By Maila Baje
Surely, it wasn’t supposed to be like this.
The coordinator of our nascent New Force is struggling hard to defend his patriotic credentials.
A riled Dr. Baburam Bhattarai told an audience the other day that his genetic code was so pulsating with pure-bred nationalism that it needed no external certification of any kind.
Critics therefore need not comb through his comments and actions to detect deficits of patriotism, the former prime minister counseled.
That admonition, however, did not stop the one-time chief Maoist ideologue from denigrating the ‘false nationalism’ of those who derided the Nepali Congress and the communists as ‘anti-nationals’.
Therein is the root of our whole novelty riddle. You can’t keep trying to become new simply by castigating the old. Of course, the Panchayat/royalist days were rotten. Isn’t that why they are history? Get over it.
Yet our exemplars of originality continue to parrot old lines. They want to make Nepal a bridge between the Asian behemoths. The last king tried but was never given a chance. (For the record, the Lichchavis had already done that.)
The votaries of new fangledness want to make Nepal economically self-reliant. Even after all the mockery the partyless ‘Asian standard’ credo engendered? Since when have jokes provided the blueprint for serious action? And the anti-corruption platform? Can anyone really say when it stops becoming that and assumes the form of a political witch hunt, perceived or real?
Or do our political parvenu think the royalists and right-wing autocrats simply were the wrong people to do the right job? After all, Dr. Bhattarai and his fellow travellers long stuck with the notion that they could set right what the likes of Marx, Lenin and Mao correctly set out to do but botched.
To be fair, Dr. Bhattarai himself has presented a clear case for newness. While parties like the Nepali Congress, Praja Parishad, the CPN-UML and the UCPN-Maoist have served the country well, they have been unable to move with the times, he has repeatedly emphasized. At least he had the integrity to ensure that the Constitution was promulgated before setting out to criticize it.
Espousing an inclusive approach, Dr. Bhattarai insists, the new entity is striving to formulate ideas and principles suitable to Nepal. This cluster of political has-beens, ex-bureaucrats and security officials and fading actors may or may not have the capacity to capitalize on the torpor in the mainstream. But there is a risk that it might be caught in one of its own. Although it has existed in a semi-institutional incarnation for a while, the new formation’s ideology bears little beyond traces of a center-left orientation.
And what’s with this insipid New Force appellation? Go get a better name first, preferably one that says something nicer. Even genes have been patented and copyrighted. The no-labels approach, if anything, is a non-starter in politics.