20-26 March 2015 #750

The Consensus Ruse

The Maoist definition of consensus: ‘Do what we say or we’ll start another war and wreck the country all over again’
Foreign Hand
The hot word in politics, as the constitution continues to never get written, is ‘consensus’. It is mouthed by everyone from the PM to opposition leaders, and acted upon by no one. It’s a word nobody can argue with, or explain, especially since it’s attained an almost mythical status, inexplicably elusive and always just beyond reach. The country’s fate hangs in the balance, teetering between utopia and apocalypse, and unless the bickering parties magically conjure something up, we’re all doomed to seek consensus forever.

Perhaps another buffet lunch at a 5-star hotel will solve the deadlock that has defied countless gourmet feasts, but whether any of the various players actually believes in the concept is highly doubtful. Consensus requires compromise. Typically those who cry loudest for consensus are those least willing to compromise.

A recent article detailing a conversation with Maoist ideologue and ex-PM Baburam Bhattarai mentions ‘consensus’ a dozen times without ever explaining how to achieve it or the meaning of the word for him and his party. Maybe that is because it means nothing. This obsession is simply the latest stalling mechanism in a long line of ploys, including shoe throwing and chair smashing, used to block the constitution.

The very purpose of the Constitutional Assembly has degenerated from its original mission to something akin to the ethos of the ruling class -- do as little as possible while hanging on to your chair (when not smashing it). The constitutional process has been subverted so often it’s obvious the only goal of this assembly, at least for the Maoist and Madhesi opposition, is self-perpetuation. Even when these parties held power under two PMs progress on the drafting was clumsily obstructed at every stage.

Perhaps if consensus is repeated often enough it will suddenly come true, like in the fairy tales. That dovetails nicely with Mao’s famous quote that if you repeat a lie 1,000 times it becomes the truth. The Maoist party is desperately trying to position itself as the consensus seeking party, despite the fact they never sought such a thing in areas they controlled during the war or when forming national governments. In fact, dissent and differing opinions were systematically repressed and compromised, that key ingredient to consensus, was despised as a bourgeois weakness.

A history of Maoism and Consensus would be a strong contender for the title of the Shortest Book in the World. Mao Zedong’s one shot at it, his ‘Let 100 Flowers Bloom’ campaign, encouraged the people to post suggestions and criticism in public spaces. This brief period of liberalisation was followed by a harsh crackdown that jailed and executed thousands who dared to speak out. The Great Helmsman remarked at the time he had ‘enticed the snakes out of their caves’ to destroy them. Pol Pot of Cambodia developed a uniquely effective approach to reaching consensus by simply murdering millions who didn’t agree.

Until our local Maoists were decimated in the election, it’s worth noting, the word that is now their holy mantra never crossed their lips. As omniscient ideologues, they know better than class enemies and feudals that the only consensus ever sought from the people was in paying extortion money demanded by the party. Even now, the Maoist version of consensual politics has nothing to do with consulting CA members or the people and everything to do with a select High Level Cabal of Brahmins conniving behind closed doors. It’s clear their interpretation of their favourite word is ‘agree with us and do what we say or we’ll make your life intolerable, start another civil war and wreck the country all over again.’

The mere suggestion of putting contentious issues to a vote has the Maoists threatening violence, exposing their disdain for democracy and the very consensus they keep whining about. This repetition of the term like some mystical chant while doggedly refusing to compromise has The Hand suspecting a ruse.

What seems to escape those stalking the corridors of power is that the election itself gave a mandate to the parties that got the most votes to write the damn thing and move on. The fact that a party that received only 15 per cent of the popular vote continues to hold the entire country hostage is an insult to the democratic process. The voters already decided who they trust to complete the writing, and it isn’t the Maoists.

OK, maybe trust isn’t exactly the right word, but the real reason the Maoists won’t allow the constitution to be completed has little to do with a lack of consensus. It is because elections will follow and nothing terrifies them more than facing humiliation again at the polls.

Read also:

Consensus on contention, Damakant Jayshi

The anti-climax, editorial

Divided we don’t rule, editorial

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