The cacophony of near-delirious utterances by leaders of the historically fragile seven party alliance continue to make interesting headlines, thanks to the partisan media, meddling diplomats and self-seeking donors.
While Madhab Nepal wants to hold talks with the Maoists "at any cost" (whatever that means) Girija Koirala would do so publicly. Shailaja Acharya maintains that doing so will be disastrous for the party and the country. But the people themselves will have nothing to do with the parties until they purify themselves: purging corrupt leaders, democratising themselves, ending dynastic rule, and making finances transparent.
To add to these dynamics, the leaders of America and India recently agreed in Washington (presumably at the latter's urging) that political parties should be restored to power in Nepal. Obviously it is in both their national interests to make that call. For the American president, a blanket prescription of multiparty democracy everywhere remains the only rationale for justifying the Iraq war. He evidently has little time to go into the agony and frustrations of the Nepali people at the hands of corrupt politicians following the restoration of 'democracy' in 1990.
For the Indian prime minister, given his government's love for Bhutan's autocracy and the Burmese junta, the prescription is obviously inspired more by expediency than by principle. Since most Nepali politicians hold themselves very much in thrall of India, extracting concessions from them such as on river deals would be so much easier. But what seems to have escaped America's attention during the visit is that while it is engaged in a global war on terror, our Maoist rebels continue to enjoy safe haven in India.
However misplaced the Singh-Bush statement on Nepal, it carries an ominous ring for us in our quest for genuine democracy. We need a government of the people, by the people, and for the people and not what we had: a government elected by people, but run by the corrupt for themselves and their cronies.
The leaders of the present regime, however, must realise that the peoples' lack of support for the parties on the streets should not be interpreted as support for it. The people are with the government only by default because they withhold power from the parties in their present state.
If there is a dramatic change in party leadership at the hands of their Young Turks, the present equation could dramatically change. The government therefore is engaged in a rather precarious war of wits. Only by better delivery of development services will it win the people over, earn admiration and support of friends abroad, and most importantly, strengthen the monarchy as a much-needed countervailing force on behalf of poor and powerless Nepalis.
However, if the recent budget is any guide it seems to be business as usual even in these unusual times. No country has developed without unshackling the creative energies of its people. The process is about building their capacity and entails much more than allocating a little more money for agriculture or prioritising the Karnali Zone.
The Finance Minister swore by the Tenth Plan provisions, most of which are ritualistic, stale and ineffective, and even counterproductive. In contrast, we have living examples of successful community initiatives even when politicians were plundering the nation. This is true people power, and it shows what the people can achieve when they have their destiny in their own hands. It is only by supporting such initiatives that the government can be more pro-people than the ones we had so far.
But all indications are that the present regime is anaesthetised with complacency. The price of this could be very high.