The Delhi belly
Deuba would do well to rejoin his parent party
FROM ISSUE #214 (17 SEPT 2004 - 23 SEPT 2004) | TABLE OF CONTENTS
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Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba was so determined to go to India despite riots and economic shutdown at home that he got loyalists like Pradeep Giri and Bimalendra Nidhi to conjure up an invitation. That is how Deuba ended up being in New Delhi with his wife, son, in-laws and other hangers-on last week.
Details of premier Deuba's 45-minute t?te-?-t?te with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh haven't been made public, but there was nothing that he did in New Delhi that couldn't have been done by his deputies. There is nothing in the 25-point joint press statement that justified a five-day trip of a 68-member entourage at the tax-payer's expense.
But even if it afforded a chance for Deuba to pay personal respects to almost every politician in the Indian capital, then perhaps the expenses incurred by the exchequer was worth it. Pradeep Giri, the man behind Deuba's New Delhi jaunt, must be complimented for correctly reading the secularity of political pantheon in India and fixing his boss's appointments with Roman Catholic super-premier Sonia Gandhi, Muslim President APJ Abdul Kalam, Sikh Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, and atheist leftist parties dominating the ruling coalition. Just as well Deuba's visit was not cloaked as a pilgrimage as previous visits by Nepali leaders used to be.
Vacations are known to relieve stress, refresh the body, revive the mind and rejuvenate the spirits. In these difficult times, Nepal could do with a revitalised leadership. Unfortunately, Deuba seems to have derived no such benefits from his vacation. Other than describing his New Delhi trip as a 'huge success' (if he may say so himself) he was as clueless about handling the Maoist insurgency as he has been before leaving Kathmandu. Now that Comrade Prachanda doesn't even want to talk to his government, Deuba's raison d'etre is vanishing.
Back from Beijing, Madhab Nepal, on the other hand appears to be in a better political health. As soon as he arrived, he began by asking his own government to admit to the failure to get the 12 Nepalis in Iraq released and the inability to quell the violent fallout in Kathmandu on 9/1. Nepal fell short of asking Deuba to resign. Even he seems to know that post-October Fourth, premiers can't even resign on their own. They need Narayanhiti's clearance to even pack up their bags. Comrade Nepal is gently nudging the king to do the needful.
The palace will soon realise that the dowry Deuba brought from New Delhi, rifles, helicopters, guns and training for the police, will be of better use if a royal communist were to fight those bent upon establishing a dictatorship of the proletariat in the only Hindu kingdom of the world. In such circumstances, Comrade Nepal would be a much better bet for the palace than the person who once called Prachanda a 'courageous leader'. The moment talks are off the government agenda, Deuba needs to begin planning for his retirement.
Deuba still has the option of flexing political muscles by rejoining his parent party. That will fundamentally change his position vis-?-vis the monarchy as well as the Maoists. That must have been the secret formula Manmohan Singh offered his Nepali counterpart during their one-on-one meeting.
India's foreign minister K Natwar Singh's parting shot to another visiting entourage from Pakistan was that "diplomacy offers hope, not salvation". From New Delhi, Deuba brought neither. What he got was a terse note to find his own feet. Deuba should take that advice and learn to stand up and be counted for the values that made him what he is: democracy, socialism and pluralism.
Expediency in politics and subservience in diplomacy can take a leader only so far and no further. That is a lesson Madhab Nepal too would do well to remember if his life's ambition of becoming the prime minister is fulfilled, even by default, mainly because Deuba failed to learn any lessons from his repeated failures at Singha Darbar.