Pushpa Kamal Dahal and Co Ltd has run its political enterprise with ruthless
It identified the need for a radical force to champion the cause of the downtrodden and the marginalised. It designed the package of services to incorporate conflicting aspirations of ethnic autonomy and integrative nationalism, opposition to special relationship with India and the ambition of gaining its support for their political agenda, virulent anti-monarchism but courting of diehard royalists. To the other parties, the Maoists made an offer of settlement that none of them could rationally refuse: heads I lose and tails you win.
In run-up to elections, the Maoist propaganda machinery was way ahead of all others in seeding dissent in opposition camps and synchronising the strong-arm tactics of YCL hooligans. Those who say that Maoist victory at the polls was surprising are not being fair to the hard work the Maoists put in. Threats may have worked to some extent, but the margin of votes garnered by the Maoists show the people were impressed.
This is a feat worthy of a post-graduate case study thesis on campaign management.
Planning an insurrection, executing a war, consolidating gains through the ballot box and going into government with an agenda of its own, however, are all parts of the political preparation. In Marxist-Maoist ideology, political power is merely the means, the end is to ensure complete redistribution of resources. That's something the Rolpali Revolutionaries have now publicly disavowed. In their manifesto, Dahal and Co talk about reducing the ill-effects of liberalism, adopting public-private partnership, attracting foreign investment and limiting the role of government to that of facilitating growth.
The vocabulary sounds familiar. These are the same medicines the World Bank and IMF have been prescribing for economic growth and its trickle-down effects. What hasn't worked under the NC or UML in the past is unlikely to do the trick just because ex-rebels are driving Nepal's crony capitalism.
The mandate is for change and the revolutionaries will be giving their supporters a raw deal, and ultimately harm themselves, if they begin to revel in the company of FNCCI bigwigs. The dialogue Dahal had with Kathmandu fat-cats and Lalitpur moneybags on Wednesday was perhaps necessary, but there should be deeper conversations with the rural destitute and the urban poor.
Food, clothing, shelter, health and education, the 'adharbhoot abasyakta' that King Birendra's whiz-kids had identified in mid-seventies, remain the basic needs of most Nepalis. Go for economic growth by all means, but ensure the survival of the marginalised. Our experience with food-for-work to bail out vulnerable groups has been notable.
Dahal can transform himself from a temporary Gandhi to a permanent one. He must help women earn, provide shelter for the urban poor and ensure affordable education and health care.
The Maoists can be market-savvy, but the need to reorient failed neo-liberal policies of the past is the only way they can make their mark and help Nepal break the vicious circle of poverty, instability, corruption, moral bankruptcy, helplessness and poverty. The fear of capital flight, tumbling share prices, escalating petroleum import bill or glut in lending is best left to professionals at the Nepal Rastra Bank. The incoming finance minister should concentrate on rising food prices and the necessities of the poor. With the survival of the weakest ensured, the fittest will be better equipped to look after their own interests.
Mr Dahal, Chairman of the Board, now it's your turn. The war hasn't ended, it has just begun.