities and Dalits continue to invest hopes in them. They are the richest party around, and are capable of instilling fear in their adversaries.
Those who see it this way argue in favour of the present political line. They say that 'institutionalising existing achievements' through a constitution would be a major achievement. If it requires certain compromises on the PLA, so be it, for the Maoists would then remain an invincible force because of their mass-based fronts. But if this line had prevailed and Maoists were sure of electoral success, they would have pushed for a constitution by May 28 this year.
The counter-argument is there are no guarantees in electoral politics. Public sentiment is fickle. Rivals will not be complacent, and 'reactionaries and expansionists' will do whatever is required to defeat the Maoists. This is why there can be no compromises on the PLA till there is a guarantee that a 'progressive constitution' is written, the Maoists are back in power, and till they are sure that the next elections are for them to win. If this does not happen, then the present political line only has tactical value and the party should just wait for the next opportune moment to strike through a mass uprising.
The existence of this other line, and Prachanda's opportunism, gives other parties enough grounds to suspect their intentions. But they are struggling with their own dilemmas.
The NC has not learnt anything from the 2008 debacle. Only harping on 'democracy' is not enough to win over young, aware, and restive voters. Old-time supporters cannot shape local level outcomes. The party has no clue how to deal with ethnic assertion. It has not brought in newer Madhesi faces, figured out caste alignments, or pushed the 'Madhesi agenda'. Without this, it cannot recover its base in the Tarai.
Most in the NC recognise the need for a new constitution, but there is a strong element within saying this would only benefit the Maoists as their agenda of 'republicanism, secularism, federalism' would be vindicated. The only way for the NC to re-emerge as the primary national player, they argue, is by allying with the conservatives. This group may be peripheral, but cannot be dismissed.
The UML controlled the state for the past year, which helped it develop a strong patronage network. But while Nepalis are adept at using those in power, it is the anti-incumbency sentiment that prevails at crunch time. Their stint in government has destroyed the credibility of its top leaders. And unnoticed in the capital, the trend of UML leaders defecting to the Maoists has continued.
Most of the UML rank and file may be committed to the idea of a new constitution, which forces some of their fairly right-wing leaders to toe the line. But the UML is torn between what it was and what it has become, its radical anti-NC roots and its present status quoist democratic orientation.
The Madhesi parties are fearful of the next polls. They want to be in power, for they see it as the only way to enhance their personal and party coffers and keep their constituency intact. Barring perhaps Bijay Gachhadar, who doesn't believe in anything, most Madhesi leaders also want a new constitution, for they see it as a means to expand political power. But this is where the plot thickens. For a constitution with the kind of province they want, the Maoists are natural allies, but in the 'battle for democracy', they prefer the NC-UML combine.
Efforts at a unity government have failed because the parties could not address these internal questions. They need time to do so. In all likelihood, we will witness a major political crisis in about six months. It is only when the next May 28 deadline approaches that all parties, especially the Maoists, will be forced to make these choices. Till then, they will try to expand their power for an upper hand in the final negotiations.
Isaiah Berlin wrote in The Power of Ideas that Robespierre and Lenin failed to fully translate their ideas into reality. On the contrary, said Bismarck, Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt did. Why do some miss their targets and others do not? For Berlin, the difference is that the former did not understand but the latter understood the nature of human material, including their own. "Robespierre and Lenin did all, or almost everything that was humanly possible to find the right solution (...) But just were able to alter the violence and permanently the order in which they were found and produced a situation that neither they nor their enemies hoped" Berlin wrote. This can serve to statutory issues as well as for not to turn the tables.
An animal-ogy could help us to separate the wheat from the chaff. In the story, involving people and animals, as it explains that some leaders behave like foxes, they claim to know many things, and other leaders who know only one thing but it seemed great for them, making them similar to hedgehogs. A hedgehog in politics is one that holds a great theory of history and applies to all types of litigation, is impatient with those who do not share and is convinced that their belief will prove correct. A recent example was Sher Bahadur Deuba, who confused reality with the great obsession of the neo-cons -rituals and factional lobbying-.
A fox is never satisfied with a single explanation of history, is skeptical about the goodness of the great schemes and prefer to learn from practice. It therefore appears that foxes are more likely to get right. A good current example would be Sujata Koirala, who said what few of her peers dared to say that the nepali politics is what it is and not like Kangressi barons want it to be.
There are foxes, however, do not appear purebred. This is what can happen with KP Oli, who after having lived with one idea in mind, namely a hedgehog as a communist, now, following events, even smiles to the traditional right and follow their path. And there's another type of foxes that are not. They have some perspective of correction, as does Jhalnath Khanal, although, as I said, to correct is of wise men but doing it every day is foolishness.And Ram Chandra Poudel and so called Madhesi leaders like Mahato and Gachhedar could also be taken as a fox, but their problem is that the lack of ideas, big or small, makes them confused with vulgar opportunists.
Although conservatives and neo-conservatives retain considerable influence and, therefore, can impose their will overlapping the immediate political agenda of the Nation, no one should let this happen. It is the policy for Madhav Nepal, Oli and other rejected status-quoists to weaken the democratically elected leaders of Nepal and also for the heads of the match between racks. Naturally, the serious leaders, such as Jhalnath Khanal, Baburam Bhattarai, KB Gurung and others from the parties must be able to overcome this system of "southern shadow"from now on, because no democracy can hold elections to rely on leaders who have been rejected at popular will. With Madhav Nepal's fall it can be done but may not, that nepali politics is put into its basic place: at the hands of democratically elected leaders.
16 JULY 2010 | 2:56 PM NST
It seems plausible that the Madheshi parties have no coherent answer on whether they actually want a new constitution or elections. Even though their record of corruption will result in less support in any future elections, they might not be wiped out, and they could still have more say in the government of Madheshi parts of Terai under a federal constitution than they do as junior partners of the NC and UMLs without a federal constitution.
But both the NC and UMLs face disaster in any election as is clear from points mentioned in the article. So it is absurd to imagine that either of them have any doubts about whether they want an election now. They don't. Consequently they also have to block adoption of a constitution since that would result in an immediate election.
As for the Maoists, the analysis confuses different issues. Given Prashant Jha's analysis that all the other parties would be weakened by elections and that their own assessment is that voters would continue to support them, it follows that Maoists would want elections and would want a new constitution.
But it does not follow that any Maoists would want to agree to the "compromises" on both the PLA and content of the constitution demanded by the parties that fear both elections and a constitution.
Prashant Jha claims that the current line of the Maoists is based on a belief that compromising the agreement for democratization of the Nepal Army and integration of the two armies would still leave the Maoists an invincible force because of their strong mass organizations.
That seems more like Prashant Jha's own belief than a plausible report of a dominant view in a party that has lost thousands of martyrs to massacre and is still suffering from regular murders. Such touching faith in the goodwill of armed feudalists has not been characteristic of Maoists anywhere.
If the compromises being demanded on the constitution would negate federalism, as desired by both NC and UMLs, perhaps even Prashant Jha could see why such "compromises" would not be accepted in return for elections that would only strengthen the Madheshi parties against the Maoists that had betrayed their commitment to federalism.
Prashant Jha's account of the views of opponents of the current line among the Maoists also seems implausible. Those arguing for less flexibility and more focus on preparations for mass uprising could be just as sure of electoral success, but simply much less optimistic about elections actually being held again, given the other parties obstruction and their determination with India to cling to an unreformed Nepal Army.
16 JULY 2010 | 5:42 PM NST
A terrorist organization, with the sole objective of getting to power, murders sixteen thousand people. One-by-one, maiming, stealing children, cutting off heads, bullying children, murdering unarmed people, stealing property, extorting money. Then ten years into acting as the world's most effective criminal gang, operated by the region's most powerful country.
Suddenly, the murderers, the thieves, the extortionists, by the virtue of a few speeches, are a respectable bunch of oily, greasy respectable "political" outfit, with a strategy that would determine the fate of a country.
Bravo, absolutely brilliant, thoroughly fabulous.
17 JULY 2010 | 7:24 PM NST
"Do they want the next elections, and when? Do they want a constitution, and how much can they compromise to get that?"
The answer to the first is No, never.
The answer to the second is more complex.
It is no for the first part, because they don't care all that much. Nevertheless, they are going to have to produce one. What they would do for that is to go round and round in circles, trying to tire out the people of this country, and once all resistance is broken; they will then produce what is already prepared as a breakthrough.
The real answers that they must provide in totality and with clarity are,
What is it that they really want the people to do so that they can live in peace?
Do they want us to give up our religion, yes they do.
Do they want us to give up our memory, yes they do.
Do they want to distort our history, yes they do.
Do they want to line up everybody who does not agree and shoot them, you bet they do!
Once these facts are clearly acknowledged, there will be no further need for imagination converted into writing masquerading as an analysis.
18 JULY 2010 | 3:00 PM NST
This is what the "Nepali Junta" waiting for, once the another deadline finished definitely all these parties come under the bump, but who care they will form another party with new name with same manslayers politicians.
18 JULY 2010 | 4:38 PM NST
Not a bad piece overall though I must agree with some of what Arthur & Slarti have stated.
'That seems more like Prashant Jha's own belief than a plausible report of a dominant view in a party that has lost thousands of martyrs to massacre and is still suffering from regular murders.'
Arthur, my dear, a little less heavy on the dramatics shall we? One could equally call it , ' . . . a party that has killed thousands of martyrs in massacres and is still causing suffering through regular murders'
21 JULY 2010 | 3:11 AM NST
Hange #7, simply repeating that Maoists were responsible for the more than ten thousand killed during the people's war does not change the simple reality that the overwhelming majority of those killed were alleged Maoists massacred by the security forces.
Nor do daily posts shouting "murder" at Maoists by jange and others change the simple reality that the overwhelming majority of political killings since the ceasefire have been murders of Maoists. One or two such killings are reported almost every week. But of course far more attention is focussed on purely speculative accusations against Maoists like the claim that they were responsible for the recent kidnapping of a hospital director by a criminal gang. Those venting their indignation against Maoists never apologize afterwards when the accusations are proved false and never express indignation when Maoists are murdered almost every week.
In analysing Maoist attitudes towards the army Prashant Jha should pay more attention to the actual reality experienced by Maoists from that army.
BTW my last para in #3 mentions only one alternative explanation for opposition to the current line among Maoists - less optimism that elections would actually be held (instead of Prashant Jha's suggestion of less certainty that Maoists would win). There are of course also many other possibilities - eg more confidence that the Nepal Army soldiers would rebel against being ordered to crush a mass uprising, less importance attached to middle class support in the cities, or less optimism about obtaining it, greater impatience with the prolongation of semi-feudal backwardness during the transition, greater confidence about defeating Indian intervention, less confidence in forcing change in Indian policy etc etc.
Whatever the explanation for internal differences, Prashant Jha's explanation that it results from lack of confidence in Maoist electoral victory is refuted by his own description of the electoral weakness of all the other parties.
22 JULY 2010 | 9:25 PM NST
9. Kamal Kishor
Overall, Jha's ideas seems plausible. Among the failure ones, the Maosists might have gained some sympathy because of the fact that they are the largest party represented in CA but out of power. But none have something to show as achievents in the last two years. I agree with Jha that simply because of their organizational strength and arms they control, they must have been able to handle their failures better than others. Obviously, pressure and force played its part.
UML leads the failure teams. They should just handover the govt to another party: may be to NC. After the demise of GPK, the leadership of NC has not been tested and so should be given a chance.