By Maila Baje
Donald Trump’s election as President of the United States in early November gave much impetus to our assemblage of ‘Nepal Firsters’. The unapologetic internalism infusing Trump’s inaugural address last week is bound to have its influences and implications here.
Khadga Prasad Oli, former prime minister and chairman of the main opposition Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist-Leninist, has been christened as our version of Trump by no less a personage than Baburam Bhattarai. And Dr. Bhattarai should know.
The one-time Maoist ideologue, who continues to denigrate the articulation of contrary views as a Goebbelsian art form, no doubt secretly admires Oli’s pithiness and adroitness with parables.
If you faced him directly, Oli would probably be outraged by any suggestion of similarities with Trump. As a practical matter, though, Oli probably wouldn’t mind. No other Nepali politician has undergone such a momentous transformation in his or her geopolitical persona.
Just the other day, Oli accused his successor, Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal, of presiding over an upsurge of anti-national activities and, worse, of seeking to codify them through unwarranted constitutional changes.
However, it fell upon Bhim Rawal, a deputy premier in Oli’s cabinet, to fire the loudest salvo. Speaking in Parliament, Rawal, a former defense and home minister, accused the Dahal government of protecting elements attacking national unity and independence.
The government remained a mute spectator when Madhesi firebrand C.K. Raut was conducting a campaign in the name of establishing an independent Madhes nation, Rawal said. Citing the so-called ‘Patna meeting’, Rawal said Dahal had tried to use it for political purposes, while efforts were on to compromise national security. Rawal demanded that the government convene a meeting of chiefs of security agencies and the main opposition parties on the issue and that the prime minister address parliament.
The invocation of Raut’s name didn’t seem to have unnerved the prime minister terribly. Madhesi leaders, however, did look stung. Bijay Kumar Gachchadar, the Madhesi Janadhikar Forum (Loktantrik), whose entry as deputy prime minister in the Dahal cabinet was said to have stalled at the last minute last week, has begun urging other Madhesi leaders to stop sounding and acting like Raut. Of late, Gachchadar has been pressing Dahal to take action against Raut-like behavior, in language that could have come straight from the UML script.
Mahant Thakur, leader of the Tarai Madhes Loktantrik Party, has warned against lumping all Madhesi parties together with Raut’s campaign.
It’s nice to see that speaking for Nepal has become cool again. Yet to what end? The votaries of a New Nepal are still smashing the old one into smithereens. The shards are too small and prickly to raise a new edifice.
That’s for later. For now, the notion of newness is alluring. What’s so bad if the new packaging add to the attraction?
Nepal first, last and always
By Maila Baje