Tuesday, April 29, 2008
The notion of eventual Maoist victory under the SPA’s leadership was continually argued after the signing of the “12 Point Agreement.” Maoist strategy and its tactical pillars were analyzed in the context of political developments; the resulting directional impact that clearly favored the Maoists’ agenda was highlighted again and again.
After nearly two and half years of fumbling around, the SPA's incompetence in the face of unwavering Maoist determination has culminated with the Maoists’ as the largest political party in Nepal’s newly elected constituent assembly. Legitimization of Maoist methods and tactics (which together form the backbone of Maoist strategy) has occurred. Now, the time to justifiably oppose the Maoists’, based exclusively on principle (namely, opposition to the Maoists’ violent, non-democratic methods), is over.
As far as the international community and the Nepali people-at-large are concerned, the Maoists’ won in the constituent assembly elections fair and square. The wisdom of questioning the Maoists’ electoral victory on a de-facto basis is certain to be counterproductive. If there was any shadow of credible doubt to have been cast, it should have taken the form of questioning the “fairness and freeness” of elections BEFORE they took place; not afterwards.
As bitter a pill as this may be for Nepal’s traditional democratic parties to swallow, they have no further to look than amongst their own ranks to rationalize the causes behind their lackluster electoral performance. Without a doubt, execution of the Maoists’ strategy has been superior and precisely timed; but to be completely fair, the NC and UML’s insistence on relying on “Indian benevolence,” hardly served these parties’ electoral agendas either.
National Reconciliation – The Maoist Version
The grace with which the Maoists have conducted themselves after their devastating electoral victory is noteworthy. The impetus behind such grace and fortitude is the need to simultaneously assure Nepal's southern neighbor, the private sector investor community, and also to ease the minds of the international community-at-large. Any meaningful measure of democratic intent in Maoist overtures however, is best made through observations over time; their post-election, knee-jerk reaction must be internalized in the context of what the Maoists have to lose by exercising the hubris that characterized their predecessors electoral victories.
By consoling the UML and reaching out to the NC, the Maoists accomplish two feats: Domestically, they fill a void in technical capabilities within their ranks, and internationally, they offer a multi-party coalition to keep their democratic critics at bay. By reaching out to the MJF, the Maoists' gain the upper hand by demonstrating their flexibility - especially because they understand that the MJF is the only party capable of playing hardball with them.
But the Maoists' masterstroke is the way in which they have proceeded to deal with King Gyanendra. As opposed to evicting the King from Nepal or putting him on trial under a kangaroo court, the Maoists' are actually testing public sentiment by floating various conciliatory proposals through the Nepali media. The hardcore anti-monarchist stand that was sold as the root cause behind the Maoist rebellion increasingly appears to be a hardcore drive for political power, and nothing more.
In short, the moves that the Maoists' have forwarded is the current day version of BP's idea of national reconciliation. The tragedy is that the useful idiots in the Nepali Congress aren't the ones championing their own founder's approach. Sadly, these fools are stuck toeing the original Maoist line while the Maoists have moved on to bigger and better things.
Nepali Nationalism - The Maoists' Hold the Cards
The royalist voter base in Nepal is a voter base nonetheless. The Maoists' offer the most sophisticated understanding of this reality and appear ready to take measures aimed at calming the hardcore rightists while enticing the agenda-driven right wing to join the Maoist ranks. They experienced some success in captivating the minds of fellow nationalists before elections, and appear ready to encourage other agenda-driven nationalists to follow suit.
Given their political interest, whether or not the Maoists' permit King Gyanendra cultural rights is immaterial. More significant is that the Maoists are the ones pushing to create space for Gyanendra within Nepal. Keeping an individual like Gyanendra inside Nepal's borders is an insurance policy against the popularity that a dethroned Hindu monarch would enjoy amongst the religiously inclined Indian population.
Further, the Maoists' seem to understand the core distinction in the royalist ranks better than all of their political adversaries combined. They understand that a portion of the Nepali population that chooses to pay homage to Gyanendra will do so irrespective of whether he holds a constitutionally driven title or not. It is the more rational, agenda-driven ranks of the royalist camp that the Maoists are interested in drawing to their cause.
In some ways, despite their wildly fluctuating public rhetoric, not forcing the monarch out of Nepal is similar to offering King Gyanendra an olive branch. More precisely, it's an offering of peace to the hardcore royalist ranks, the construction of an ideological bridge between the current and future nationalist flag-bearers, and food for thought for loyalist remnants within Nepal's military.
The Indian government's pre-emptive call to revise the 1950 treaty is music to the Nepali nationalists' ears. Recalling Prachanda's rant that begins with "Ultimately, we will have to fight the Indian Army…. (http://www.southasiaanalysis.org/papers3/paper277.html), probably has the most delusional nationalists, frothing at their mouths.
In summary, the Maoists own the Nepali nationalist agenda. There are no other contenders for this title. The useful idiots in the Nepali Congress who expect the disillusioned ranks of the royalists to come knocking on their door are in for an unpleasant surprise.
Maoist strategy moving forward is certain to leverage the best of Nepal’s historical experiences. As discussed above, the Maoists are likely to continue borrowing heavily from BP Koirala's idea of national reconciliation and from the royalists’ idea of radical nationalism. The beauty of course, is that the Maoists are plagiarizing two of the most successful political agendas Nepal has known, while decimating the political identities of their original authors.
What analysts and political pundits should start thinking about is how they intend to rationalize steps when the Maoists start borrowing from King Mahendra's idea of a customized democracy? With national and international electoral legitimacy fully backing Maoist agendas and a plethora of credential-driven, conviction-less "democrats" to rely on, the Nepali people might as well buckle up and prepare to experience Nepal making history once more - Maoist style!
Paradigm Shift - Where Does Nepal Stand?
Nationalism as a Political Agenda - Defining Nepali Interests
The Pitfalls of Relying on Indian Benevolence
Monday, April 28, 2008
Those who call themselves diehard democrats but remain enamored by the Maoist win in Nepal need to return to reality urgently. For if they do not, this "surprise" Maoist victory will turn into a lengthy series of astonishing feats.
The humiliating defeat of Nepal's democratic forces is a consequence of the convergence between the following elements: A failure of collective intellect, dedicated effort, and imagination. In aggregate, these individual deficiencies amounted to a gross underestimation of Maoist capacity - much of which was allegedly based upon the application of dubious methods. Where collective intellect and effort are concerned, the debate is bound to rage on. But where failure in imagination goes, it becomes necessary to put oneself inside the Maoist mind and see things as they see them, to understand their beliefs, strategy, and supporting tactics.
Bridging the intellectual chasm that divides the Maoist worldview from the democratic worldview is not a simple task. It takes tremendous patience, conviction and moral rectitude to recognize elements that differentiate one's political outlook from those of one's rivals. Had either the Nepali Congress (NC) or United Marxist Leninist (UML) leadership taken time to dispassionately evaluate the Maoist machine, they would have understood long ago that the Maoists are in this to win - not to compromise, or become mainstreamed or to play by anyone else's rules but their own.
For the Maoists, the game that began with projecting feudalism as the root of all evil will logically end with the realization of their strategic intent. The Maoists' goal of using different combinations of bullets and ballots (and whatever other mechanisms and individuals that happen to be available) will culminate only when all marginal threats to their expanding power base have been eliminated. Whether this process of elimination occurs figuratively or literally, whether through perversions of democratic process or through decrees, are all secondary to the question of what remains the Maoists' strategic end-goal?
The best way to have this question answered is to ask it: "Do the Maoists intend to exercise a system of vibrant multiparty democracy as defined by Western standards or do they intend to implement their own vision of democracy in Nepal?" The relevance of this targeted question remains the contradictory manner in which Maoists within their party have traditionally responded, and unfortunately, the manner in which Nepal's rent-seeking civil society pundits have interpreted available Maoist responses.
In effect, allegations that the Maoists used undemocratic methods to subvert their competition during constituent assembly elections simply cannot be written off using rationale which suggests that the NC and the UML did the same, a decade ago. By extension of this line of reasoning, is the hypothetical implementation of a one-party communist republic justified based on the fact that Mahendra implemented a one-party Panchayat system a half-century ago?
Barring differences based on political extremities, the logic is identical - and equally flawed.
While it is hardly surprising that the Maoists will continue to leverage ethnic appeal to fulfill their remaining agendas, it is completely shocking to read staunch democrats justify the Maoist victory on grounds of political goodwill generated through the Maoist insurgency. Is goodwill borne of political cleansing and then capitalized on through the absence of choice, a new democratic standard for Nepalese to look forward to?
Understanding a problem is the first half of the path to solving it. The democratic forces in Nepal should learn a lesson from how the Maoists have done "business" to date. The Maoist method of power consolidation amounts to restrictions over choice, populism over substance, and the use and abuse of any and all elements that elevate the Maoists' chances of consolidating their powerbase.
The next step in the Maoist game plan is to garner international legitimacy through a power-sharing arrangement with the NC and UML. Ironically, Maoist strongman Pushpa Kamal Dahal is guilt-tripping the NC and UML into remaining within the Maoist government by citing the need to live up to past agreements. As for unprincipled individuals like Bam Dev Gautam, he isn't far behind on the list of "useful idiots" and may be written off as an aspiring Maoist.
The point here is that the utility of the Seven Party Alliance (SPA) is not quite over for the Maoists. The Maoists still need the UML and the NC to maintain international cover, while the Maoists mould a constitution of their choice. They understand that if the constitution-making process is delayed and that the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) returns to the power in India, the Maoists' days of smooth sailing will be over. So, until the constitution of their liking is drafted and the Maoists are positioned to sweep the next round of local and parliamentary elections, they will continue to extend olive branches to the NC and the UML.
The urge to cling to a false sense of short-term power at the detriment of a vibrant, long-term democracy is something that both the NC and UML should carefully consider. As far as past agreements are concerned, elected NC and UML members to the constituent assembly are already positioned to fulfill their parties' commitments. At this time, it may be more appropriate for the NC and UML to engage in some long overdue introspection, soul-searching and re-invention so their parties do not re-perform the recent acts of humiliation when the time for parliamentary elections arrives. There's nothing wrong with these parties for some "time off" from the daily grind of governance to get their own houses in order.
For the Maoists, the game is almost over. They have substantially weakened the UML and are in the process of accommodating the Royalists. By suggesting the provision of social, economic, and cultural rights to the king they have indirectly tested the public's appetite for a ceremonial monarchy using different terms ("monarchy with certain cultural rights"). By hinting at providing space to the Nepal's King, the Maoists have once again attempted to define the direction of the Nepali's political debate. In essence, they are experimenting BP Koirala's notion of national reconciliation but once more, by using different terms. The Maoists are systematically recreating their own public image while eroding the defining characteristics of their political opponents.
Under such a radically transformed environment, the mainstream political parties of yesteryears can only survive by positioning themselves in the center and forming an alliance to protect multiparty democracy. The NC and UML need to spearhead efforts to align moderates from all walks on political life in Nepal. This act, in essence, must address the urgent need to guarantee the sustenance of multiparty democratic politics in Nepal and have nothing to do with opposing the Maoists. If the Maoists construe the formation of such an alliance as unacceptable to their agenda, people must understand that there's a fundamental problem with the Maoist agenda, not the proposed multiparty alliance. If it serves to assuage the Maoists' fragile sensibilities, they (along with their leftist alliance partners) may be invited as observers to the alliance of multiparty democrats. Who knows? The Maoists might even learn a thing or two?
Let the People Decide
Monday, April 21, 2008
As of this writing, 11 days after the Constituent Assembly (CA) Elections, the Communist Party of Nepal – Maoist (Maoists) candidates have won 118 of the 234 direct vote seats for which results have been announced. This constitutes 50% of the announced seats, 49% of the 240 first-past-the-post (FPTP – direct vote) seats and 21% of the 575 total CA seats available (excluding the 26 seats to be nominated). All this even before the final results for the proportional representation (PR) seats have been announced. The tally of the PR votes is well underway. The Maoists lead handily, though it is unlikely that they will have an absolute majority (301 seats) in the CA. Have the People of Nepal spoken?
It is common knowledge that there has been wholesale pre-election intimidation by the Maoists. Leaders of rival political parties and their supporters have faced the wrath of the Young Communist League (YCL) mercilessly. Voters have been threatened, especially in the rural areas. Many voters were given a choice between voting for the Maoists or an end to peace. They chose peace. Even on the morning of Election Day, polling booths in Gorkha, Sidhupalchowk, Ramechap and Bhojpur districts, to name a few, were captured by Maoist cadres and supporters of rival parties were barred from casting votes.
Irregularities in numerous voting stations have also occurred. As an example, at one station in Kavre district only a couple of hours drive from the capital, voters cast their ballots repeatedly. The polling officers and the police security, all known well to the voters, simply turned the other way. A couple of international observers visited the station briefly, and all nefarious activities were put on hold. Once they left, the comedy continued. “Celebrity” observers, such as Jimmy Carter, stayed in the capital and lauded the fairness of the elections. They did not do any service at all to democracy in Nepal. It is little wonder that the Election Commission has instructed re-polling to be carried out in 106 voting centers which did not meet the code of conduct of the Commission, covering 21 constituencies. This makes up almost 4% of the 2,888 voting centers.
Another issue is whether the majority of voters know the nuances of a communist party. Dictatorship of the proletariat, class struggle, the bourgeoisie – these are but a few of the concepts that those who adhere to doctrinaire Marxism-Leninism use with grave sincerity. Would an illiterate voter, threatened and thoroughly intimidated, know that democracy has no great value in the communist lexicon?
Notwithstanding the aforementioned negative reasons for the Maoist victory, there are other factors at play. The demographics cannot be ignored. About 50% of the voters were under the age of 35. Most of these youths have no strong ties or allegiance to the traditional political parties or their leaders. In 1990, when a multi-party democratic system was instituted in Nepal, a youth who is now 35 would have been just 17 years old, too young to vote. The current exodus of youth to foreign countries for employment reflects reality for Nepali youths. Just recently, about 31,000 young people took the Korean language examination for eligibility to be considered for employment in South Korea. About, 6,800 have passed the examination – that is 6,800 too many bright young Nepalis with initiative who will be lost to Nepal.
The complacency of the other political parties, especially the Nepali Congress (NC) and the Communist Party of Nepal - United Marxist Leninist (UML), cannot be overlooked. The leader of the UML, one of the “big three” parties in the current government along with NC and the Maoists - as well as the leaders of the Rastriya Prajatantra Party (RPP), RPP (Nepal) and Rastriya Janashakti Party (RJP) – all lost in the elections. The Maoists were supposed to obtain a maximum of around 20 seats in the CA. Domestic political pundits as well as the international community, especially India, miscalculated grossly! Besides the leaders, most of the senior stalwarts of the NC and UML have also lost.
Finally, the voters did want CHANGE. Since the advent of multi-party democracy in 1990, the NC and UML have held sway, for the most part, over the political throne. Their achievements have been dismal. In a stroke of enlightened public relations, and just before the election, the Maoists came up with the slogan “The others have been given their chance – now give us a chance”. They have been given this chance. Further, the grass-roots organizational strength of the Maoists, enabling them to get out their votes on Election Day, was unsurpassed.
The statement given by Maoist Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal (Prachanda) immediately following his victory in constituency #10 in Kathmandu was statesman-like, meant to allay the fears of those who were threatened by the Maoist victory. Despite the likelihood that the Maoists will have close to a majority in the CA, he asserted that his party is committed to democratic values and competitive politics. He promised that the new constitution will be formulated by a coalition, taking into account the views of all the other parties represented in the CA. He assured the international community that the new government will not be a rogue government, dictated by an outdated political doctrine (though not in so many words!). He dedicated his party to the goal of rapid economic growth. He said all the right words on the right occasion. Since then, Baburam Bhattarai, the Maoist ideologue and intellectual as well as Prachanda’s #2, has reiterated that the private sector has the major role to play in the forthcoming “economic revolution”. We will now observe whether these Maoist leaders, their party – and especially their youth cadre (YCL) - stand by them. In fact, it behooves well for the Maoist leadership to disband the YCL immediately as a token of its sincerity towards peace, security and democracy. Mao’s Red Guards did not stay around forever.
International sensitivities are also at play. India suffers from a multitude of threats from its own Maoists. It certainly would not like Nepal to support these Maoists or provide safe haven to them. The Nepali Maoists also remain on the United State’s “terrorists list”. These two countries, which lay claim to being bastions of democracy in the world and in south Asia respectively, will be observing the new government of Nepal with more than ordinary interest.
The Maoist leaders have already started speaking repeatedly of how they will magnanimously allow a ”graceful exit” to the king, once the first session of the CA “implements” (read “rubber-stamps”) the decision taken by the seven parties in the current Interim Government to abolish the monarchy for a republic. Can a decision taken by an unelected government, without seeking the people’s consensus, be valid constitutionally and legally and can the CA be forced to rubber stamp this decision? The CA has been constituted to draft the new Constitution of the country. It is this Constitution while must finalize the form of government and put it to the people’s vote. Should the first CA session abolish the monarchy, the new government will have begun its tenure on a totally undemocratic note, undermining all the rhetoric that go along with the call for a “New Nepal”. The rule of law, democratic norms, and regard for the people’s opinion will all have been thrown into the garbage heap of high-handed oligarchic dictatorship. Let the CA, and especially the Maoist-led new government, note this.
We will see predominantly new faces in the CA. The CA will be a more inclusive legislative body than any Nepal has ever seen before - with more women, various ethnic groups, madhises, dalits, and other previously underrepresented groups. The Maoist victory is really a challenge, a challenge by the People to the Maoists’ commitment to peace and stability, independence and development for this beleaguered nation. Will they be able to make up for their ruthless past that has left 13,000 Nepalis dead and many more homeless over the past twelve years? Unlikely. But with a careful amalgamation of vision, co-operation with all, emphasis on inclusiveness, incorruptibility, control of its youth cadre (the YCL), pragmatism as opposed to being slaves to archaic doctrines, and pure and simple dedication to building a “New Nepal”, the CPN-M may yet prove to the world, and more importantly to us Nepalis, that a communist party can actually come into national power via the ballot – a feat never before achieved on earth! We, the People, await this feat with abated breath and with eagle eyes. This time, the onus will be on the Maoists to deliver, with no way to shift the blame to any other party.
Stubborn Koirala and NC's Impending Downfall
Nepal's CA Elections - Assume Nothing
Friday, April 18, 2008
Everyone is contemplating the factors that carried the Maoists to an impressive victory in the CA elections. The scale of the Maoist victory in the CA elections has surprised Western observers and the Maoists alike. Had the Maoists sensed their landslide victory in advance, their quest to form an electoral alliance with the UML would have ended long before the election date. And had the West (or India) anticipated a red curtain falling over Nepal, they may have thought twice before pushing elections at all costs, despite the overwhelming state of lawlessness immediately before the elections.
History in this sense hasn't just been made within Nepal; rather, the Maoists' ascendancy to power has set a precedent for entire South Asia and the world to "marvel" at. No matter how the Maoist victory is ultimately spun, the cold, hard and uneasy facts stare us squarely in our faces — one permutation of the idea that "power comes from the barrel of a gun" is alive and well and the Nepali Maoists are living proof of this concept.
Having witnessed the Maoists' rise to power, the people are now in the process of figuring out what a Maoist-majority government means for Nepal's democratic future. Unraveling this mystery requires working-knowledge of the factors that benefited the Maoists as well as elements that amplified the incumbent parties' humiliating defeat.
The debate over whether people who voted for the Maoists actually subscribe to Maoist fundamentalism will continue to play out over the months ahead. However, the symbolic emphasis that voters placed on the need for radical change requires no further deliberation. The Maoists swept the CA elections primarily because it conducted an excellent electoral campaign but equally because the campaigns of their political adversaries were so hollow.
The Maoists had fresh candidates, clear messages and an unwavering strategic objective upon which to pontificate. To the contrary, never mind a winning strategy, the major parties of the yesteryears had neither clean candidates to forward, nor distinctive messages to convey.
To an ordinary observer, the similarities between the candidate list forwarded by King Gyanendra less than 26 months earlier, which included the likes of Kamal Thapa and those forwarded by the Nepali Congress (NC) that included the likes of Khum Bahadur Khadka for the CA elections, are hard to miss. Surely, dynamic reactions that reflect public sentiment (instead of a fixated reliance on status quo candidates) would have positioned the NC and the UML for less humiliating defeats?
The NC and the UML also appear to have failed miserably at anticipating the public's intelligence. These parties' attempt at defeating the Maoists by re-packaging agendas for which the Maoists fought a decade-long civil war — establishing a federal democratic republic, building an inclusive society, administering equality and justice, etc — grossly underestimated the public's prowess. After all, like informed consumers anywhere in the world, voters in Nepal decided to "purchase" the republican agenda from its original architects — the Maoists.
Once again, the credit goes to the Maoists for their superb "republican bait" - a bait that the NC and the UML consumed, hook, line and sinker! By framing the debate exclusively in terms of the republican agenda, the Maoists tactfully engineered a situation where the NC and UML candidates unknowingly campaigned on the Maoists' behalf.
The Maoist leaders continued campaigning while the YCL effectively denied competitors access to large sections of Nepal that have not had any State presence for over a decade. Persistent aggression in the pre-poll environment should have given advocates of liberal democracy reason for logical pause. But the risk of being branded "anti-election reactionaries" undoubtedly subdued (otherwise logical caution) from the liberal democratic camp.
The populist fervor architected by the Maoists forced the liberal democrats to continually walk a tightrope between conviction and credibility. Which of these competing agendas was ultimately served, will become uneasily clear in the near future. Already, the process of rationalizing the CA results in terms that praise the democratic process but pin hopes for a functional democracy on a known utilitarian strategy, has begun in earnest. Whether one agrees or not with the Maoist tactics, the brilliance in the political maneuvering is hard to ignore.
Like the NC that failed to realize the importance of fielding clean candidates and distinctive messages, the UML never got beyond the politics of "fence-sitting". Madhav Kumar Nepal held repeated parlays with his Indian and American interlocutors, frequently educated Puspa Kamal Dahal on the meaning of CA elections and invested much in efforts aimed at portraying the UML as responsible for "mainstreaming the Maoists."
Somewhere in this fray however, Madhav Nepal forgot how close Marxism, Leninism and Maoism truly are. The challenge in distinguishing the UML from the Maoists along ideological lines was an enormously important task that Madhav Nepal simply neglected to act on. The UML's strongman busied himself maintaining political correctness and in the process, buried the UML's identity.
It is now clear beyond any credible doubt, that the UML's claim to having mainstreamed the Maoists was in fact, inverted — it is the Maoists who have defined the mainstream to which the NC and the UML have migrated, not the other way around. Also, since the current polity is a mainstream that the Maoists have defined, there is little by way of logic to suggest that the constitution that is a product of this polity, will be anything but a Maoist interpretation of democracy.
The CA elections have transformed the political landscape whereby moderates are now replaced by radical ideologues. While the Maoist leaders have said that they will be "pragmatic," it would be naive to imagine that this group will abandon its basic ideology.
The Maoists are demonstrably inconsistent when it comes to what they say versus what they actually do. Not even seventy two hours had passed from the time Puspa Kamal Dahal delivered his victory speech (in which he reaffirmed his commitment to multiparty democracy and continued coordination amongst other political parties) and Finance Minister Ram Saran Mahat had already been attacked by Maoist cadres in Nuwakot. The message such actions send to the NC's rank and file is clear — the Maoists do not like losing and they are willing to get violent to prove their point.
Both Hitler and Mussolini took power in more or less a democratic fashion and what they did with democracy is forever engraved in the annals of tragic history. Although the German and Italian examples are not one hundred percent analogous to Nepal, the larger point to take away is that extreme caution is necessary to prevent any group that is borne of radical ideology, from running away with their radical, undemocratic ideas.
Many may posit that Nepal's excessive dependence on India and its aid dependent economy will serve as natural restraints to Maoist excesses. But the reality is that given the nature of the Maoist victory and the nationalist platform the Maoists and Royalists share, India is the one that will be treading lightly on Nepal, not the other way around. This is all the reason why Nepal's liberal democrats have to exercise even more precaution and care over the immediate future. If this group fails to leverage its credentials and act on convictions over credentials, democracy as we know it will undoubtedly come under siege in Nepal.
Nepal's CA Elections - Assume Nothing
They Shoot Journalists Don't They?
The Fallacies of Two Men - Girija & Gyanendra
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
Once again Kanak Mani Dixit has demonstrated why he deserves to be singled out for ridicule as a delusional snob. He loved to chastise the previous United States ambassador, James Moriarty and other outsiders for not understanding the “nuanced” nature of Nepali politics.
It is normally best to leave condescending hyper-liberal post-modern elitists like Kanak alone. Why legitimize their puerile rants and their self-importance? They are, at the end, incredible bores. But the alternative is to continue to let Kanak Mani Dixit use his Himal media platform to dictate to other Nepalis why HIS vision of Nepal should carry more currency than those of others during this critical historical juncture in Nepal.
Kanak Mani Dixit’s convenient response to foreign diplomats, particularly those who have advised extreme caution about Maoist methodology, intent, and purpose has always been along the lines of: “Oh, you wouldn’t understand fellas. It’s a Nepali thing.” The Maoist victory in Lalitpur goes to show how severely out of touch Dixit's line of thought has been with voter sentiment in his own back yard - never mind the rest of Nepal.
In his most recent commentary in Nepali Times, published right before the April 10th elections, Kanak Dixit smugly announced how wrong everyone else was about the will of the people, the resurrection of the parliament, and the execution of the twice-postponed elections.
With characteristic hubris, he then gave us this now-discredited prediction of post-election Nepal:
“The political party that gets the largest number of votes will take the lead in fashioning the new polity, but it must carry along all political forces including the Maoists in the running of the government and drafting the constitution.”
In light of the recent devastating victory by Maoists in the polls, however, it is the Maoists who will lead all the political forces as they come closer to their own vision of New Nepal – which Mr. Dixit may soon find is quite different and “un-nuanced” than what he might have imagined.
We would like to hear from Mr. Dixit on the nuanced head-busting Maoist attack on the Finance Minister in his OWN constituency. Dr. Mahat in a press conference evidently now wonders that with such few foreign observers (800 to cover the whole country), serious pre-poll intimidation, and other strong-arm Maoist tactics whether the elections were really fair?
More ominous is Hsila Yami’s “nuanced” pre-poll observation reported in the same issue of the Nepali Times (albeit, by a more grounded writer, Prashant Jha):
“We have people everywhere. There is an invisible network that is active now."
Barring any serious counter (as in violent deterrence), what is now uncomfortably clear is that the Maoists will work even more diligently to close-out their agenda. There is little reason for them to follow an elitist intellectual’s vision of "New Nepal." Violence – either direct or implied will remain an important component of the Maoist political repertoire. The YCL will get stronger. The “invisible” network will metastasize further and begin to obstruct press freedom and other transactions necessary for democracy.
Kanak Mani Dixit and his fellow know-it-alls (if they can shake off their arrogance) could enlighten themselves by revisiting the contents of "Prachanda Path" and interpreting the Maoist vision of Nepal the way the Maoists see it. Mr. Dixit may care to pay special heed to Maoist sentiments on ultra-nationalism and their thoughts on India's regional hegemony.
No matter how much he tries, Kanak Dixit's attempts to characterize Pushpa Kamal Dahal and Baburm Bhattarai as "moderates" will never change the character of these hard men. Nor will it change the rank-and-file Maoists' characterization of Kanak Mani Dixit as a pillar of Indian political hegemony over Nepal.
Maybe Mr. Kanak Mani Dixit never read Orwell during his days at Columbia University, a bastion of post-modern liberal thinking. If he had, he might have picked up a nugget of Orwellian caution:
“So much of left-wing thought is a kind of playing with fire by people who don't even know that fire is hot.”
The Nepali Times Gets it Wrong - Lazy Thinking and Unworthy Patronage of Maoists
Life is Good When You Are a Nepali Intellectual Elite
The Problem with Nepali Political Civil Society - The Leftist, the Cowards, and the Compromised
This writing is re-posted as "supporting material" for the Nepali Congress (and its lackeys in Nepal's disillusioned intellecutal class), as they try and figure out the root causes behind teh NC's humiliating defeat at the hands of Nepal's Maoists.
"Although to large extents, the accusations against the monarchy were valid, the majority who rallied against the institution did so with short-sighted emotion, malicious intent and a sense of personal humiliation, yearning for swift revenge. These were the very assets that proved to be potent allies for the Maoists, whose designation transformed overnight from “terrorists” to “political allies” of the mainstream parties in Nepal...."
"Despite lofty claims of convictions and democratic allegiance, none of the grand opposition needed to ensure the establishment of liberal democracy in Nepal, is currently at play. Most regrettably, the political forces one would expect to rally against leftist extremism are in a state of ideological disarray; the non-political forces that once vowed to oppose tyranny (independent of its origins), are busy coddling and condoning Maoist aggression, fooling themselves that the indoctrination of Maoists into the mainstream will disproportionately make the Maoists more democratic (as opposed to the making the mainstream more leftist)...."
"The revival of palace politics at this point is a complete show stopper – an approach that Girja has suggested on several occasions and one that has been vehemently opposed by his own party’s leadership. These leaders correctly understand the usefulness of a republican slogan but do not understand that the slogan “belongs” to their newly crowned political competitors – the Maoists...."
"Whatever the case may be, Nepal as of this day is as good as being a communist state. The NC initially bled the Maoists using state forces, the Maoists bled the nation in return and now the Maoists are back with a vengeance. And there is nothing (no army, no political force, no international assistance) to stop this nihilistic force from uprooting remnants of what they consider Nepal’s “feudal” structure – the heart of which is the Nepali Congress...."
FULL TEXT LOCATED AT THE FOLLOWING URL:
Then, India's coalition government was in full swing, courting and funding its agents in the Nepali Congress, the UML and Nepal's Civil Society. Today, India's policy of containing Maoism in Nepal by strengthening the NC, the UML and (allegedly) by starting the Madehsi movement, has backfired.
The current Indian government's foreign policy on Nepal has been a complete and irrefutable failure. No matter how pundits spin the Indian government's "benevolent intent," the fact remains that their policy prescription for Nepal has become a source of international embarassment.
"In pursuit of their objectives, Nepal's Maoists have successfully played the NC against the UML, the King against the 7 Parties, the Americans against the Indians and in their final bid, the Maoists will be playing the Nepali population (including the millions of Nepalis who reside in India), against India...."
"Don't treat Nepal like an Indian state. Doing so will widen the conceptual gap between the possible and the probable. It will also lead to an unsustainable position that feeds anti-Indian nationalism to the ultimate benefit of the Maoists....."
"Do not underestimate Maoist Machiavellianism. Like any organized group, the Maoists are adept at using and discarding actors as they see fit. As events have shown, they have been exceptionally successful in Nepal. The Maoists' goal remains the establishment of a communist republic and to this end, they will not hesitate to break alliances or form new ones that best serve their strategic goals at any given point in time. India is on the Maoists' MFN (Most Favoured Nation) list today, but this will change as constituent assembly elections get closer...."
"Stop hiding behind the Americans’ coat tails and start looking for REAL policy alternatives. Reliance on traditional levers in today’s day and age is foolish. Support the people of Nepal and a mutually beneficial, democratic future will result. Abandon Nepal to the clutches of a failed ideology and India too will pay dearly...."
"The Indian nation in 2007 has all the ingredients necessary for radical leftists to exploit - an ever widening income gap, religious and ethnic tensions, a shaky coalition with a major communist faction. And if India doesn't get its act straight immediately, it will have a communist republic to its north, to add to its current list of potential destabilizers.
The writing is on the wall and it says India's failure to change its Nepal policy is guaranteed to invite turmoil and anarchy to South Asia...."
FULL TEXT LOCATED AT THE FOLLOWING URL:
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
"It was in the presence of thunderous applause that Nepal’s elected leaders traded their position of electoral legitimacy (and any remaining notion of liberty), in a desperate bid for peace - the attainment of which ironically, is now perceived as part of the Maoist agenda...."
"To the contrary, if Nepal’s Maoist movement serves any example at all, it shows that violent rebellion can succeed and that political power can “flow from the barrel of a gun.” In fact, the success of the Maoist insurrection categorically demonstrates how the consistent application (and now the threat) of force can ultimately be justified as a necessary evil to achieve power and make a complete mockery of democratic processes...."
"To term the recent exchange between the Maoist and SPA leaders as “negotiations” would be a generous stretch of the imagination. Based on available information, what transpired between the Maoists and the SPA reads more like the state’s admission of defeat than a process of substantive give and take. The level of sophistication and finesse with which the Maoists have forwarded their agenda finds no intellectual counter-weight from either the political class or civil society in Nepal – clearly, not a sign of healthy competitive politics to come...."
"Collectively, these elements could result in the unchallenged consolidation of overwhelming Maoist support, right before the constituent assembly convenes. From an election standpoint, such planning is brilliant. But given where the country currently is, Maoist maneuverings may also be interpreted as continued and shameless exploitation of exceptionally delicate circumstances...."
"With all the exchanges taking place in Nepal, there’s just one thing to say: trading “apples” for “apples” would be optimal. Even trading “apples” for “oranges” is acceptable. But trading “apples” for “orange peels” just isn’t smart and pretending that “orange peels” is better than nothing at all, is plain and simple stupid..."
Monday, April 14, 2008
"To the Maoists' credit, they successfully played on the desperation of disillusioned personalities while maintaining a silent (yet emotionally charged) dedication to their original, strategic end-goals (which are anything but democratic). With help from their counterparts in India, an arrogant King without a plan, and above all, with assistance from the very groups that today, refuse to revisit their own rationale, the Maoists forged their much coveted SPAM alliance...."
"The SPA exhibited no moral inhibitions when teaming up with an organization that members of the SPA leadership themselves had termed terrorists. At the time, the King and his band of jokers were a much bigger threat in the minds of SPA leaders; the royal threat was sufficient to overlook every rational, logical (even moral) sense of duty the SPA leadership had towards guaranteeing a viable future for not just themselves, but the entire country..."
"The disillusioned intellectual classes need to urgently come to terms with the fact that it is not the mainstream that is democratizing the Maoists but the Maoists who are fully mobilized and well-positioned to define the mainstream. Which other political group in Nepal has claim to its own media outlets, its own militia, its own army, its own legal system, and to top it off, multiple sources of income (of which one is funding from the very government the Maoists are systematically dismantling)?..."
"It is anyone's guess as to which direction Nepal's polity is leaning and equally alarming how easily a central committee member of the "invincible" Nepali Congress was shoed off stage in the heart of Kathmandu. Does Ram Chandra Poudel and the intellectual sycophants that surround his party finally understand who truly owns the republican agenda? If a leader of Mr. Poudel's stature can be prevented from speaking, how well does the Nepali Congress expect its district and village level cadre to perform during upcoming elections?..."
"The challenge for non-leftist groups is to unite without jeopardizing the on-going sham of a peace process - a process that with each passing day, appears increasingly like a tool at the Maoists' disposal to forward their strategy under the façade of international legitimacy..."
Sunday, April 13, 2008
Saturday, April 12, 2008
Friday, April 11, 2008
Wednesday, April 09, 2008
After the Constituent Assembly (CA) elections on 10th of April, Nepali politics will take a new direction. Hopefully, the Maoist party that has been sending conflicting signals about accepting the people's verdict will exhibit some political maturity and decency even if it fails to cruise to thumping victory. If nothing, a lesson that they can take home at the end of the day is that ballots can bring political change faster than bullets. Who knows how long it would have taken, or for that matter, if it was even possible for the Maoist party to overthrow monarchy that had a cozy relationship with professional military through a classic guerrilla hit-and-run tactics.
There is no doubt that violence has served as a springboard for the Maoists to get where they are today but by rejecting CA election results (if they actually do so) the Maoists will be forcing Nepali people to think whether the Maoists' demand for CA polls was a sincere attempt towards empowering the poor and downtrodden masses of Nepal or tactical ploy to lure innocent Nepali people that are yet to experience the trickle down effects of the developmental aid pouring into the country for the last five decades or so.
There is no doubt that the Maoists spearheaded the demand for the republic. But the senseless acts of violence, which the Maoist cadres actually never gave up in the last two years even after signing fifty plus agreements, clearly shows that there is a substantial difference between the kind of republic that the people want and the Maoists cherish for. The people, for sure, do not want a type of republic whereby candidates contesting elections get beaten black and blue by the cadres of brainwashed, irrational, and intolerant Young Communist League. If the Maoists really think it is the most trusted party, then they have even bigger responsibility of delivering what people want: peace, democracy, and prosperity.
The people want real peace, not the false sense of security that Kim Jong-Il has been providing his hapless subjects in North Korea. They want a true democratic state whereby every single individual has a right to float a new political party or contest elections fearlessly, not the one where the party at the helm of affairs decides who is progressive, and hence, worthy enough to contest elections.
Peace and democracy alone will not be enough to contend people for long. If we look back, it becomes evident that, the mass-democratic movements of the eighties that swept the developing world were essentially based on bread and butter and local issues such as electricity, water, and low wages. Unless the political transformation that took place in the last two years brings about socio-economic transformation, neither long lasting peace nor democratic consolidation is possible in Nepal. It is socio-economic transformation, like ocean currents deep below the hurricane-tormented surface of the sea that will have the lasting and permanent effect, when it comes to establishing a largely peaceful democratic state. Failure to bring socio-economic changes will once again force people to rebel; however, the next revolution in Nepal will be against economic apartheid.
As far as the major political parties that have been participating in the democratic exercises of the last two decades are concerned, they have even a greater role to play. They have a solemn duty to show to the people that they are actually capable of bringing peace through the moderation of the Maoists, which they promised will happen eventually, or else it will become clear that the democrats failed to understand the Maoists' ploy of using democrats as "useful idiots" in order to leapfrog to a higher level of the Maoist revolution pyramid.
In addition, the major political parties will have to counter the utopian dreams of equality that the hardcore left sells to woo people in its favor with programs that produce real tangible results if they want to survive politically. They got to prove that they are actually capable of delivering the results. Failure to do so will not only embolden the footings of the Maoists but will also open up a space for another set of radicals to pursue a dream of a perpetual revolution whatever the costs.
The last one and half decades of the Maoist insurgency and the last one year of ethnic dissent are to some extent results of weak performances of the major political parties in terms of social and political integration. Due to lack of internal democracy within political parties, the leaders with vision and actual problem solving abilities never got a chance to come to the forefront. Hopefully, with the onset of a new dawn, intra-party democracy will take root, which is absolutely important for an emergence of competent leadership that can replace the older folks, who tend to have the years they spent in jail fighting for democracy as the only credible credential, which in the real world of performance-based politics is not worth even a penny.
For how long should one's actual potential to deliver tangible results be waived for the years s/he spent in prison fighting for democracy? Shouldn't it stop at some point? What could be better time than now when we are making a fresh start to build a new Nepal?
The challenge of creating a "New Nepal" requires a vision and sacrifices on
part of the political leadership. The abolishment of monarchy is the first step in the process of dismantling feudal structures and creating an equal society. With that taken care of, the real challenge will be to ensure that, rising tide raises all boats. The people have really started seeing the dreams of living in a "New Nepal," in which, the fundamental issue of good governance, in terms of effectiveness, efficiency, transparency, responsiveness and accountability, will be attended to.
It would not be wise on the part of politicians to let down the people that are so focused on the hope for peace and prosperity with enthusiastic creative imagination. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German pastor, who vehemently opposed Nazism famously said: "the ultimate test of a moral society is the kind of world it leaves to its children."
The current generation of politicians in Nepal, thus, has an obligation to become moral and worthy ancestors. They have a responsibility of making sure that the ongoing political transformation brings peace, prosperity and democratic freedom to the people or else they run the risk of being remembered as bunch of loonies that embarked on the journey of political engineering without proper vision, knowledge, and direction and ended up creating a political Frankenstein.
Will CA Polls be 'Free and Fair'?
Maoist Electoral Strategy - What is the CPN-M up to?
Tuesday, April 08, 2008
It takes courage to break away from "groupthink." It takes strength to articulate original analysis in politically charged environments. It takes genuine intellect to forego self-gratifying populist accolades in favor of rational, hard-hitting inquiry. Examination of this variety unfortunately, has been in short supply during Nepal's run-up to constituent assembly elections.
The radical agendas forwarded by Nepal's Maoists have prevailed. Over the period from April 2006 till the current day, the SPA (Seven Party Alliance) has literally rolled over and acceded to each and every threat of Maoist intimidation. The democrats' actions exemplify what is succinctly surmised as uninhibited Maoist appeasement. The projected perception is that the SPA alliance has "mainstreamed" the Maoists; the underlying truth is that the SPA has migrated to the Maoist agenda.
This process of migration has proved as radical as the revolutionary changes it has attempted to engender. "Made in New Delhi" with the expressed Leftist intent of undermining Nepal's Monarchy, the SPA and the Maoists have reduced the act of an historical constituent assembly election to a referendum on the Monarchy - only a referendum will not be held.
Instead, an "elected" assembly will decide the fate of Nepal's 240 year old Royal institution. The idea of a popular vote has been repeatedly dismissed for no other reason than genuine concern that the Monarchy may actually survive such a vote. The most conservative polls estimate support for the institution of Monarchy at between 40% and 50% - sufficient numbers in any democratic environment to warrant a system of direct universal suffrage. But not in Nepal.
In Nepal's case the radical Left has manipulated the political agenda sufficiently to deny the Nepali citizenry democratic opportunity on the most divisive issue in contemporary politics - the Monarchy. They have even gone a step further by deciding the outcome of the upcoming constituent assembly vote! As part of yet another concession to the Maoists, the SPA coalition has preemptively agreed to abolish the Monarchy during the first sitting of the constituent assembly.
Legally speaking, an unelected body (the SPA) has directed a future body (to-be-elected) on how to "vote" on the issue of the Nepali Monarchy. The judge, the jury and the prosecution in effect, are one in the same. And, not a single democratic entity - individual or nation-state or INGO - appears sufficiently credentialized (or adequately bold) to term the adopted approach "problematic."
Given the process and what is at stake, it is surprising that more violence has not come to fruition in Nepal. Sources such as the International Crisis Group (ICG), the United Nations Mission in Nepal (UNMIN), the Carter Center, etc., make vague allusions to the propensity for violence during and after the elections. But all reports are authored in terms that are subject to "groupthink": Basically, the assumption that violence is preordained because of the existence of groups that are opposed to elections.
The natural question then, is "but why?" And the answer is "because there's a big white elephant in the room for all who care to acknowledge it - the institution of Monarchy."
The idea that Nepal is held together by the institution of Monarchy is perhaps too traditional a viewpoint for younger Nepalis to stomach. The current King, (King Gyanendra) has also acted irresponsibly and in doing so, has lent much creed to the prevailing republican agenda in Nepal.
However, dispassionate analysis of contemporary events such as the formation of the SPA-Maoist alliance, India's direct involvement in addressing Nepal's insurgency, and the lightning rod that Nepal's Monarchy has played over the past two years, gives any sensible individual reason for pause. Not because the Monarchy is a symbol of national unity but because this current Monarch (as hated as he may be on an individual level), is in a perverted sense, the very reason behind Nepal's peace process.
The fact that the SPA-Maoist alliance came into existence as a platform upon which to jointly oppose the King, that Nepal's Maoist insurgency ended with direct Indian intervention (engendered by "February-1") and that opposition to the Monarchy still remains the only viable public distraction to a plethora of political inadequacies are inalienable truths. Certainly, the gaping functional chasm that will result from the Monarchy's abolition is a thought that gives many non-communist Nepali democrats, sleepless nights.
This notion is precisely what the "big white elephant" in Nepali politics represents. Also embedded within this reflection is the extent to which Nepal's political actors remain hostage to the notion of peace on the Maoists' terms. This is precisely the sort of ingenuous peace that Stalin would have marveled at; the type that is based on an assumed change in strategic Maoist intent when what has progressed over the duration of Nepal's peace process is tactical Maoist adaptation.
Based on this fundamental misperception, Nepal's peace process is described as a "compromise" when in essence, the process has been designed to eliminate a significant power-broker. The peace process has been praised as a spectacular "reconciliation" when in fact, the process has been built on a foundation of hatred and distrust directed at an individual - King Gyanendra. Although Nepal's political pundits are loathe to admit it, these are the real reasons why heightened violence following constituent assembly elections are highly probable.
The act of holding Nepal's constituent assembly elections are depicted as the culmination of the country's struggle for functional democracy (and lasting peace) when in fact, it is just the beginning of an extended and uncertain round of instability. The most "useful of idiots" have gone to the extreme of adopting US Presidential candidate Barrack Obama's tag line - "Change, yes we can" - as a self-deluded affirmation that the abolition of Nepal's Monarchy guarantees democracy for Nepal. If only the SPA and Maoists could abolish others of Nepal's problems the way they intend to abolish its Monarchy!
While many contend that the abolition may serve as a catalyst in the general direction of democracy, others posit that it also points to the emergence of yet another Bhutan - an Indian protectorate which takes orders directly from New Delhi. Inside observers of Nepali politics consistently point to magnified Indian influence in Nepal - particularly through the office of the current Prime Minister. The mainstream media outlets are wary of publishing anything that may be marginally against Indian intersts because their incentive structures are wed to ad-revenues which are largely controlled by Indian avenues in Nepal. As the theory goes, the power vacuum created by the Nepali Monarchy's departure is already being filled by Indian Agents who exercise hefty influence derived from the South Block.
Nepal's traditional politicians it seems, have learned little by way of their self-professed political miscalculations. It was the current Prime Minister, Girija Prasad Koirala under whose administration the armed Maoist insurgency began. It is now the Royally re-vitalized Koirala who champions the "mainstreaming of the Maoists" as his administration's primary accomplishment.
Steroids appear to have given PM Koirala an extended lease on life but they have done little to sharpen his intellectual acumen - politicking is a means to an end, not an end in itself. This is a lesson that Korala's party, the Nepali Congress will painfully learn long after Koirala's eventual demise.
Nepal's republican bandwagon is nearing the end of its journey. Where the drivers of this entourage take the country next, is anyone's guess. But one thing is certain. The process that has led to this event has been severely flawed. The emanating repercussions are sure to haunt the current generation of democratic leaders as they are gradually phased out. The majority of the consequences however, will be borne by an emerging generation of democrats, poised to ascend Nepal's halls of power with their hands tied behind their backs.
Checkmate or Comeback King?
Nepal's CA Elections - Assume Nothing
The Pitfalls of Relying on Indian Benevolence
The news bulletin on the radio reports that ten Nepali Congress (NC) workers including a campaigning candidate have been attacked and severely injured with khukuris and stones in Rasuwa by a group of 200 Young Communist League (YCL) cadres. Just the day before, the leaders of the Nepali Congress, United Marxist-Leninists (UML) and Communist Party of Nepal – Maoists had faced the Election Commission, on live TV, and pledged an end to any activities that breached the code of conduct set down by the Commission. This widening gap between the declarations of the politicians on their commitment to the elections and ground reality is causing much turmoil in the minds of the electorate.
On another front, marauding armed factions in the Terai have yet to sit for negotiations with the government. Their key objective is to stop the elections. They have declared a Terai bandh (closure), to commence just a few days before the elections. Meanwhile, Maoist fighters in the various cantonments have started leaving in groups in uniform and armed to “support” the campaigns of the Maoist politicians. UNMIN stands impotent, declaring that this is against the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) but that it neither has the capacity nor the mandate to stop this exodus. To top it off, the Election Commission has declared that 227 candidates for the elections have yet to present their citizenship papers and 66 candidates are below the age of 25 – both requirements for candidacy.
On a recent evening, Madhav Kumar Nepal, President of UML as well as Pushpa Kamal Dahal a.k.a. Prachanda, Chairman of the Maoists were on television on separate channels. Mr. Nepal spoke of the significance of the Constituent Assembly elections, how it will take place at all cost and how the end of the monarchy was a done deal. Mr. Dahal was speaking about his college days, trying to provide a human face to his “awesome” reputation. Girija Prasad Koirala, PM and head of the NC, repeatedly asserts, in his usual maudlin manner, that the elections will take place.
However, most Nepalis are still uncertain whether they will take place. Should they take place, it is almost guaranteed that they will not be “free and fair” given the scenario presented above. Every day, Nepalis hold their collective breath wondering if, once again, there will be the all too familiar announcement of a postponement. Should the elections be held, knowing full well that they will not be free and fair? Does the law and order situation allow for these elections? Unsettling questions plague those who are concerned about the elections, while those who do not really know what this hullabaloo is all about enjoy ignorant bliss.
International election monitors – from the EU, Carter Center and many governments and INGOs - have poured in. Former US President Jimmy Carter himself is here for the elections. It is expected that every polling booth will be covered by at least one of these monitors. This is a good sign and signifies the commitment of the international community to peace and democracy in Nepal. However, international commitment without national implementation capacity is not enough. We trust that these monitors will have the moral courage to call the elections, should they occur, as they are - untainted by condescending notions of “budding democracy”.
Our politicians have now started hinting at utilizing the Nepal Army (NA) to provide security for the elections, in addition to the Police and the Armed Police. The NA has been used effectively for this purpose in previous elections. Currently it is solely the provision of the CPA, dictating that the NA be confined to its barracks while the Maoist fighters are confined to their cantonments, which poses a political dilemma for the NA to be assigned security tasks for the elections. As mentioned above, the cantonments are fast emptying and it is commendable that the NA has exercised discipline and remained in its barracks. But if the only way to secure law and order for the elections is to use the NA, some tough political decisions need to be made by the government, and fast, lest the NA be forced to decide for itself.
Let us presume that the elections will be held and the Constituent Assembly formed. The CA will immediately realize that the current interim unelected government has taken decisions that are the purview of the CA. It has declared Nepal a “secular federal republic” without mandate and without taking into account the opinion of the People. This was done in two phases: initially, the declaration of a secular state, followed by the declaration of a “federal democratic republic”. A recent opinion poll undertaken with the involvement of The Asia Foundation indicated that 50% of respondents wanted a place for monarchy in Nepal and 59% wanted Nepal to remain a Hindu State, while 38% did not want to retain the monarchy and 31% wanted a secular state. The survey sample reflected carefully the composition of the general population. These issues must be put to the People for their decision, i.e. by a Referendum. Denial of a referendum will almost certainly lead to violence. Further, the issue of “federalism” needs to be deliberated upon and decided by the CA. This is an intricate issue with numerous implications and cannot be “declared” by a bunch of unelected politicians.
To conclude, after these many years of civil strife, what we want most is Peace and Development. To illustrate, a recent headline read that the World Food Programme has estimated that almost 4 million Nepalis in western Nepal are facing food deficit because of poor harvest and skyrocketing prices. To these 4 million, 15% of the population, the CA is not a priority – their hungry stomachs are. And to an objective observer, the CA – should it be constituted soon – will do little to appease this hunger. Power-crazed, self-centered and divisive politics will not help.
Maoist Electoral Strategy - What is the CPN-M up to?
Nepal's Political Paradoxes
Monday, April 07, 2008
Nepal's peace process is fraught with uncertainty. For those who envision that a CA poll is the panacea to all of Nepal's ills, they are in for a rude awakening. The aftermath of the CA polls have been much speculated, some pundits opine violence will culminate the CA polls, where as some are under the impression the results will be widely contested; in actuality both opinions are accurate, violence will mar the post poll celebrations and the results are expected to be refuted widely. This is because CA poll is being held in the most unceremonious fashion, to put in so many words, elections that are held under fragile circumstances will provide legitimate ground for parties to challenge the outcome of the elections.
On the other hand, the people in general are anxious to cast their vote but at the same time, certain political parties, namely the Maoists who for a decade claimed to liberate the people are now oppressing the people so that, the people will cast their votes in favor of the Maoists. The upsurge in violence and the acceptance of this rugged political approach pursued by anti poll elements has been mandated by the silence of the international community. This leads to a simple conclusion that the farce of New Nepal has out weighed the possibility of realizing a genuine New Nepal. In the most critical hour of Nepal's history, where an elected body is supposed to draft a new constitution, the people are being restrained from casting their verdict due to the fear of their lives. Now, will an election held under force and coercion provide a long lasting solution to Nepal's problems?
The simple fact that the country is embracing an election when the law and order situation has nearly broken down and when political parties themselves openly doubt the fairness of the polls, it becomes evident that the polls are being forced upon the people. Such a forceful exercise will throw new political challenges that will ultimately lead to the breakdown of the peace process. This assertion of mine can be augmented by examining a few critical variables that are crucial to build a New Nepal through CA polls.
Individualism remains the most vital caveat of a democratic society. The very idea of political and civil rights are directly linked with the idea of individualism. Therefore, political parties represent individuals in a multiparty system. But when individuals are purposely bullied into submission and humiliation by a majority group, the whole electoral exercise will prove to be futile. In fact, if these elections are held under such a fragile situation, the repercussions will prove too dear for the country. First, political parties that come out of these elections as losers will not hesitate to refute these results and resort to violence. Second, the vulnerability of the situation on ground will allow political parties to morally challenge the outcome of these elections. The tide is fast turning against the Nepali Congress led by GP Koirala; Prachanda has already claimed that five dozen of his cadres have been killed in the election campaigns across the country in recent months. Even if Prachanda's allegations are not true, the Maoists have already set the tone of the discourse.
In a functioning democracy, the media plays an extremely important role. Political scientists in the modern era have gone as far as claiming media as the fourth branch of the government. The media plays a very important role in society due to people's apathy towards politics. In most cases, the people in general are unable to make legitimate decisions of their own. This is where the media comes into play in a democratic society, the media is therefore, supposed to play an individual role with the aim of bridging the gap between people and politics in the hope of aiding people to make conscious political decisions. But here in lies the problem, if the objectivity of a journalist is blurred due to a vested political interest, the media can be doing more harm to the political process than good. Nepal is at the verge of a truly historic moment, and the media has a magnanimous responsibility to keep people abreast on the unfolding situation of the country. And if politics is allowed to dictate the objectivity of journalism, the idea of a New Nepal may well remain a distant reality as the forces of negative liberty are bound to over shadow the possible good of the electoral exercise. Therefore, the media must awake now and rise to the challenges meted by anti polls elements not on the basis of rhetoric but on grounds of reality.
Unfortunately, the premise of holding these elections has been a major fallacy – to contain the Maoists. If these elections were a parliamentary election, then possibly the notion would prove noble. However, these elections are to draft a new constitution and this exercise is bound to have far reaching consequences. Therefore, given the situation on ground, it is only foreseeable that the elections will bring about a fractured political solution that will endanger both the peace process and the democratic institutions. Second, the credibility of the constitution will be questioned as long as there is room for the parties to doubt that these elections will not be fair. The person who is most likely to lose out of these elections is the callous Prime Minister Koirala and the Nepali Congress. Koirala's growing indifference is fast brewing legitimate grounds for political discontentment after these elections are conducted. But in more important terms, if the true aspirations of the people are not reflected in these upcoming elections, yet another political crisis in the form of a violent agitation is inevitable.
Nepal's CA Elections - Assume Nothing
Will CA Polls be 'Free and Fair'?
Real Obstacle for Elections - The Maoists
Tuesday, April 01, 2008
In the movie, “A Beautiful Mind”, we watch John Nash (played by Russell Crowe), the Nobel Laureate, mentally disintegrate when he is unable to overcome his paranoia and delusions. Later in life, he heroically conquers his hallucinations and stops listening to the source of his mental torment, which manifest themselves in three imaginary characters: a mysterious government agent, a little girl, and his Princeton roommate.
While the hallucinatory characters never actually disappear from Nash’s psyche even through old age, we learn how he controlled them from the explanation he offers his friend..”I still see things that are not here. I just choose not to acknowledge them.”
Unlike John Nash, however, C.K. Lal evidently has not managed to tune out his inner voices and continues to publish several cogent opinions only to be followed by a schizophrenic piece. In his most recent relapse (http://nepalitimes.com/issue/393/StateoftheState/14624), he chooses to lash out in a clever diatribe against the Nepali Army where he advocates a dhoti-wearing pan-chewing defense minister to reign in the Nepali Army. Here he shamelessly uses Madhesi imagery to bash the Nepali Army which only serves to inflame already hyper ethnic sensitivities.
It is as if one of the voices that has taken up residence in Mr. Lal’s psyche is no other than Mr. Kanak Mani Dixit, the discredited media “intellectual” loudmouth and advocate of the “suraksheet abataran” or safe-landing-for- the- Maoists-game plan and a unhinged critic of the Nepali Army.
Using his considerable talents as an experienced writer and the vast research budget of the Nepali Times, Lal might help us explore these other elephants-in-the-room.
New Nepal’s Orwellian Peace: He could explain why the average person’s life in New Nepal more closely represents what Thomas Hobbes observed several hundred years ago.. “and which is worst of all, continual fear, and the danger of violent death; and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” Based on reports of a recent robbery of the Norwegian Ambassador’s residence, it appears even these uber-proponents of peace, love, and understanding cannot escape Hobbes’ reality.
Recent comments in the international press from Lal’s inner voice (Kanak Dixit) continue to highlight the King or the Army as the greatest continuing threat to Nepali society – despite the fact that many of the outcomes of the peace process stem from the destruction of the State held hostage to international bureaucrats like Ian Martin with no real accountability.
This pattern of glossing over “discomforts” of the peace process while continuing to warn of the dangers of the Monarchy or the Nepal Army is dishonest. In fact, it is the prevailing pattern from the UN, the media, and civil society, and Human Rights Organizations since they’ve made Nepal a social experiment.
These entities have demonstrated a capacity to exaggerate State excesses and worked hard (and effectively) to market the notion of Nepal as another Chechnya to preserve their self-interests while underplaying the tragedy stemming from criminal activities from parties who signed on to the peace process.
Lal might explain that current events (Iraq and Afghanistan) and history demonstrates that when basic levels or security are absent – the beloved people will seek either an institution or an individual to act as referee. So, if the Monarchy or the Nepal Army or any individual or institution rises from the mismanagement of this peace process, who should be held accountable? A King that was totally discredited less than 2 years ago whose supporters still refer to him as a moron? An Army that has remained quiet in the face of elements whose sole purpose is its destruction and humiliation?
The Limits of Self-Determination: Lal might write a longer piece, perhaps in the excruciatingly bore of a publication, Himal Magazine, on the negative aspects of self-determination which is a hot topic today in the face of Kosovo’s recent independence.
In Nepal, eighteen holidays apparently have been set aside to satisfy various cultural and religious requirements of Nepal’s ethnic groups in Nepal. And while all cultures are equal and should be accorded their due respect in our politically correct post-modern era, what does all of this mean when one is attempting to establish a Nation State?
George Will, the conservative columnist in a recent Newsweek op-ed offers us this assessment.
“Surely there will be a next crisis [i.e., another Kosovo or a group demanding self-determination]. What Pat Moynihan called "the liberal expectancy" was that ethnic attachments and religious animosities were diminishing echoes of mankind's infancy and would be steadily drained of their saliency as definers of national identities. The liberal expectancy is, like Yugoslavia, defunct.”
Lal might collaborate with his fellow liberals in the media and explore George Will’s statement further and help us understand if their utopian expectancy of a New Nepal is also defunct.
Real Media Freedom: Lal might let us know, maybe in a 500 word essay in plain English if the Press is really free following the April 2005 uprising. What does he hear from his colleagues? What about the power and conduct of the press “unions” infiltrated by Maoists? How have these compromised press freedom? Today, does he have to write an anti-Army or Royalist piece just so he can balance an anti-Maoist piece or is he free to take up a consistent position? He could easily belt out a piece out on this issue in less than 20 minutes.
We look forward to more opinions from Mr. Lal for we hope that like John Nash, C.K. Lal will also someday his conquer his demons and stops paying attention to the same delusions that animate Mr. Kanak Mani Dixit.
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