Nepali Times
State Of The State
Clich?s in the corridor of power


By completely ignoring the 12-point understanding between the Maoists and seven-party alliance the regime probably thought it would just go away. They don't like to listen to what they don't want to hear.

It fell upon that loose canon, Satchit Shumsher to shoot down the prospect of mainstreaming the Maoists. "We didn't start the war so why should we declare a ceasefire," has been the official line. One thing you can say for the general, he doesn't flinch from using clich?s.

Curiously, though, newly appointed royal ministers such as Narayan Singh Pun and Kamal Thapa are making conciliatory noises. The rumour mills have started churning out reports of back channel overtures to the rebels via a team led by Vice- chairman Kirti Nidhi Bista. When the exercise of power is as centralised and murky as it is in Nepal today, there is suspicion, mutual acrimony and self-doubt between the players. Fear and insecurity haunts even the most determined.

Every move in politics has to be made by assuming all possible countermoves by every other player in the game of power. There is a danger that when the power-wielder becomes so obsessed with manipulating others, he will lose sight of why he is doing the manipulation in the first place. Theoretically, it's almost impossible to devise a faultless scheme that takes care of all the shifting permutations of alliances and counter-alliances with enemies of the friends of enemies.

Manipulative rulers know how to play upon the hopes and fears of their opponents by pouncing on them with an element of surprise. Successful players do the next best thing to performing to the script, they play by impulse, pretend to have a plan and let their opponents keep guessing.

So far, King Gyanendra has played his hand exceptionally well. But like in all games of chance, past success is no guarantee of future triumphs. Aware of the risk, the palace is perhaps planning yet another move to confuse its supporters, confound its critics, and keep all others guessing.

In knowledgeable circles (this is a self-defined category of Nepalis whose members pride themselves for being in the know) there is a rumour going around that the chief executive is contemplating appointment of a prime minister. And the buzz is that a negotiating committee, "probably" under Vice-chairman Bista has already been formed to talk to the insurgents.

The strategy seems to sideline the party-rebel agreement with a parallel deal for which the king will get kudos. The palace believes that if it has India's nod the plan will work. After that, parliamentary elections can be preponed, municipal polls postponed thereby placating the international community and exerting pressure on the political parties to reconsider their boycott.

The palace-military establishment has adroitly played its China Card to rattle paranoid sections of the Delhi Darbar and divide Indian policy on Nepal. (General Pyar's Pakistan visit was just to rub it in a little more.) The statement issued at the end of Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran's visit this week seems to confirm that the palace has succeeded in checkmating the Indians at their own game. The official Indian statement consciously avoids using the 'D' word. Democracy is nowhere mentioned amidst the usual homilies to peace and good-neighbourly relations. The statement grandly declares 'the restoration of peace and stability and economic recovery in Nepal is not only in the interest of Nepal but also in India's interest'.

What about democracy, Mr Saran?

To his everlasting credit, Lord Snow recognised the value and utility of convenient clich?s. In explaining why he had used his own familiar phrase as the title for his novel Corridors of Power, he is supposed to have said: "If a man hasn't the right to his own clich?s, who has?"

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)