Man Of Many Seasons

<br><EM>Yubaraj Ghimire</EM>

April 23, 2012, 5:45 p.m. Published in Magazine Issue: Vol. : 05 No.-19 Apr. 20-2012 (Baishakh 08,2069)<br>

For Maoist chairman Prachanda, managing personal threats-- both physical and political-- has emerged as the biggest challenge. The threat meted out to his loyal commanders in Shaktikhor and Butwal by 'renegade' combatants was not a threat to them alone. Prachanda, using his clout over the Prime Minister, got Nepal Army deployed illegally in the cantonments to save his party cadres. Deployment of the National Army without the National Security Council recommendation and without the President, the Supreme Commander of the Army, being informed, is constitutionally flawed, and politically  dangerous. Maoists have once again got an opportunity to play politics with the National Army: 'follow our command, or else you will be defying the principle of Civilian Supremacy'.

For Prachanda, it is a question of greater victory. A call from him to the Prime Minister has a much bigger power than that of the Constitution. Troops moved in on April 10 instantly, and disarmed the combatants who had 'arms' for personal security, and then controlled the weapon containers in the cantonments. But almost all the combatants now are a terrorized lot. Most of the  9,705 combatants, who had opted to join the Nepal Army earlier, have backed out. In the final count, only 3,500 plus may make the bee-line to offer their services to the Nepal Army provided they were found 'qualified' under the relaxed criteria. But the decline in the number speaks volumes about the state of mind, and psychology of the combatants. In a way, those who backed out have defied the party high command which, in a way, is also the expression of lack of faith in the party leadership.

Dahal tried to put up a brave front in Dhulikhel during a cadre training programme on Wednesday that the combatants were going to join the 'transformed army', and not the old army. Nothing could be farther from the truth. But he needs to conceal the fact from the cadres that the Maoist leadership felt defied and overruled by the combatants on the issue of joining the Nepal Army which he , and Bhattarai, dispatched to the cantonments on April 10 as protector of the 'combatants' loyal to the duo. There is no doubt, a natural fear among the potential recruits--both at officer and lower levels in the NA - that would be at the mercy of the force that was once the 'deadly foe' of the 'Peoples Liberation Army'. Secondly, as the factional feud within the UCPN-M grows more intense, those joining the Nepal army would be seen more as 'deserters' by others, including the followers of Mohan Baidhya Kiran. Third, for many, it was much wiser to accept the financial package under the voluntary retirement package, instead of queuing up for a job where training will be far more rigorous.

Nothing would be bigger defeat for Prachanda , a former supreme commander, than being defied and overruled by the 'combatants'. And nothing could be bigger for Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai than to see Prachanda in that state. No doubt, Prachanda and Bhattarai appear as strongly cemented personalities in the current polarization within the UCPN-M, but their friendly bond is deceptive. That is why Prachanda took Bhattarai's real rival in the party, Mohan Baidhya Kiran, along with Ram Bahadur Thapa Badal and Dev Gurung, to Hattiban resort, apparently as a message to Bhattarai that 'I am still stronger than you'. Prachanda's many maneuvers post-army deployment days are aimed at telling the world that 'I am the leader' and not Bhattarai. Similarly, Prime Minister Bhattarai knows that once Baidhya is out, Prachanda will lose the power of playing Baidhya against Bhattarai or the other way round.

In the post NA-deployment days, Prachanda has also doubled his efforts to appease India--once the much derided 'foreign lord' - and tell its leaders that he no longer harbours anti-India feelings and that he could be trusted as much as India trusts Bhattarai. Major political parties, on the other hand, have been treating the people this time like they treated king Gyanendra after April, 2006. G P Koirala took the oath of office from the king soon after the mass movement was called off following political settlement and reinstatement of the House of Representative. The House announced Monarchy will continue. Later, they said the monarchy's fate will be determined by the first meeting of the constituent assembly. All these exercises, encouraged by major external player (s) , were being carried by the political parties in Nepal.

Height of institutional dishonesty was demonstrated when the 'sovereign parliament' met on May 28, 2008, and allowed K P Sitaula--a tress-passer-- to present a resolution for the exit of the monarchy in the dead of the night, and endorsed it. Once a parliament is constituted , only a newly formed government after that duly takes oath of office can can push the business of the House ahead. No one who is a non-member entering the House is penalised as a tress-passer. K P Sitaula was just that on that day. The CA tolerated the insult of being dictated by a tress passer.

That's how Monarchy's fate was decided. And that is exactly what these parties are doing to the Nepali people now. The interim constitution and the time-table published (and revised) from time to time have always defined the time-frame for gathering people's response to the draft they have prepared. Each time, they miss the deadline, and extend it, they reduce the time-frame allotted to solicit public opinion. Now with less than 40 days left, the Speaker, all party Business Advisory Committee and Constitutional Committee are going to endorse the new proposal to deny people any role or opportunity to express their recommendation.

Prachanda has now openly invited India's cooperation, but is least regretful over people being denied any role in the constitution making process. He has become a slave of his megalomania , and in the name of 'displaying courage', is undermining the role and right of the people in the constitution making process. Bhattarai is doing exactly the same thing, and indulging in credit-hogging exercise.But in the final count--when they will make all undemocratic and anti-constitutional exercises to meet the deadline 'through any type of constitution', there is every chance of their being established as 'anti-people ', not only 'anti-combatants'.


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