Nepali Times
State Of The State
A time to heal


Both Marxist Prime Minister Manmohan Adhikari and Maoist Premier Pushpa Kamal Dahal led a government that lasted only nine months. The official residence for prime ministers of Nepal seems to be jinxed: no occupant has served his full term since this bizarre edifice was set up to house palace puppets during the Panchayat.

There are other similarities between the abrupt ousters of Comrades Adhikari and Dahal. Both tried to rule unilaterally despite being a minority in the legislature. Each tried to subvert the system from within in similar ways: get rid of everyone likely to resist and fill every instrument of the state with hardcore loyalists. Both succumbed to Kathmandu's entrenched power elite. But that's where the similarities end.

Within nine months of its term, UML leaders acquired a taste for trappings of power and had no hesitation later in cohabiting with every imaginable political permutation of rightist radicals and leftist militants. The UML has since loyally served prime ministers of all political colours. PM-designate Madhav Kumar Nepal is perhaps the most pragmatic personality of contemporary Nepali politics, and he is the fixer the nation needs to repair broken channels of communication between different national and international stakeholders.

Chairman Dahal is losing his political stature by coming in the way of a man who would be prime minister for only as long as the Maoists wish. The moment Chairman Jhalnath Khanal gets the hint that the utility of Comrade Nepal is over, the rug would be pulled from under the feet of his 22-party coalition of non-Maoist forces.

Adhikari's aborted premiership, Dahal's fall from grace, Nepal's possible eclipse have the same reason: from crimson to pink, communists of every hue scare the hell out of the Delhi establishment. Having seen the way leftist parties perpetuate themselves in office through means fair and foul once they enter the corridors of power, South Block's tolerance level for the left is low.

The list of Dahal's sins in office is long: he disgraced his office with blatant nepotism, favouritism and partisanship. Random charges of bribery don't appear so plausible, but that doesn't make the ills of political corruption any less serious. However, misreading the lips of Indian interlocutors was his gravest miscalculation.

Little wonder, ranking Maoist cadres have been told in no uncertain terms that if they wish to come back to power, they would have to think of a leader more acceptable to the Indian establishment than Dahal. It may not directly imply that the stars of Baburam Bhattarai are in ascendance, but Dahal knows that his glory days are over.

That's the reason the man who was instrumental in bringing down the Shah dynasty has begun to whine. He may bounce back, but communism isn't prone to political reincarnation.

The UML has an asset the Maoists didn't: the bureaucracy. Unlike Dahal, Nepal doesn't have to worry about war-scarred combatants itching to take up guns once more to settle old scores regardless of the consequences of their rash actions. The international community was apprehensive at best of the Maoists' intention, with NGO-run UML, they know what they get when they are paying for it.

Comrade Nepal may surprise everyone by removing the curse that no leftist occupant can last longer than nine months at Baluwatar. In order to do that, he would have to consult Dahal and Koirala as often as possible but keep a constant eye on his own party colleagues. Without an insider, no hidden hand can play foul in the game of musical chairs that are inherent to all evolving parliamentary democracies.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)