Politics in Nepal is so stuck that when it does move, it does so in fits and starts. The president passes a budget that isn't a budget because to oppose it would mean that the country's economy would grind to a halt. Not that the country is going anywhere, but not having even a partial budget now would have created an even more unholy economic mess than we are in at the moment.
The opposition strategy was to make the budget a bargaining chip in negotiations over leadership of an election government. But the wily Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai called their bluff. No politician, in the final analysis, wants to be seen opposing a budget that feeds salaries and allowances to the state system. Not even the president could afford to do that.
So the opposition winked to Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal to take their private acceptance of a two-third budget to the president on condition that he (Dahal) would get Prime Minister Bhattarai to step aside. We get the feeling that the NC and the UML, out of desperation, doth protest too much. Dahal, whose animus towards Bhattarai is well known, was willing to mediate. It was a face-saving device all around. So the budget was passed in the nick of time before the president could have legally pushed Bhattarai out for failing to hold elections as scheduled on 22 November, and failing to set a new date. You with us so far?
It's not that our PhD prime minister is exceedingly smart, it's just that the NC is exceptionally daft. It's central committee is so polarised that the NC is in effect two parties. It cannot come up with a candidate to replace Bhattarai, and it doesn't have a proactive vision for the country that would be an alternative to the prime minister's agenda. And most importantly, the NC is fielding the same discredited batsmen, and not bringing out its agile and dynamic hitters. Forget the quarrel over who gets to be prime minister, even as an election campaign strategy this is a blunder.
The so-called 'leaders' of our country don't seem to have learnt from the stinging slaps on the cheeks they have got. The whacks on the faces of Messrs Khanal, Koirala, and now Dahal, are symbolic reminders to the party bosses about the outrage the public and their own cadre feel about their behaviour.
The country has no stomach for another agitation. The NC and UML are badly advised if they think the people will spontaneously pour out into the streets to oust Bhattarai. They want our bickering politicos to sort out their quarrels, agree on an all-party election government, and hold polls in six months time and let the chips fall where they may. Is that too much to ask?
Snakes and ladders