(Courtesy: el Zorro)
The underlying premise of this writing is the acknowledgement of a fundamental and irreversible paradigmatic shift in Nepali politics. In order to grasp the significance of this change, the following assumptions must be made:
- What Nepal is currently witnessing is a complete and unequivocal Maoist victory. Fortunately, the conquest has not been purely of the military variety, but of a political nature; engineering of the point of inflection having been consistently buttressed by military action but ultimately achieved by astute political maneuvering (backed by a highly sophisticated network of Maoist sympathizers, strategically located across the globe).
- The point to take away is that the Maoists’ political agenda has prevailed. The SPA’s platform may have conveniently coincided with the Maoist view but this outcome is insignificant when compared to the brilliance employed to engineer the act of convergence. With circumstantially dictated compromises on differentiating issues, the SPA’s political identity (barring a few superficial agendas), has become one with the Maoists. Both groups appear to have operated under the assumption that the other could ultimately be outsmarted.
- Based on the pivotal role that Maoist cadre played in altering Nepal’s political landscape, it’s clear now who the “outsmarters” and outsmarted are. Without assistance from the Maoists, the SPA could have agitated for another couple of years with no discernable results.
- With Girja Koirala at the helm of a resurrected parliament, the international community’s conscience is clear – Nepal finally has democracy again. Meanwhile, the actual political agenda is driven by the appearance of a progressive alliance whose utility vanishes (rather ironically) the minute serious deliberations begin on the elections to a constituent assembly (which is the primary mandate of this current government). At this point, the alliance of convenience will undoubtedly transform into a competition of necessity – the number of seats in the constituent assembly will be limited.
- The complete failure of moderate SPA leaders to envision the ramifications of their radicalization was observed in their helplessness (even in full view of Indian support) at steering the swollen, alien mob in Kathmandu. Reports of student activists beating parliamentarians should suffice to demonstrate the inverted chain of command that persists in Nepal. “Execute the will of the “people” or prepare to have the will of the “people” executed on you,” seems to be the message on the streets. Exactly whose will is to be fulfilled or precisely who the “people” represent are matters that will fall into perspective during the run up to the constituent assembly.
- The Royal Institution in Nepal faces an abject future. Having squandered one opportunity after another to rectify the underlying deficiencies championed by the Maoists, the palace has correctly been transformed into the lightning rod for accumulated, public frustration. It is likely that the future course of intellectual wrath will remain focused on the King, perhaps indefinitely. The inability of the political leadership to meet artificially inflated public expectations will certainly guarantee the king continued public disaffection and the status of “universal scapegoat.” Having set such high standards of intolerance for incompetence, King Gyanendra has little room to disapprove should the same standards be applied in judging his own performance (while in power).
- The Maoist play-book has been executed right down to the penultimate play. Judging by the momentum of events in Nepal, it is only a matter of time before the Maoists’ disgruntlement at “external interference” is played out in full. To be sure, a destabilized third world country in the grip of radical change, provides the majority of ingredients needed to re-direct the resulting civil strife, externally; that is, in any direction other than the root causes of such frustrations. Herein lies the final call in the Maoist play-book and it is here when clarity will be had on who really controls the Maoist agenda – the legal or the illegal Left.
- Although India (through the South Block) has re-established its authority over Nepal, the outcome of its policies are at best, uncertain. A glimpse into what could potentially be India’s calculation error on its control over the merged “SPA (and) M” entity was witnessed during the April protests in Nepal (affectionately referred to as Jana Aandola-II). If Manmohan Singh’s coalition partner (the CPI-M) is unable to exert the anticipated leverage on the Nepali Maoists, the ruling Indian party will be susceptible to the wrath of its political opposition (namely the BJP) and perhaps, India’s defense community.
Accompanying the broad assumptions above are re-calibrated expectations and re-constituted ideological frameworks that recognize both the advantages and disadvantages of the ongoing paradigm shift in Nepal. If these assumptions do account for some of Nepal’s ground reality, the country’s future may take on any combination of the following dimensions:
- A future government that touts national representation cannot be formed in the absence of Maoist participation and a leftist majority. If there is to be any correlation between the civil strife of April 2006 and political representation, the head of any new government should likely be from the Maoist camp. At a minimum, the majority of powerful cabinet portfolios should go to Maoist individuals. This begs the question how to include an armed faction as part of a legitimate state framework.
- Without a strong Maoist presence in the new government (to quell the masses and exercise restraint), the government will be without practical purpose. Some method of folding the Maoist insurgents into the state’s security apparatus will have to occur before the former rebels are inducted into the halls of power. This however, should be a “simple” exercise as the victors in any historical battle should face minimal obstacles in steering the forces that have been defeated.
- Similarly, the younger, more radical generation of SPA leaders also deserve a chance to put their policies in practice. Albeit in a post-“revolutionary” world, most members of the current alliance are likely to find themselves as the opposition, not the incumbents. Whatever the eventuality, there remains neither room nor tolerance for demonstrably weak leaders with or without democratic credentials.
- The dual reversals in roles from incumbents to opposition elements and from the subjugated to elevated levels of power, should accelerate the rate of political maturity for Nepal’s emerging political class. For some, a step “up” from the luxury of being in opposition should aid in molding political platforms. For others, exposure to national level politics will undoubtedly provide enlightened perspectives.
- The premise of a republican state has served multiple political purposes. To some, it has provided hope for greater equality, to others it has represented a tidal shift in power from one ethnic minority to another and yet, to others, it has served as the launching pad for political identities. Whatever the case may be, one would hope that should the desire of a Nepali majority be the realization of a republican state, that this option would come to fruition through the resurrection of democratic processes and laws and through the ballot, not the bullet.
- If Nepal’s majority feels the utility of even a ceremonial monarchy is spent, there is no time to waste in abeyance of a democratic, republican nation-state. The erection of a republic however, should be accomplished on the foundations of due processes that demonstrate moral superiority and the indisputable will of the majority – not the tyranny of the minority. Namely, the abolition of any existing state structure should develop through deliberations held during the Constituent Assembly. Such a precedent will cement the democratic credentials that the Maoists have adopted and those that civil society leaders have gone to great lengths to impress upon the international community.
- In summary, the birth of a new Nepali state must begin with the admission of a Maoist victory in Nepal. The political ingenuity exhibited by the Maoist leadership has been consistently superb, even flawless – which other party in Nepal (or even the world) can claim to have held the entire political structure of a nation-state, the world’s lone super power and the regional super power “hostage” for over three weeks? This, by mobilizing merely an estimated 200,000 people (less than 1% of Nepal’s population). The injection of this ingenuity (for constructive purposes) into mainstream Nepali politics should serve the Nepali people well.
- Perhaps most significant of all, the Maoist victory is a lesson to each and every Nepali who has remained complacent and lethargic to the state of societal and political pressures that have continued to plague the nation; most visibly in the post-1990 period. The lesson teaches all Nepalis that if one is unable to fight through the ballot, sometimes, given conditions of sufficient apathy, political victory can even be accomplished through the bullet.
- To the rest of the world, Nepal’s drift back to inconsequentiality commenced, the second that street demonstrations subsided and along with them, the hyped global media sensation. To the world, the turn of events in Nepal marks the end of a short-lived, “failed autocratic” experiment. But the world’s representatives who were in Nepal and witnessed history being made, know better. Whether Nepal’s intellectual and pseudo-intellectual classes care to publicly acknowledge it, the blunt reality of their political achievement is rapidly coming into focus through a revolutionary lens of red flags, unwieldy expectations and a short fused emerging generation that has learned to effectively crack the whip on its former oppressors - the (now largely cosmetic) political leadership.
For the 3rd time in the span of a decade and a half, Nepal finds itself in existential jeopardy. One can only hope that the opportunities at hand, are not as easily squandered as the ones before them. Further, one must also hope that Nepalis collectively place the best interest of the entire nation at heart and move forward in unison.
Then again, as a prominent observer of leftist insurgencies has observed, "hope is not a method." With this thought in mind, forward-looking outlooks should commence by terming the events that unfolded in Nepal what they really are – the successful end of a masterfully executed Maoist campaign. To think otherwise requires a leap of faith; one that assumes permanently enlightened attitudes of Nepal's political elite. Unfortunately, this line of thinking relies dangerously on "hope" rather than "method."