Nepali Times
State Of The State
When words are weapons


Koirala's recent pronouncements suggest he isn't yet done with what he sees as the twin dangers to his mission of establishing enduring democracy in Nepal: the monarchy and the Maoists.

He's been reviled by republicans, despised by democrats and censured by socialists for his controversial stand over ceremonial monarchy. At considerable risk to his party's poll prospects, Koirala tried to save some space for the king in the emergent political order.

But palace strategists weren't happy with the constitutional concessions he offered, and after the promulgation of the interim constitution, intensified their campaigns to weaken the position of the prime minister. Through wilful distortion or outright disdain of government directives, diehard monarchists in the bureaucracy and the defence forces did their best to defame and weaken the interim government. Now, predictably, King Gyanendra is the prime target of Koirala's ire.

The communal bias of the establishment was the major reason for so many casualties during the madhes uprising. Allegations of infiltration during peaceful protests can't be dismissed out of hand either. Similarly, it's likely that the administration in Nepalganj used inflammatory language and repression in order to incite violence to undermine the legitimacy of the interim government.

Koirala disregarded all such mischief-makers hoping they'd die out once the political juggernaut of constituent assembly elections gained momentum. But he was forced to speak when his own nominees in the Nepali Congress central committee started to question the judgement of their party president.

The Congress has been the biggest loser in the game of caste politics and electoral arithmetic in recent days. True, the Maoists have lost face due to carelessness and overconfidence of their tarai cadres, but Matrika Prasad Yadav's core support base remains intact. The Maoists have given identity and dignity to Chamars, Doms, Dusadhs, and Musahars-castes that were always prevented from voting. Come elections, they are sure to exert their presence in favour of their saviour.

The UML, ironically enough, depends on the petty bourgeoisie for its existence. Its main constituency in the tarai consists of newly-settled pahadi farmers and itinerant madhesi shopkeepers. If anything, Upendra Yadav has helped Madhab Nepal consolidate his traditional support base.

The Congress has been comfortably dominating every election in the madhes since the 1950s for three reasons: compared to almost all other national leaders, the Koiralas are seen as the most madhesi-friendly, it has traditionally been a party beyond caste politics past, attracting leaders with secular credentials and national stature, and it was known for nurturing and promoting promising leaders from all communities. Bijay Gachhedar, Ram Baran Yadav, and Surendra Chaudhary broke through the communal glass ceiling in the party mainly due to Koirala's patronage early in their political careers.

The Madhesi Janadhikar Forum has demolished all this with a single blow. In the wake of the tarai unrest, Koirala's cronyism and nepotism have been blown out of all proportion. The caste coalition that has evolved around Mahantha Thakur has been exposed for what it is: top-heavy and wobbly. These days Congress madhesi leaders have more sycophants than supporters. Maoist and MJF motivators have shown that they offer the best chance for young people with dreams of a bright political future.

The immediate fall-out of Koirala's short but well thought-out statement has been an embarrassment for the Maoists, who've had the wind taken out of their republican sails. Even the UML's principal political plank, their pseudo-republicanism, will have no buyers. The MJF has been forced to rethink its strategy, and monarchists now know the risks of playing foul. But the biggest repercussions of Koirala's anti-monarchy observations are inside his own party.

Fence-sitters waiting for a nod from the palace to sabotage the seven party-Maoist alliance have given a strong warning.

Now there should be less dilly-dallying in the formation of an interim government and announcement of dates for constituent assembly polls.

CK lal in

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)