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A forum for the analysis of Nepal's domestic affairs, Policy Research, Himalayan Asia affairs and International Relations with special focus on South Asia and China.

Politics of Pre-emption?

To many ears, B.P. and Hindu statehood probably don’t seem to go together well. Yet could they be a winning combination for Khadka – and one that his rivals desperately want to pre-empt?

By Maila Baje

Khum Bahadur Khadka is a restless man. He has been edgy for quite a while.

The Nepali Congress luminary is said to have around half a dozen central committee members and twice that number of lawmakers in his camp. He has been seeking the party’s vice-presidency, citing the central role he played in the election of Sher Bahadur Deuba to the top job at the party convention.

Deuba, however, is wavering. The three-time premier has long been familiar with Khadka’s prowess. Without him, Deuba could not have broken away to form his Nepali Congress (Democratic) in 2002. Although that enterprise turned out to be a sheer disaster for the country in many ways, Deuba did ultimately prosper from it.

Sure, the king sacked him twice for incompetence. But that was then. Without the opportunity of leading his own party, Deuba could not have returned to the Nepali Congress so galvanized as to claim the mantle left behind by mentor-turned-rival Girija Prasad Koirala.

Khadka, for his part, knows the unreliability of Deuba. As general secretary of the breakaway party, he seemed thereby intent on establishing its primacy. Serving as Deuba’s home minister, he opposed the prime minister’s recommendation that the king postpone the parliamentary election, maintaining that the administration was capable of warding off the Maoists and organizing an exercise then deemed as central to survival of democracy.

Khadka is the last surviving leader who stepped out of that aircraft on that cold December day with B.P. Koirala seeking national reconciliation in 1976.

Deuba instead got the sack and the king took over, with the deposed premier now peddling himself as the second coming of B.P. Koirala. Khadka, meanwhile, found himself imprisoned under some of the same senior police officials he was commanding. As Deuba continued playing the victim, it was Girija Prasad Koirala who would call the deposed home minister to enquire about his health and raise his political spirits. That ‘nurturing’ encouraged Khadka and core loyalists to return to the Nepali Congress in 2003.

Deuba got to become a palace-appointed premier before being sacked a second time in early 2005. His arrest and detention came late in the royal regime to really matter. Under republican Nepal, Khadka was convicted of corruption and spent one-and-half years in jail before emerging to resurrect his career.

He has been remarkably successful, one must admit. Today Khadka critics claim that rewarding someone with such a sleazy past with the vice-presidency would serve to tarnish the reputation of the party. They are missing the point. Khadka served time for his sins. If precluding a politician from politics for life just because of a criminally corrupt past made sense, those advocating might have prescribed Khadka a life (or even perhaps the death) sentence.

A man does time, paying his debt to society, and comes out to find out that he can no longer do the only job he knows how to do. How fair is that?

Furthermore, party members have trusted Khadka enough to elect him to the Central Working Committee with the second highest number of votes. Why, then, should a corrupt past be a bar to an appointive position like the vice-presidency? And if Khadka wasn’t too dirty for Deuba when he wanted the votes, should he really consider him too tainted to serve as his deputy?

Maybe the corruption argument is a ruse and Khadka critics fear him for his pro-Hindu statehood banner. Unlike the Rastriya Prajatantra Party-Nepal’s, Khadka’s plank is not tied to the monarchy. (At least, not overtly). Or maybe the critics remember something the rest of the country seems to have forgotten. Khadka is the last surviving leader who stepped out of that aircraft on that cold December day with B.P. Koirala seeking national reconciliation in 1976.

To many ears, B.P. and Hindu statehood probably don’t seem to go together well. Yet could they be a winning combination for Khadka – and one that his rivals desperately want to pre-empt?

Source: www.nepalinetbook.blogspot.com

Running In Circles Around Overlapping Spheres

When the Indians locked Nepal in that economic stranglehold in 1989-1990 for having bought anti-aircraft guns from China, lost in the story was the fact that Beijing had tempted us with lucrative prices. When the Panchayat system collapsed as a result, the Chinese joined the chorus denouncing how despicable the partyless system was.

By Maila Baje

Who would’ve really thought the Indian and Chinese presidents one day would be vying with each other so feverishly to visit Nepal first. Okay, neither Pranab Mukherjee nor Xi Jinping seems that desperate. But you get the drift.

Watch for what is said as well as what is not. The Indians never felt the need to deny that K.P. Oli had to exit Baluwatar because he coveted that northern alliance a bit too much for his own good. Their sense of triumphalism says it all.
When Nepal flashed the ‘China card’ in the past, the Indians could easily mock the palace for indulging in such a blatant anti-people ploy. The mandarins up north weren’t exactly helpful, either.

When the Indians locked Nepal in that economic stranglehold in 1989-1990 for having bought anti-aircraft guns from China, lost in the story was the fact that Beijing had tempted us with lucrative prices. When the Panchayat system collapsed as a result, the Chinese joined the chorus denouncing how despicable the partyless system was.

After the royal takeover of February 2005, Beijing was no doubt the principal external beneficiary. Tightening the noose on Tibetan exiles, the palace-led government sought to correct Nepal’s southern and western drift the Chinese had begun grumbling about in public.

Beijing got observer status in the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation. What did the Nepali government that had so strenuously pushed China’s case get? Zero, zip, zilch, nada. Once the royal government collapsed, the Chinese swiftly changed their ambassador so that he could be the first foreign envoy to present credentials to the prime minister, who was officiating as head of state.

So how’s this for a deal? Let Mukherjee and Xi alight the same aircraft, together, hand in hand, either before or after the Goa BRICS summit in October. The least we can do is provide the plane.

Republican Nepal didn’t fare much better. When Pushpa Kamal Dahal as prime minister attempted to publicly reconfigure Nepal geopolitical locus, the Indians didn’t seem too bothered. The seven parties arrayed against the monarchy were still available to tame the Maoists. After Dahal’s departure from Singha Darbar, Beijing seemed to cultivate the hardliners in the Maoists, eventually emboldening them to break away.

Oli’s ‘China card’, however, proved to be different. From the outset, it reminded the Indians that the game had two players. Beijing seemed anxious to demonstrate that this time, it meant business. Sure, things are still pro forma on the Sino-Nepali front. The legacy of distrust on both sides may not be at the level of Nepal-India relations in scope as well as in public rancor. But suspicions and skepticism do persist.

Yet the agreements the two governments signed during Oli’s visit to Beijing do provide the basis for concrete action on meaningful cooperation in the event of requisite political commitment. It is Xi’s visit to Nepal everybody’s talking about, not President Bidya Bhandari’s to China. Thus, the immediate task for the Indians is to scuttle a Xi visit, at least before Mukherjee makes a trip, in terms of the battle of perceptions.

This time, Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal is not in two minds about which neighbor to visit first. But he still has to figure out which neighboring leader to host first. As for Nepalis, they understand better why they are feeling the squeeze.

The title of being the last tributary to the Middle Kingdom comes with a price, especially when the successor regime draws inspiration from the same imperial ambitions. On the other side, the Indians see Nepal as the unfinished business of independence. These competing claims of sphere of influence aren’t going to be resolved any time soon.

So how’s this for a deal? Let Mukherjee and Xi alight the same aircraft, together, hand in hand, either before or after the Goa BRICS summit in October. The least we can do is provide the plane.

 Source: www.nepalinetbook.blogspot.com

Is It Adjournment Or Abandonment On The Right?

Even if the two groups were to unite sooner or later, wouldn’t the storyline be the same? How long before they split again?

By Maila Baje

Where does the unification effort between the two factions of the right-of-center Rastriya Prajatantra Party (RPP) stand today? RPP chairman Pashupati Shamsher Rana insists that the amalgamation announcement set for August 9 could not take place because of the parties’ failure to agree on ‘balance of power’. He contends that the door remains very much open.

RPP-Nepal Chairman Kamal Thapa, however, earlier unleashed a public tirade against Rana for having exhibited sheer dishonesty and fallen under the influence of a foreign power center (read India) to thwart what had been an elaborately negotiated unification.

A palpably aggrieved Rana shot back, refuting those allegations as unbecoming of a leader of Thapa’s standing. He has since demanded an apology from Thapa as a precondition for unity. Meanwhile, luminaries from Rana’s RPP have joined Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal’s cabinet, at a time when Thapa’s party has assiduously chosen to remain part of the opposition.

Intemperate though they may have been, Thapa’s public comments were understandable, given his version of the turn of events. Rana ostensibly pulled the plug unilaterally at the last minute, without – in Thapa’s words – exhibiting the “courtesy, decorum and political character” of consulting with the RPP-Nepal on such a two-pronged matter. Rana’s equally unflinching demand for a public apology from Thapa underscores the deep personal antagonisms that have set in.

Thapa, for his part, has come under criticism from loyalists for having discarded the agenda of restoring the monarchy.

All along, the unification hype failed the basic smell test. Admittedly, the RPP-Nepal and RPP today seem to be united by a desire to see the reinstatement of Hindu statehood. Beyond that, the latter is still wedded to republicanism and views the RPP-Nepal with abiding suspicion on that front (or at least gives a public posture of such).

Thapa, for his part, has come under criticism from loyalists for having discarded the agenda of restoring the monarchy. No longer on the defensive, though, the former deputy prime minister has placed the monarchy as the driver of its broader nationalist agenda. Asked to comment on perceptions that the former monarch himself was displeased at the party’s ostensible dilution of the pro-monarchy plank, Thapa told a leading Nepali newsweekly: “The RPP-Nepal is not a committee created for the restoration of the monarchy”.

The RPP signed on the new secular, republican constitution, while the RPP-Nepal was the only party that voted against it. Yet both parties became part of the K.P. Oli-led coalition. In the intervening months, Thapa appears to have beaten back factionalism within the party, while Rana still faces lingering divisions within. (Key RPP members originally expressed anger-tinged surprise at the scuttling of the unification effort, before subsequently going silent).

Yet we were somehow supposed to believe that the two groups – with their demonstrable history of fission and fusion –would join hands for the greater good of the nation, leaving it to the general convention to iron out their underlying differences.

According to Rana’s latest – and hitherto most specific – explication, the unification effort was dropped after Thapa failed to agree to an equitable balance of the functions, duties and rights of the national chairperson and executive chairperson of the proposed new party. (A contention Thapa, one might add, seemed to publicly refute even before Rana had advanced it.)

Still, if things are in the works as Rana says, Thapa’s stance doesn’t seem to give that impression. He is still busy singing paeans to the nationalist credentials of the last government and scolding the successor for encouraging blatant external intervention.

Even if the two groups were to unite sooner or later, wouldn’t the storyline be the same? How long before they split again?

Source: www.nepalinetbook.blogspot.com

 

Nepal Political Mess: It Hasn’t All Been Said Yet

However you slice it, the prevailing narrative about an Indian diplomatic triumph says more about the level of New Delhi’s thinking that about the geopolitical predilections of the man.

By Maila Baje

The euphoria gripping the Indian media following the resignation of Prime Minister Khadga Prasad Oli evidently stems from New Delhi’s apparent triumph in having returned to the driver’s seat of Nepali politics after a hiatus of nine months.

Granted, reporters and commentators across the southern border have made some effort to portray the difficulties that lay on the path ahead. But that endeavor has been grudging, at best. The operating principle for the moment seems to be: what happens next can be taken care of later; Oli’s ouster merits its own full-blown carnival moment.

The reasons for this rejoicing are as predictable as they are routine. Oli was losing popularity as his government exhibited a greater preference for China over India, one argument goes. His government’s hardline stance against Madhesis had led India to step in to prevent a spillover of tensions, insists another.

Oli the man was an out-and-out ingrate, it was pointed out somewhere, especially after New Delhi, among other things, funded years of his medical treatment at the best Indian hospitals, financed development projects in his constituency, and offered him political support against rivals within the Communist Party of Nepal-Marxist-Leninist.

An Indian kiss to the Maoist Centre and the Nepali Congress amid the tumultuous battle of perceptions can only be one of death, regardless of how emphatically those two parties insist they would honor all the agreements Oli’s government signed with China.

For now, the irony inherent in the fact that the leading contender for the premiership is the man who India was instrumental in dislodging seven years earlier amid equal rancor must be ignored. How Nepal Communist Party (Maoist Centre) supremo Pushpa Kamal Dahal’s ascension could be described as a victory for Indian diplomacy remains unclear. All the more so after considering how blatantly Dahal flouted the political, diplomatic and even material support New Delhi provided the Maoists for over a decade to cozy up to China during his premiership in 2008-2009.

KP Oli

KP Oli

However you slice it, the prevailing narrative about an Indian diplomatic triumph says more about the level of New Delhi’s thinking that about the geopolitical predilections of the man. An Indian kiss to the Maoist Centre and the Nepali Congress amid the tumultuous battle of perceptions can only be one of death, regardless of how emphatically those two parties insist they would honor all the agreements Oli’s government signed with China.

The notion that Beijing somehow advised Nepal’s political establishment to patch up with India after Chinese officials and diplomats failed to stop the hemorrhage in Oli’s coalition must be seen against Dahal’s recent public assertion that Beijing would be happy to see him return to the premiership.

Now, the Maoist Centre leader could have been indulging in a woozy head fake characteristic in Nepali politics, fortifying his flank, or clueing us in on the next moves on the regional chessboard. Regardless, it would not take long for New Delhi to discover the true cost of its ‘triumph’.

Dahal described Oli as a ‘genuine statesman’ as the prime minister stepped down from the podium after announcing his resignation. In the weeks and months ahead, that description could take on far greater import in ways that Dahal – or anyone else – could care to contemplate today.

Courtesy: www.nepalinetbook.blogspot.com

 

Nepal Politics: Chinese checkers

As Oli and Prachanda maneuver for office, proximity to Beijing may suffer.

By Yubaraj Ghimire

YubarajK. P. Oli’s exit as Nepal’s prime minister when the vote of no-confidence against him is put to vote is a foregone conclusion, but will any one succeed him constitutionally? The interested parties and partisan lawyers are interpreting the situation in ways that suit their purposes.

After ensuring Oli’s defeat in the no-trust motion, the challenge before the sponsors of the motion is to not let the prime minister continue in a caretaker capacity for long. Letting him do so will lead to Oli becoming more powerful and far less accountable.

The dangerous precedents in Nepal’s long transition to a republic — an interim PM continuing for long, at least three caretaker prime ministers holding on to their posts for seven to 14 months, and a sitting chief justice collaborating with political parties — and vague provisions in the constitution about a successor to the PM leaves the matter to President Bidhya Devi Bhandari’s discretion. But given her past — vice chairperson in the Oli-led Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist — is not likely to escape the ire of the aggrieved parties even if her decision is fair by all yardsticks.

The Nepali Congress and the Maoists are determined that any move by the president to stall the election of Maoist chief Pushpa Kamal Dahal as Oli’s successor on the pretext that there is no constitutional clarity over succession will lead to Bhandari’s impeachment. That shows the level of distrust among the political parties that were together in the movement for restoration of democracy in 2006. In September 2015, nine years after they assumed power, they delivered a half-baked constitution which the two sides, now at loggerheads, claimed to be the best in the world.

Nepal has been ruled by unstable coalitions for a decade. But unlike in the past the issue this time is not about “who will succeed”.

However, the three major parties — Nepali Congress and the Maoists on one side, and the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist, that Oli heads, on the other — are disputing the constitution’s provisions on finding a successor to a PM who has lost the house’s trust. The matter is not likely to be settled by the merits of their arguments or through an emulation of best practices in Nepal or elsewhere in the world. The side that has the numbers will win this tussle. On Friday, Oli refused to put in his papers in exchange of the sponsors of the no-trust motion withdrawing their motion and passing the finance bills in one go. Speaker Onsari Gharti, who belongs to the Maoist Party, deferred the debate on the motion by a day to give the parties time to come to a consensus on Oli’s successor. But, he finally gave in. Interestingly, the Maoists voted against the finance bills that were tabled by the Oli government when they were part of the coalition.

Khadga Prasad Oli

KP Oli

Nepal has been ruled by unstable coalitions for a decade. But unlike in the past the issue this time is not about “who will succeed”.

Political circles are debating “what will happen” to Nepal’s growing — and meaningful — proximity to China in proportion to its distance with India. Given China’s clear message that its president, Xi Jinping, will visit Nepal in a few months only if there is political stability in the country, any failure to resolve the political impasse will be deemed a setback. For India, that will be something to cheer about as not only did Oli take an anti-India position in the wake of its “interference” and its refusal to welcome the constitution, but he also directed the focus of his country’s foreign policy northward after the five-month long blockade created hardship and shortage in Nepal.

In March, Nepal and China signed some transit agreements. China secured the contract to build an international airport in the tourist city of Pokhara, where it will set up a consulate soon. Seen in the light of China’s growing engagement with Nepal, to the detriment of India, President Xi’s visit would have been a milestone.

“The withdrawal of support to the K. P. Oli government by the Maoists is clearly a move at the behest of external forces, who are interested in stalling the Chinese president’s visit,” Sherdhan Rai, communication minister in the current coalition, says. Oli was not as explicit, but at his party meeting he is said to have expressed suspicion that India had a role in instigating the no-trust motion. Whether that’s an angry reaction or one borne out of evidence is anybody’s guess, but India has often been charged of “micromanaging Nepal affairs” —including by the Maoist chief, Dahal.

But in the clash of perceptions over foreign influence, the role of the constitution will cease to matter and the sanctity of the offices of the speaker and the president is likely to be adversely affected. This is likely to have an effect on the morale and functioning of the security agencies, including Nepal’s army, as well as the civil administration.

Courtesy:

http://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/kp-oli-nepal-pm-resign-no-confidence-vote-china-india-maoist-politics-2933662/

Right? Wrong? It Depends

Didn’t Oli’s current party – the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist-Leninist – come out in critical support of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Nepal 1990 before deciding to become a full and inalienable part of the mainstream?

By Maila Baje

As Prime Minister Khadga Prasad Oli insists on ‘implementing’ the Constitution within a defined structure and specific time-frame, two of his six deputies find themselves in an interesting position. Kamal Thapa of the Rastriya Prajantantra Party Nepal and Chitra Bahadur K.C. of the Rastriya Janamorcha vociferously oppose two key planks of our new Basic Law.

To their credit, both deputy prime ministers are carried by the courage of their convictions. Thapa has been a tireless campaigner against secularism and federalism. For long, K.C. was almost the lone voice against federalism on the left end of the political spectrum. Bucking political correctness and popularity, they have won the grudging admiration of opponents.

Thapa.KCOrdinarily, such convergence between those two coalition partners should have posed a perilous roadblock to Oli. Yet the prime minister is unperturbed. He doesn’t even joke about it in the way he does most other things. He has left it to his minions to point out the crude inanity of it all. What kind of morality allows you to be part of a government whose core agenda you oppose?

Thapa never tires of telling party members and supporters that he would not rest until secularism and federalism are scrapped. Same old, same old. Things, however, are getting interesting on the Rastriya Janamorcha side. After the party announced a two-month-long movement against federalism, some K.C. loyalists can be heard fuming against the tendency in certain quarters to equate their struggle with the one launched by the one-time royalists.

Didn’t Oli’s old party – the MaLe – send legislators to the partyless assembly with the express purpose of exposing the inequities of the palace-led Panchayat system?

The structure and character of the Rastriya Janamorcha’s movement is pro-people and in keeping with the spirit of People’s Movement II, party spokespeople maintain. The Rastriya Janamorcha sees the RPPN’s movement as going against popular aspirations and the spirit of the times. Essentially, K.C.’s party believe the ex-royalists are waging a religious battle with all its attendant ills for the country and people.

When you have single-issue parties in power as part of a broad coalition, you need to distinguish between – to borrow Mao Zedong’s phraseology – the principal and secondary contradictions every step of the way. If the Rastriya Janamorcha is correct to see federalism being against Nepali nationalism and territorial integrity, then it must at least concede the right of the RPPN to see secularism as an equal threat. Amid the flimsiest layer of common ground, the Maoists would have found it easier to forge a working alliance. But, again, K.C. is not a Maoist for a reason.

So the Rastriya Janamorcha has to justify its participation in the Oli government. And where else to turn but the flip-flopper par excellence? Didn’t Oli’s old party – the MaLe – send legislators to the partyless assembly with the express purpose of exposing the inequities of the palace-led Panchayat system? Didn’t Oli’s current party – the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist-Leninist – come out in critical support of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Nepal 1990 before deciding to become a full and inalienable part of the mainstream?

In an important way, K.C. is doing Thapa’s job for him. Does that mean the RPPN should in any way feel morally compromised vis-à-vis the Rastriya Janamorcha? Certainly not. Thapa knows that if republicanism, secularlism and federalism can somehow be retroactively instilled into the spirit of the People’s Movement, popular will really is in the eye of the beholder.

Source: www.nepalinetbook.blogspot.com

Nepal Politics: Spinning Our Heads In The Shadows

In today’s age of openness and transparency, we don’t know how Nepal really became a republic. You think that is a mere historical footnote? Try telling us how long you think we will continue to have a president.

By Maila Baje

Even for a populace inured to clandestineness as the central political contrivance of the soil, the prevailing confusion over the latest ‘gentlemen’s agreement’ is getting a bit out of hand.

Did Prime Minister Khadga Prasad Oli reach a secret three-point agreement with Pushpa Kamal Dahal pledging to hand over power to the Maoist chairman after the passage of the budget? It depends on who you ask. Oli acts as if he’s heard the term for the first time, while Dahal thinks he has something substantial signed in triplicate. Everybody else is either confident one way or the other or is scratching their heads.

Granted, it took nine years for the secret letters the Ranas and the Nehru regime exchanged alongside the 1950 Treaty of Peace and Friendship to come to light. But at least they did. In today’s age of openness and transparency, we don’t know how Nepal really became a republic. You think that is a mere historical footnote? Try telling us how long you think we will continue to have a president.Maila Baje

This episode is far more serious. From all outward appearances, over a month ago, Oli looked like a man ready to step down. Dahal seemed poised to return to Singha Darbar, with Sher Bahadur Deuba, the freshly elected Nepali Congress president becoming kingmaker. Barely 24 hours later, Dahal made a 180 and pledged his party’s support to the Oli-led coalition government.

The two men sealed a nine-point deal on April 29 in which Oli pledged, among other things, that the government would withdraw all ‘politically motivated’ cases against Maoist leaders and cadres, what really riled the ex-rebels all along. Madhav Kumar Nepal, Jhal Nath Khanal and Bam Dev Gautam Oli’s principal rivals in the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (CPN-UML) also reportedly pushed Oli to commit to hand over power to Dahal after the budget’s passage.

As Dahal stepped back, it became clear that it was only to reunite with most of the Maoist groups that had broken away from him in the past. In retrospect, Dahal needed that reprieve more than Oli. Cognizant of the favor he extended to Dahal, Oli seemed secure enough to continue selling his dreams – on land, air and sea. (The discrediting of Deuba was no small byproduct.)

So Oli comfortably dismissed the notion of a separate shadowy three-point agreement. If there was one, the premier said, it had to be the draft that he rejected. Of course, Madhav Nepal and Khanal, in their own ways, continue to insist that a power-sharing deal exists. But you could see that as normal politicking.

Then, at a party meeting the other day, Oli suggested that India and the United States were out to get him, his government and his party. The next day, the CPN-UML came out with an official statement denying that Oli ever uttered words even remotely making such an allegation. In fact, the prime minister is still said to be seething at the timing of the ‘conspiracy’ against him, coming as it did on the eve of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the United States.

The report was carried by a prominent Nepali daily, which, predictably, spawned creative adaptations on online portals. Who ‘planted’ such a story – if that what this was? The Chinese? If so, they seem to have really made inroads in Nepal.

What about the Indians and Americans themselves – either individually or in concert? After all, Sikkim-ization and Bhutan-ization are so yesterday. Nepali-ization has its own characteristics and traits, which are taking shape here and losing it there. One discernible element seems to be the imperative of leaving our collective heads spinning in perpetuity.

Source: www.nepalinetbook.blogspot.com

 

Nepal: Tale Of Twists, Turns And Tangles

Suddenly, the air has become thick with talk of the imperative of writing a new constitution. If the recent wave of Kathmandu-centric protests launched by Madhesi and ethnic parties does not bring that about, there is another clock ticking.

By Maila Baje

Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist Centre chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal has been boldly proclaiming the inevitability of his ascension to the premiership after Parliament passes the budget.

Ordinarily, Nepalis ought to be biting their nails in anticipation of the composition of the new coalition and cabinet. However, we seem to have become too chastened by other events going on around us.

Suddenly, the air has become thick with talk of the imperative of writing a new constitution. If the recent wave of Kathmandu-centric protests launched by Madhesi and ethnic parties does not bring that about, there is another clock ticking. Twists, Turns

Should the country fail to hold provincial and local elections within the stipulated time-frame, we would be back to a situation a la October 2002. No wonder, then, that former king Gyanendra has begun assuring ordinary Nepalis beseeching his intervention that all is about to turn well.

Still, there are too many nagging questions here. Why was it so important for Prime Minister K.P. Oli to be able to present the budget? So much so that Dahal could barely last 24 hours in his avowal to form the next government? What difference would it have made had Dahal replaced Oli last month? Was it a no-no because he was riding on the back of Sher Bahadur Deuba and the Nepali Congress, which has turned quite conservative following the last party election? Never one to forgo an opening, did Dahal seek rehabilitation via a New Delhi-backed regime change, even at the cost of pledging himself to remain a titular head?

If so, China’s much-ballyhooed intervention does makes sense, to the extent that it bought time to facilitate the unification of the various Maoist factions. If Dahal now has a wider berth, surely the Maoists have become decidedly pro-north in their geopolitical orientation.

Publicly, some Nepali Congress luminaries are still trying to blame the fiasco on the misplaced ardor of their newly-elected party president. Yet even they look like victims of wounded pride. Not so much because Dahal buckled but because Oli got a breather. The consolidation of the Maoist forces raises the chances of the Nepali Congress turning further right, precipitating a broader realignment on that flank.

Granted, Dahal was detailing his political plans with the greatest candor while speaking to pro-Maoist media representatives. But he was also the most categorical about things at that venue, stressing that his succession as the new prime minister was inevitable following a ‘gentleman’s agreement’ implicit in the nine-point agreement with Oli. Indeed, Dahal went a step further and pledged to provide impetus to the implementation of the constitution, post-earthquake reconstruction and national unity.

Still, you cannot forget Oli’s record as the longest serving prime minister-in-waiting. Who can really say he is ready to give up so easily. With the local elections having become so central to the survival of the constitution, Oli might strike his own understanding with the Nepali Congress to run the government until then. After all, the Communist Party of Nepal-United Marxist-Leninist and the Nepali Congress are both interested in ensuring that the Maoists – no matter how rejuvenated internally – still stay in third place in national politics. In that scenario, much would depend on the ‘arrangements’ made during Minister for Law and Justice Agni Kharel’s visit to New Delhi.

And that is where Mohan Baidya’s and Netra Bikram Chand’s strenuous decisions to desist from the Maoist backslapping would make the most sense.

Source: www.nepalinetbook.blogspot.com

 

Revolutionary Communists: Your Guess Is As Good (Or Bad) As Mine

Paradoxically the provisional steps toward unity came after the formal split of the increasingly fractious Communist Party of Nepal-Revolutionary Maoists.

By Maila Baje

Against the subdued backdrop of the 50th anniversary of the eruption of the Cultural Revolution up north, efforts at unifying our half a dozen groups still professing fealty to the Great Helmsman gained traction over the weekend. Paradoxically, however, the provisional steps toward unity came after the formal split of the increasingly fractious Communist Party of Nepal-Revolutionary Maoists.

The stark differences in ideology and unsheathed ambitions of leaders that have stymied unity efforts over the past year nevertheless persist. Despite the latest split, the dominant Mohan Baidya faction remains opposed to unity with the United Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) led by Pushpa Kamal Dahal. Baidya and his loyalists want a new ‘democratic revolution’ to complete the ‘unfinished tasks’ of the ‘people’s war’.

Communist SplitStill, the latest development represents a symbolic boost for Dahal’s efforts to maintain the relevance of a once-formidable movement within Nepal traditionally splintered left. After months of rumblings of discontent, a majority of the members of the Communist Party of Nepal-Revolutionary Maoists’ central committee decided to elect general secretary Ram Bahadur Thapa as chairman after ousting Baidya. Moreover, Thapa and Dahal have agreed on 13 bases to accelerate formal unification.

In response, issuing a six-page appeal, Baidya accused the Thapa faction of being opportunist and neo-reformist, claiming that the supposed unification process was an effort to destroy the revolutionary ideology of Nepal’s Communist movement.

The compulsions for Maoist unification are evident. Following the triumph of its decade-long rebellion against the old Nepali state, Dahal’s Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), became the largest party in the Constituent Assembly in 2008. From that apogee, crowned by Dahal’s nine-month tenure as prime minister in 2008-2009, the party has systematically gone downhill.

Amid numerous splits, there are currently at least seven separate Maoist formations. The largest of these, the UCPN (Maoist) – still led by Dahal following the Baidya faction’s walkout in 2012 after the dissolution of the constituent assembly – ceded ground to the traditional mainstream parties in the 2013 election. Meanwhile, the CPN-RM itself split in 2014 when Netra Bikram Chand broke away from Baidya and created the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist.

Over the past year, as Dahal has been in negotiations with Baidya, major divisions grew within the latter group over reunification. Thapa, a leading architect and early commander of the ‘people’s war’, wanted the party to give up revolution as its plan of action and instead focus on unification with other Maoist parties. He finally threw the gauntlet with the support of key figures like Dev Gurung, Pampha Bhusal, Hitman Shakya and Lekhnath Neupane.

Substantively, however, questions do remain. For one thing, several senior leaders like Chandra Prakash Gajurel and Hari Bhakta Kandel still back Baidya, who is considered Dahal’s ideological mentor. Also, the Chand-led Maoists clarified that they were not involved in the unification process of what was essentially an alliance of pro-parliamentarian forces. Complicating that picture, however, a group led by Basanta Gharti from Chand’s party is unifying with Dahal.

For its part, Dahal’s party is still licking its wounds after former prime minister Baburam Bhattarai quit over differences with the chairman’s handling of the party last September. It’s hard enough to conclude whether Dr. Bhattarai – the erstwhile chief ideologue of the ‘people’s war’ – is still a Maoist, now that he is the principal votary of a new force. How far the other fringe factions led by Matrika Yadav, Mani Thapa, Pari Thapa and Hemanta Oli would bolster unity remains anybody’s guess.

That may not necessarily be a bad thing for Dahal, who has thrived on keeping everybody else guessing about his next moves and motives.

Source: http://nepalinetbook.blogspot.com/

 

A Red (Chinese) Herring In A Recalcitrant Republic?

What specific threats, if any, did the Chinese make to precipitate Dahal’s U-turn? Did they remind Nepal of its responsibilities as the last tributary to the Middle Kingdom? Did they reiterate Sun Yat-sen’s lament over how China had lost Nepal to imperialism? Did they invoke the Great Helmsman’s dictum that Nepal constituted one of the five fingers of the Chinese hand? Or did they implore Dahal to remember Zhou Enlai’s paeans to ‘blood ties’ between the Chinese and Nepali peoples – and all that that implied?

By Maila Baje

Heavens, the Chinese must have promised the sky this time.

If the angle broached about in the barest of terms vis-à-vis the latest political circus is anything to go by, Beijing thwarted New Delhi’s attempt the dislodge the government led by Prime Minister Khadga Prasad Oli.

Truth be told, the mandarins up north have said a lot of things to a lot of Nepali leaders over the centuries. If the accumulated wisdom is worth anything, it counsels against putting too much stock in those promises.

Prime Minister Oli, however, seems to be breaking new ground here. This begs the logical question: what did the Chinese say that made our once Fierce One step down several notches in the docility index?Red Herring

That something was cooking somewhere was all too clear to the national olfactory senses. Former king Gyanendra dashed to Delhi and back so suddenly that pictures of a simple ex-royal family rafting excursion merited much more than the society pages.

That was after newly elected Nepali Congress President and parliamentary party leader Sher Bahadur Deuba returned from an extended medical trip to the Indian capital that camouflaged political consultations. United Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal, for his part, reportedly refused to fly out in that direction for fear of precipitating a political backlash.

Yet Dahal barely lasted 24 hours in his public avowal to lead a new government with the help of the Nepali Congress. Murmurs of a Chinese hand started appearing, but never took a more sonorous form. Instead, Oli advised President Bidya Devi Bhandari not to proceed with a planned visit to India. (That, too, after the head of state breached protocol by detailing part of the substance of her putative agenda.)

Deputy Prime and Foreign Minister Kamal Thapa – representing the ostensibly royalist Rastriya Prajatantra Party Nepal – ended up becoming the most forceful and seemingly only defender of the Oli government during its hours of gravest peril.

In an address to parliament, Oli became rather outspoken in the second half of his speech against external machinations. When the government announced that it had recalled Ambassador Deep Kumar Upadhyaya from New Delhi for actions incompatible with his status, the weirdness got weirder. Such phraseology, customary when the host government expels a foreign ambassador, was a first in the annals of Nepali diplomatic history.

Granted, the Chinese have reason to be miffed by apparent Indian threats to the Oli government following the ‘groundbreaking’ agreements signed during the prime minister’s recent visit up north. Yet, amid the latest political crisis, nowhere have the Chinese equivalent of institutions like the Research and Analysis Wing or individuals like Sukh Deo Muni been identified as complicit in the machinations.

What specific threats, if any, did the Chinese make to precipitate Dahal’s U-turn? Did they remind Nepal of its responsibilities as the last tributary to the Middle Kingdom? Did they reiterate Sun Yat-sen’s lament over how China had lost Nepal to imperialism? Did they invoke the Great Helmsman’s dictum that Nepal constituted one of the five fingers of the Chinese hand? Or did they implore Dahal to remember Zhou Enlai’s paeans to ‘blood ties’ between the Chinese and Nepali peoples – and all that that implied?

India’s perceived dilution of its vaunted strategic autonomy to join the China containment/encirclement bandwagon gives credence to an escalation of the dragon-elephant rivalry in Nepal. But have the stakes risen so high for the Chinese to mount such an overt move to checkmate the Indians?

Or could all this be just a red herring? Specifically, what are the chances that the entire episode was a by-product of the turf wars within India over its Nepal policy? Those advocating the logical culmination of the 12-Point Agreement process (whatever that might be) have long been contending with the rival school demanding a review and rectification of that approach. After all, passions are as high on each side as are the perceived righteousness of those respective causes to their proponents.

And there is precedent here. The Indians benefited for a while claiming that the Maoist ‘People’s War’ in Nepal was being run by China, while providing support and sanctuary to our Maoist leaders on Indian soil. Of course, Beijing was too smart not have sought to mobilize our Maoists to their advantage. But the irony was the China almost ended up reaping the entire benefit of India’s propaganda campaign after our Maoists rose to power.

Galling as that irony still must be across the southern border, there must be recognition of a greater short-term benefit in pointing the finger to the Chinese as the Indians struggle to come up with a coherent and credible policy on Nepal.

Source: http://nepalinetbook.blogspot.com

Straight Talk About Self-Image And Identity

The Indians seem divided over the import of and implications from Oli’s Chinese sojourn.

By Maila Baje

Regularly mocked for what many consider his craven jocularity in the midst of epic trials, Prime Minister Khadga Prasad Oli hardly gets credit for how deftly he often deploys trivialization as a tool of political tradecraft.

Consider this example from just the other day. His government was ready to open talks with the agitating Madhesi parties on their long-standing demand for re-delineating federal provinces, the prime minister said. But those parties should also consider that the non-Madhesi population could begin demanding the redrawing of provincial boundaries along a north-south axis.

Before that latter suggestion could take on the form of pre-emption, Oli conceded that the raw emotions triggered by the recent months-long protests would take some time to settle. However, he was at a loss to explain why concerns over Nepal’s Constitution was more pronounced outside the country than within.

Oli wanted the top job so bad that the gods, too, seemed a little vexed last year. Days after he stood atop Dharahara to usher in a new national spirit in the new year, the fabled edifice collapsed into the rubble of the Great Earthquake of 2072 Bikram Sambat. That calamity should have cast a dark shadow on Oli’s political aspirations.

But the aftershocks produced enough political consensus for the promulgation of the Constitution, assuring Oli’s ascension to the premiership. The Indian ‘blockade’ stymied his next steps. A man who once seemed to bask in a pro-India label as long as it advanced his career turned out to be one of the few Nepalis to stand up steadfastly to the ultimatums of our southern neighbor.

What’s more, he brought in two inveterate critics of India as deputy premiers. Ultimately the Indians gave him a red-carpet treatment in New Delhi to let him subsequently visit Beijing. Any shift in Nepal’s geopolitical locus could be measured later and dealt with accordingly.

The Indians seem divided over the import of and implications from Oli’s Chinese sojourn. His party rivals, too, have chosen to moderate their positions vis-à-vis the premier. Former prime minister Madhav Kumar Nepal, who until a week ago was moping over the monopoly Oli was wielding as chairman of the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist-Leninist, has climbed down a bit. He now stresses the need for consensus among the three major political parties on implementing the Constitution, preferably by roping in the Nepali Congress into the government.

In public comments made in Dhankuta the other day, Madhav Nepal said the country had witnessed many aberrations and anomalies due to political instability, but was quick to assert that the government’s spirit was being dampened by some unfavorable remarks made by a few leaders from coalition partners.

The prime minister’s warning that his government would not hesitate to confront forces that were taking unconstitutional measures has the ability to enflame the situation, especially amid forebodings of gloom percolating from across our borders. Yet Oli’s straight talk might also force some of us to sit back and assess the deeper roots of our malaise.

Source: http://nepalinetbook.blogspot.com

Nepal Politics: Oh Those Garish Alien Growls

We did try to tame the Tibetans. The Chinese just kept asking us for more, without stopping to ponder their own role in aggravating the situation.

By Maila Baje

Oh those pesky foreigners. Can’t they just shut up, for a change?

It’s been hard enough to ward off snarkiness of the European Union-India joint statement on the so-called ‘non-inclusivity’ of our brand-new Constitution.

Barely had international human rights watchdogs begun growling over our treatment of one of our commissioners than the United States Department of State annual report slammed our record.

PrachandaThe noises Christians are making over the official de-calendarization of Christmas are beginning to be heard on quaint albeit persuasive international outlets. Guess everyone feels safe dumping on us now.

Yeah, yeah, it’s our fault. We promised the sky, knowing full well that our altimeter was screwed up from the start. Sure, we should have been a bit more careful taking in those dollars, euros and pounds circa 2005-2006. But who are we really kidding? It’s not as if those irksome aliens are somehow blame-free.

Of course, we promised to take out the monarchy. And did our bit by dragging the mainstream parties behind us. But we never made specific guarantees about what would follow.

Foreign money came in handy to turn Hindu Nepal secular when the iron was still hot. But who knew that India would get its most zealous Hindu nationalist government ever and set about imperiling republican Nepal?

We did try to tame the Tibetans. The Chinese just kept asking us for more, without stopping to ponder their own role in aggravating the situation.

Today those imbeciles centralizing power in Brussels, Washington DC and New Delhi have the nerve to tell us to move swifter on federalism. There’s a reason why all we’ve been able to do is give the provinces numbers. How can they push us to name provincial capitals already?

As the public face of the change in 2006, I recognized the pitfalls before me personally. The ‘people’s war’ had acquired such mythical status in the anti-monarchy struggle that the mainstream parties found it politically expedient to take a back seat in the months following the April Uprising. It felt good to be able tell our restive ex-fighters that we were driving the peace process. Those scalawags in those seven parties were just biding their time.

Civil society leaders, too, sung paeans to the purity of the Maoists’ pursuit of violence in defense of the people. When they contrasted it with the venal bloodthirstiness of royal army, it even began to sound real.

Did I, as supreme commander of the army that liberated the people, think I possessed phenomenal powers? Not a chance. In hindsight, though, I should have worked harder to pierce the picture that was settling in the public psyche.

Instead, I tried to break new ground as if we were all still in fighting mode. Not that I didn’t notch up successes. Within the first 100 days of assuming office, I met with the top leaders of China, India and the United States, the three principal drivers of our country’s destiny. Little did I recognize the misfortune I was incurring for myself – and for the country.

Source: http://nepalinetbook.blogspot.com