Nepali Times
The queasy bourgeoisie


During the Constituent Assembly elections last year, the world came to learn of the political loyalties of Nepal's leading business personalities. The Beer Baron turned out to be a Marxist-Leninist. The Noodle Tycoon admitted to have been a closet Stalinist. The owner of a premier trading house joined the Maoists to safeguard his market position. The super-rich, in believing that they can use whoever is in government to their advantage, continue to be supremely confident of their political abilities.

Perhaps that's the reason the overclass has not taken the challenge of the Maoists too seriously. Unlike the panicky NGO-entrepreneurs, the bankers and builders appear to believe that Baburam Bhattarai is no different from Mahesh Acharya or Bharat Mohan Adhikari. This complacence of the rich is confusing the middle class no end.

The class base of Nepal's political parties has never been very clear. However, a rough generalisation was still possible until the mid-nineties. Following the first Jana Andolan, the upper class retained its loyalty to Panchayat-era politicos. Independent professionals and the self-employed gravitated towards the Nepali Congress. The NCP (UML) emerged as the bastion of the petty bourgeoisie. In European terms, these three groupings formed the conservatives, the social democrats and the Hindu democrats of the Nepali polity. Since there was no political force that represented the peasants or the working class, they simply traded their loyalties whenever and wherever they could.

Enter a group of wily political entrepreneurs, who mobilised the unorganised and carefully presented themselves as a credible challenger to all existing forces. For the royalists, this new formation was republican. For the NC's free market fundamentalists, they were reinvented communists. And for the hubristic Brahminists of the UML, these new politicos who organised the outcastes, untouchables and the marginalised were a challenge that undermined their standing at the very core. The Maoist brand name helped - nothing galvanises the underclass as strongly as the idea of getting back violently at their real or perceived oppressors. But it was such an incendiary mix of ideas that the resulting wildfire soon careered out of control. The middle class watched in fascination until the heat of the insurgency became unbearable.

It was the very composition of the Maoist party base that most frightened the insecure middle class. Maoist enforcers were neither peasants nor workers but belonged to a group that Marx called the lumpenproletariat - those renegades of society who often turned out to be "bribed tools of reactionary intrigue". The Maoist people's carnival last week was a mammoth public relations exercise to reassure the Kathmandu bourgeoisie that there was no need to fear a party whose chairman was willing to boogie in public with a Nepali actress. Unfortunately for the Maoists, the charade turned out to be completely counterproductive.

Over half of Kathmandu Valley's three million residents are well off by Nepali standards. In emerging societies, prosperity doesn't come cheap; in fact it often extracts a very heavy emotional, moral and physical price. The protestors that the Maoists paraded around Singha Darbar last week gave the aspiring class of the capital city a glimpse of their own past. No wonder the motorcyclists looked so terrified. The sight of tens of thousands of upstarts singing and dancing, ostensibly to grab their hard-earned comforts, must have been pretty unnerving.

The upper class of yesteryear had at least a vague notion of noblesse oblige and rid itself of its guilty conscience through favouritism, acts of kindness towards those who could come in handy in times of trouble. For the overclass, everything has a price and everybody is for sale, including the Maoists. Meanwhile, the underclass has little to lose and looks up to the Maoists with expectant eyes. So what if Comrade Chairman lives in a fortress? Even in a Dalit village of straw huts, local deities have to be housed inside a brick house.

But for the aspiring class that has earned its present level of prosperity by treating greed as god, the Maoists have little to offer except assurances. The future of the UCPN (Maoist) ultimately depends on how it can win over the terrified middle strata of Nepali society.

1. sabina
this is the most impressive article that revealed the hidden truth of nepali leaders and politics guided by them. political leaders should read it once.

2. pwesl
This comment has been removed by a moderator.

3. Arti
This is a very interesting article. In Nepalese politics, no party has any political ideology. UML is worst, no doubt. But Mr. Lal's favorite NC is no better. In my opinion, Mr. Lal should seriously think why his party is tail of UML? This is the main question I think. Anyways, thank you Mr. Lal for very good article.

4. pwesl
yea, go ahead and remove this comment too ... so much for your so-called democratic credentials.

5. Chyangba
I would appreciate if CK Lal stops writing. The facts and realities are far from what Lal writes. He is politically biased and intellectually bankrupt. Empty vessels sounds much!

6. Sargam
DDream big, think mountains to achieve at least molehill ssuccess. @Chyangba, Your comment had us in stitches! LOL !?!

7. Rodya,Pune
Moral bankruptcy and valuelessness is not an exclusive enterprise and livelihood of pseudo-intellectuals like Chandra Kishore Lal .In Nepal , people from all strata of society have now adopted valuelessness as a fundamental tenet of life. No wonder then that the CEO of Nepal Airlines Corporation(NAC) , Suga Ratna Kansakar , in a recent interview with Rabindra Mishra , an Nepali BBC journalist, was found glibly ready to pledge in the name of his mother to assure the public that he was not receiving any kickbacks in a deal to purchase new airplanes.Nobody felt to be uncomfortable/shameful. Neither the interviewer nor the interviewee and nor the listeners. Contrast this with how M S Liberhan , a retired Supreme Court judge of India , reacted to a journalist's question who asked if it was him who had leaked a report on the Babri mosque demolition in Ayodhya .The leaked report had been causing a political storm for a while in India and when Justice Liberhan, the man who comissioned the report taking seventeen long years , was confronted with that question , he was visibly outraged . He yelled to the media " Get lost !" He further told that he was inaccessible to such questions adding "I am not that kind of a characterless person that I should leak the report. I have submitted the report to the government". This is just an example how blithely we have been accustomed to our contemporary anomie . I can offer million examples to prove the point that in present day Nepal nothing is unacceptable . Nothing. Maybe it has to do with our unthinking and unconscious mode of existence. Otherwise , I do not trace any sense of entitlement to anything on behalf of the old grannies , whom I see , roaming around villages blowing condoms into big balloons on World Condom Day for few pennies. The mental atmosphere that our putative intellectuals display themselves to be within is no way any different . They have their donor distributed condoms to blow !!! Kishore Madhubani in his book " Can Asians Think?" demands that intellectuals and journalists also ought to be accountable for their deeds to their society. But since we live in Nepal , we better do not expect anything like this . Else , may I dare to ask Mr. Chandra Kishore Lal who lampooned other Nepali putative intellectuals for seeing the 'Maoist problem' as a political one ( instead of a terrorist problem) in his NT column immediately after the Dunai attack . But it was the same Chandra Kishore who was in the forefront of the charade of the so-called civil society whose continuous cheer-leading is one of the prime factors to have a situation which we have now . My question is basically about how irresponsible and unprincipled our so-called intellectuals have been in their public words and deeds . And how shameful it is the same bunch of people wonder that political parties haven't been ideologically faithful to what they espouse. Is it necessary to remind that glass-house dwellers need not throw stones at others ?

8. Chuspal
funny tho that Lal fits perfectly his own bourgeoisie norms ...

9. kc
Good analysis but I am not sure the entire lumpenproletariat according to Marx sees themselves as such. Mind you the world sees them for once. Contagious. No. But your piece helps many unenlightened to appreciate the respectability of the unstoppable movement. Myself I feel all should be done to stop suffering. A change of heart is always good why for peace progress's sake so many nonsensical emotions what glass house dwellers I call rooftop democracy. Terror of the lumpenproletariat with the help of Baburam cum suis.... On status quoists side King was given up but he was not so much on the wrong side one feels. On lumpen side victories are being made without any joy from the nation. This pressure created opening of processings of guilty. Maybe some real Court of Law can be appreciated and the impunities end..... At least since today some Military are accountable for their deeds, this is the beginning of a GOOD Process. Our intellectuals are only people with hopes and fears. It is best to understand each other, I am not a mao or marxist adn have never been one, but I always felt that comfortable and protected people should understand lumpenproletariat even those do not exist. This is the point, the ideologies are old fashioned rethorics, Kishore M is only interesting ( all the time on chinese tv he is indjun isn't it) because he dares speak out against Europe and gives Asia confidence. This is normal this is what Europe used to do I am not sure they are similar processes, Europe is Finished we all see that being europeans, there is no market it is not going to come back. The market is chinese, this also Kishore understands the way we see things. Isn't China awarding already with so much help the blockage of life in Neia N in favour of Mao not Obama. So Pol Pot or Hitler have been judged in Nepal all is still at cute level./ The thing is to ask questions now. What is being done to create jobs. What is the collective strategy to make Neia Nepal a possible place to be? ni hao and Jay Nepal are two different things . We need more constructive articles like this so that at least some approach each other in terms of mediation this is helpful.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)