Sunday, July 27, 2008

Nepal Maoists slowly realizing their vulnerabilities

The dismal rout of the presidential candidate of the Nepal Maoists over a week ago had enraged the Maoists who had subsequently decided not to strive to form the government which they see as their legitimate right.

But barely a few days later the Maoists made a U-turn and proposed that they were willing to shoulder the onus of heading the new government if the other political parties made a commitment that their government would not be elbowed out before completing a tenure of two years.

The question arises why Maoists have changed their decision not to form the government and remain saddled on the opposition bench so quickly. Is it their part of time tested strategy to browbeat other political parties to capitulate to their whims? Apparently, this may appear true. Because Maoists have been prone to exerting such pressures and subsequently extracting more than they deserve from the Koirala government and other political parties.

The Maoists' threat to revert to their insurgency days alarmed the pro-peace, pro-people and democratic leaders of the country and they tried to dole out everything possible to the Maoists treating them as spoilt children who needed affection and sympathy. Their main objective was to ensure end of monarchy which had turned anachronistic and usher authentic democracy that could cradle different kinds of groups within a milieu of peace, progress and stability. However, Maoists tended to think that they accomplished their desired things only because of the threat of unleashing their armed guerrillas again.

But this does not appear to be true this time. Their (Maoists') retreat from their decision not to form government is not a strategic move to notch victory through pressure tactics. Rather this shows that they are no longer able to dictate terms to the other political parties which are now engaged in a true scramble to get their legitimate shares in the power cake of the country. They no longer fear the Maoists because they know that any vacillation on their part would pitchfork Maoists in a very powerful position and they would be gradually eased out of the power portals of the country by the Maoists who pathologically yearn for complete command over the state power.

However, such a radical metamorphosis in the politics of Nepal is not barely the progeny of new political alliances and wedlocks in the country. Only a few weeks ago the mainstream Nepal Communists were openly honeymooning with Maoists despite being not married. This pre-marital honeymoon between the two had alarmed other political parties. They feared the two together could foil their political ambitions.

However, the honeymoon warmth began to gradually wane when Maoists indicated that they would not like Madhav Nepal to become the new president of the country. Maoists knew that an astute and ambitious politician like Nepal with the command of the Nepal army could whittle their hegemony over state power and they would remain only the second at the political rung of the country despite heading the government. So the Maoists had begun proposing the names of some faceless mainstream Communist leaders to become the president of the country. The mainstream Communists felt betrayed at such iron-handedness of the Maoists but they remained silent as they were buying time for better bargaining position.

Subsequently, the mainstream Communists suddenly ended their pre-martial honeymoon with Maoists and arranged a marriage with Nepali Congress and Madhesi Janadhikar Forum which has culminated into the Nepali Congress leader becoming the president, the MJF leader being offered the office of the vice president of the country and the mainstream Communist leader winning the chairmanship of the Constituent Assembly. This new marriage has baffled the Maoists who now fear that if they remain indulging in their pressure tactics, they would gradually become a peripheral force in the country. Their such fear stems from the fact that during past two years their guerrillas in the UN camps and their political cadres have become addicted to relishing cakes of power and they won't easily return to the jungle life. So they think that it is better to get some sizable share in the power cake than getting back to uncomfortable jungle life.

But the question is : has this change in the politics of Nepal come as a result of internal political dynamics of the country? Or is there some external dimension to the new political scenario in the country?

The answer is that not only some, but to a large extent the new political scenario in Nepal has external contours. It is very difficult and rather preposterous to ignore that the new political alliance or configuration in the Indian politics during past one month has a very decisive repercussion on the Nepalese politics. The exodus of the Indian Communists from the India's ruling alliance called United Progressive Front (UPF) led by the Indian National Congress has greatly ruptured the march of the Nepalese Maoists towards complete hegemony over the state power.

It is an axiom that the Indian Communists were constantly pressurizing the Indian government to embrace the Nepalese Maoists despite the fact that the Indian National Congress leadership never nurtured any affinity for the Maoists. Such a political landscape in India was largely responsible for Maoists' success in Nepal. Even Koirala was under pressure from India to yield maximum concessions to the Maoists. After all, Nepal can't risk alienating or ignoring India despite China pledging to back it to the hilt. Nepalese leadership knows that China has enough troubles in Tibet and has very little leeway to act as a bulwark against India's anger.

The Indian government, now shorn of the crutches of the Indian Communists, has begun to revive its old Nepal policy of helping moderate political parties to lead the country. This is bound to mar the political destiny of the Maoists unless they jettison their politics of terror and obduracy. The current politics of Nepal is a graphic portrayal of this axiom. This is why Maoists have begun to sing the new tune of soliciting commitment of at least two year tenure for their government.

Maoists know well that army now under the command of a Madhesi president hailing from the Nepali Congress, the new political marriage among the mainstream Nepali Communists, Nepali Congress and MJF and the Indian government, free from Communists' influence, could easily marginalize them within the political matrix of Nepal. So it was rational that they remain satisfied with whatever they get as their legitimate share in the state power as their now comforts mellowed guerrillas have little mettle and will to lead a life 0f jungle again. Above all, they know that their guerrillas had to roll in the lap of other political parties to end monarchy and usher republicanism in Nepal. Their arms had failed to achieve their professed goal. So how can they do so now with their guerrillas and cadres who are no longer the same?

PC Dubey

Friday, July 25, 2008

Nepal Vice President's Oath in Hindi whips up outcry

Nepal's new vice president Pramanand Jha took oath of office in Hindi on July 24. It is possible Jha was oblivious to the fact that his such move could unleash a tide of protests, condemnations and even slapping of a writ against him in the Nepalese Supreme Court to declare his election null and void on the ground that he had taken oath in Hindi, a foreign/Indian language.

But we should not forget that Jha is not so naive that he would do something without weighing its pros and cons. Jha might be very much aware that his such move would offer an excuse to Maoists and their various subordinate organizations to raise a hue and cry against him dubbing him even a traitor. Actually, this is what is happening in Nepal.

Yet wonderfully, the Nepalese vice president did so ruffling the hackles of the Maoists and their sympathizers. The question is why he should not have done so? Actually, his elevation to the august office despite his party Madhesi Janadhikar Manch being numerically peripheral in the current Constituent Assembly has given him a god send opportunity to assert his Madhesi identity. His taking oath in Hindi is indeed purported to vindicate his Madhesi identity which hardcore hegemonic minded Pahadi people can't swallow. This is why such turmoil is being witnessed in the country on such a tiny issue. The hegemonic minded Pahadi leaders/groups, not the entire Pahadi fraternity, is after the blood of Jha. Otherwise they could have easily ignored it.

But such hegemonic penchant of some of the Pahadi groups is bound to hurt Madhesi sentiments. The turmoil lovers should not forget that Madhesi implicitly means part of the larger Indian cultural matrix which has nothing to do with Indian territorial/political identity. Same scenario prevails even in the context of the Hindi language which is not at all an Indian state language alone, but a language of the people belonging to the larger Indian cultural ethos or rather the Terai region which comprises southern Nepal and Gangetic India. Even in the Indian belt of West Bengal's northern region Nepali is the language of a million people. It does not mean that they are Nepalese citizens. Similarly, by taking oath in Hindi Jha does not become an Indian. So the ongoing uproar on the issue is totally frivolous. This actually tends to strengthen the notion that Maoists are resorting to such gimmicks only to conceal their defeat as a result of the genuine patriotic alliance among the NC, CPN (UML) and MJM.

Their such protests and breasts beating only show their ethnic chauvinism which, if not bridled, would end up in retaliation from the Madhesi groups further deepening the crisis in the country. It is better that Maoists and other Pahadi leaders relinquish their old hegemonic hankerings and reconcile to the ground reality. The ground reality is that Hindi should not be treated as a pariah, but rather should be roped in to foster an authentic pluralistic linguistic culture in the country. Other regional and major ethnic languages must be also accorded dignified place in the country.
PC Dubey