When Prime Minister Girija Koirala finally arrived at the Constituent Assembly on Wednesday, night had fallen. He ignored the Nepal Army's guard of honour that had waited around all day in New Baneswor.
Koirala must have been sore at the way negotiations had drifted at Baluwatar all day. With his own cabinet colleagues and senior party functionaries dealing directly with the army brass, the premier had very little elbow room to persuade the Maoists to accept a compromise on presidential powers.
In the end, he had to present a deadlock as a settlement to save face and end the first session with an obligatory declaration of a republic. Such a perfunctory pronouncement could have easily been done had the meeting begun on schedule in the morning. It would have saved the newly-elected members unnecessary fatigue and the embarrassment of the diplomatic corps ridiculing "the Nepali way of doing things at the last hour" in the visitor's balcony.
Early on Wednesday morning, Maoist negotiators were the only ones to arrive at Baluwatar fully prepared. With an eye on the post of an executive president, the Maoists insisted that the change in interim constitution must accept their party manifesto and follow the French Model. Nudged by the army, the NC and UML insisted that the supreme commander-in-chief and the head of government should not be the same person.
In the end, Bhadrakali prevailed over Baluwatar and Koirala now probably fears that the generals have someone other than him in mind for the first president. Hence Koirala's snub to the military band. In the next seven days of CA recess, the real bargaining will be between the Maoists and the Nepal Army over who will be president.
Gyanendra is taking all the flak for bringing the 240-year old Shah dynasty to an abrupt and ignoble end. Much of it is well deserved. However, it was probably the misadventures of the then Royal Nepal Army that ultimately helped bring down the monarchy.
Even from the sidelines, it was clear from day one of Gyanendra's reign that the army would hold sway over all affairs of state. The moves of consolidation of power that began to unfold within a month of his accession to the throne in June 2001 had all the hallmarks of a CIA Counter-insurgency Manual.
If the debacle at Holeri hadn't happened on 12 July 2001 to discredit and dishonour Koirala forcing him to resign, it would have been necessary to invent something like it. The army needs an unfettered right to create a reign of terror for creating a security state.
Had the high-security Dang Barracks not been overrun by the Maoists in Novmber 2001, something else like that would have been necessary to impose an emergency. From then onwards, 21 February, 22 May, 4 October in 2002 and finally 1 February 2005 were milestones in the slide of the Shah dynasty into political oblivion. Gyanendra signed the death warrant of the monarchy the day he acquiesced to the army's request to fracture and sideline the NC.
The army's strategists see the NC as the biggest obstacle in finishing the job of the militarisation of governance in Nepal. If it's necessary to prop up Maoists to achieve that aim in the short term, so be it. Those were probably the details that were discussed between powerful emissaries of the defence establishment and the Maoist leadership during their helicopter-borne Rasuwa rendezvous last week.
Prolonged interesting times seem to be the destiny of this nation. The all-important constituent assembly has turned out to be a side-show. But planners meticulously executing their moves may have forgotten to factor the rest of us: common Nepalis who will never again accept any dictatorship, be it Maoist totalitarianism or military authoritarianism.