Nepali Times
State Of The State
Disrupt polls to have polls



The doublespeak is getting so thick you now need a khukuri to cut through it. Pushpa Kamal Dahal says that the 22-point preconditions put forward by his party are intended to 'ensure' timely, free and fair constituent assembly elections. He promises to prepare the ground for polls by street agitation, forced shutdowns, and mass action. And Comrade Awesome wants us to believe that his new-fangled instruments of electioneering are harmless.

Yes indeed. In the newspeak of Prachandpath war is peace, freedom is slavery and ignorance is strength. Clearly, the comrades are bent on once again postponing elections that were deferred earlier from June to November. Right on cue, the other parties are also hemming and hawing.

There are now hardly 90 days to polling date. Minus a month of Dasain-Tihar-Chhath slack in between it's only two months of serious campaigning. We assumed the legislators would be in a tearing hurry to get back to their electorates. Not so. This week, instead of proroguing parliament it was prolonged.

Dahal's 22-point list is a compendium of Maoist slogans covering everything from declaration of republic to democratisation of the Nepal Army and control over 'regressive foreign forces' to the release of stipends for cadres in cantonments.

Then there are contradictions that inevitably emerge when competing groups within the party are bent upon having their say. If the monarchy is to be abolished forthwith, Ram Bahadur Thapa shouldn't worry too much about the army at Narayanhiti and the security detail of Gyanendra's family.

Though a vocal section of Kathmandu high society has been quick to pounce upon planned protests by Maoists, perhaps it's too early to fear a re-enactment of the October Revolution. Without a mutiny in the ranks of the security forces, perhaps Moscow wouldn't have collapsed the way it did in 1917 and there was no internet nor global monitoring of peace processes in the days of Lenin, Trotsky, and Bukharin. Besides, it's facile to assume that Messrs Dahal and Bhattarai are unaware of the consequences of armed adventures at this stage.

It's not that Maoists fear the electorate more than any other party in the government. Compared to the discredited UML and the divided NC, the Maoists have retained their core support base among the dalits and the marginalised section of janjatis. Despite the anti-Maoist tone of the Madhes Uprising, economic disparity in tarai is conducive to the brand of leftwing radicalism espoused by ideologue Baburam Bhattarai.

With its middle-class support base, the MJF will offer a political challenge to Rambaran Yadav and Mahantha Thakur rather than to Matrika Yadav and Prabhu Sah. It's just that the Maoists want to go to the electorate on their terms and keep their cadres engaged in the interim.

Postponement of polls is important for Maoists for exactly the same reasons the international community wants it to be held as soon as possible. Once the polls weren't held in June as agreed the Maoists lost face. Only an election can give them the legitimacy they so crave.

Without popular mandate, the US terror tag is still there. The bureaucracy continues to be dismissive of Maoists out in the districts. To re-establish their political credentials, Maoists probably want to have a fresh accord, something that can't be achieved without peaceful agitation. Hence the antics aimed at their partner parties in legislature, government and district headquarters.

The international community wasn't terribly enthusiastic about polls in the steaming heat of June. November is different matter altogether. It's peak tourist season, and every probable international monitor is looking forward to election tourism in the Himalaya in autumn. The Maoists will have all hell to pay for disappointing some very high-profile monitors. The consequences of cancelled working vacations of UN bigwigs will be a lot harder to handle than complaints of contract employees holed up at the BICC.

CK lal in

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)