What a doleful irony! The only plausible political reason – and at that level of governance, things that matter are only political – Nepal’s CEO Khil Raj Regmi went to New York(when he should have been managing the messy transition crises here) was to get the ukase and blessings of Man Mohan Singh directly. Not that it had not already been delivered by his underlings, spook-in-chief Alok Joshi and foreign secretary Sujatha Singh just weeks earlier in Kathmandu; but given the predicament he is facing – growing meaninglessness of a second CA-IIpoll boycotted by not just the Baidya-led 33-party alliance but sure to be disrupted by a growing army of disgruntled factions within each major party – faithfully implementing the ukase is getting to be problematic. From newspaper reports, he seems to have got the ukase anew: hold elections on November 19! The irony is, it came from an Indian prime minister whose own authority in Delhi was torn to shreds by his upstart Congress-I crown prince, with signs that harbinger regime change in Delhi itself. Will it add to Regmi’s gravitas or will the “blessings” turn into a curse?
The Mughlani pressure on the failed oligarchs of CA-I to hold elections on that date “at all costs” (instead of “properly and meaningfully”) is said to come from India’s National Security Advisory Board which is packed with the architects of its failed political adventurism in Nepal. Its chair, former foreign secretary Shyam Sharan, was ambassador to Nepal who double-crossed not only the King of Nepal but also schemed to disrupt the agreement worked out by India’s special envoy Karan Singh, which has led directly to current instability. The powerful board’s members include another former ambassador K. V. Rajan (architect of the disastrous Mahakali Treaty), Hormis Tharakan (spook chief in Nepal in the tumultuous 1990s, subsequently head of RAW in Delhi) and a bevy of academics from the Congress-I bandwagon that have provided rationalizations for regime change in Nepal. They have, it is said, insisted to GoI that elections in Nepal be held at any cost on the stipulated date. The reason seems to be to present the same faithful Nepali oligarchy with a semi-legitimate façade as a fait accompli, and thus partly whitewash their own misadventures before a new regime in Delhi after Indian elections in early 2014.
Kantipur’s Sudhir Sharma’s new exposé Prayogshala, despite its selective documenting of how India’s neighbourhood policy and diplomacy is NOT fed by its spooks but LED by them, only confirms this new adventurism and the less than savory motives that lie behind it. It makes the EuroAmericans, who outsourced their Nepal policy to Delhi, look so naïve as to lose any serious diplomatic credibility in South Asia, and shows Nepal’s civil society of 2005/2006 and the peace industry they ran with Western funding as complicit in the Leninist “useful idiots” sense. Reading the book, readers are forced to ask the writer and the publishing houses he is/was associated with: if you knew all these things even as early as you did, how come you misled your faithful readers by not indicating or hinting anything about it as you went full-steam on your mission journalism of demonizing Gyanendra and lionizing both Girija and Baburam, the two most treasonous figures of New Nepal? Were you or your publishing houses too following some mysterious ukase?
The less said about Nepal’s failed ruling political parties, the better. At the book’s launch attended by Kathmandu’s cognoscenti, many tantalizing glimpses of Freudian slips among the establishment oligarchy were provided which show how Kathmandu politics operated and continue to operate. Given what the contents of the book were, Prachanda should not even have shown his face there in shame; but he did and had the temerity to berate the Indians for “micro-managing” Nepal’s politics and its administration. It follows logically that he is okay with Delhi’s macro-management of Nepal provided it leave micro-management to him and his politburo-bhardars Jung Bahadur style!
Youth leader Gagan Thapa said he was shocked to discover how he and his Kangress parties were but ignorant pawns in a larger game they were totally oblivious of. Kangress theoretician Pradeep Giri had to express surprise at Thapa’s remarks and wonder how a young leadership so ignorant of international intrigues could lead tomorrow’s Nepal. Like Prachanda, he too only complained that the Mughlanis should, like other super powers, conduct their management of Nepal’s politics covertly and not overtly. The UML, Aloo Party as it is often referred to for being fit to mix in every type of political vegetable curry, is conspicuous by its deafening silence even though the book begins with a description of how its senior most oligarch took direct instructions from Mughlani spooks in Everest hotel before heading for CA meetings.
The resistance within Nepal to the election ukase comes from an unusual configuration of forces. The most overt are the breakaway Dash Maoists and their motley 33-party coalition, and they seem to have won the battlefor the moral high ground. They were willing to participate in the elections by significantly compromising their original stance; but after the visits of Mughlani spook Joshi and foreign secretary Singh mentioned above, the main parties backtracked from any compromise and, faithful to the ukase, agreed to keep the Dash Maoists out at all costs. Even commentators beholden to the establishment parties have had to evoke the highly symbolic episode from the Mahabharat where Krishna tries to avert a war by pleading with the Kauravs(establishment oligarchs) to give their poor Pandav cousins (Dash plus 33) just five villages, an offer the arrogant Kauravs refused leading to the epic conflict.
The covert undercurrents, seen through Freudian glimpses, are even more fascinating for what they indicate about the real nature of Nepal’s transitional politics. As these lines are being written, second rank politicians in the four-party syndicate are giving indications of talking to the Dash Maoists about postponing elections, and serious pro-election cognoscenti have been calling me to say why think elections will not be held, which range from the comical and workup to the sublime.It seems, declaring candidates now means they have to provide them and their district and village machinesparty funds for campaigns. Given how politics of ideals and volunteerism is practically dead within their ranks with the rise of “money and muscle” politics, all major party treasurers are afraid much of the money will be spent on Dussain feasts and Tihar gambling instead of party campaigns. On this count alone, November 19 is a highly inauspicious date!
The bigger reason is that all of the oligarchs are unable to manage dissent within their ranks, partly and ironically because of their refusal to hold local elections in last ten years and refusing to participate in the municipal elections held by the King’s government in February 2005. Had they done so, they would have groomed a wide cadre of political workers with experience in holding office whom they could judge without much bias as to their being fit for higher offices such as MPs. A successful ward chief could be promoted to a mayor and a capable district chair elevated to an MP, a process which they stunted by opting, especially after 2006, not for elections but for their neo-feudal patronage dispensing selection of city council and district party offices. The result is – and I have met such disgruntled aspirants – people who are unfit to be ward chairmen are fighting for their inborn rights to become MPs! And Nepal’s bulging youth demographics – with people who were too young to participate in the last full-fledged local elections in 1998 are today 32 years old – means those aspirations have to be met.
The irony and undercurrents of Nepali politics will continue to roil the country well past November 19 with or without elections, and the chance of any new and acceptable constitution being written evaporates like the coming winter fogs.