By Maila Baje
Dr. Baburam Bhattarai and his Naya Shakti barely lasted a week in the new left alliance.
If anything, that record gives some respectability to Pashupati Shamsher Rana’s desire to reunite his faction of the Rastriya Prajantra Party (RPP) with Kamal Thapa’s group, merely two months after breaking away.
As Thapa returned to the cabinet as Deputy Prime Minister, with seven loyalists in tow, Bijaya Kumar Gachchaddar’s formation is returning to the ruling Nepali Congress.
The RPP nominee who became deputy speaker of parliament, Ganga Prasad Yadav, marked the formal expiry of the body by joining the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist. You may be forgiven if, in all of this churning, you missed the news that Keshar Bahadur Bista left the RPP faction led by Prakash Chandra Lohani to join Rana’s group. (Lest you forget, Lohani himself broke away from the RPP shortly after its much heralded unity convention).
Although President Bidya Bhandari was expected to do a Katuwal and block Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba’s decision to expand his cabinet, she pulled back at the last minute. Not that she could have done much, at least after Chief Election Commissioner Ayodhee Prasad Yadav certified that the expansion did not violate the election code of conduct. All that whining and moaning in the past? Well, don’t ask.
Deuba had little to lose. He has been insisting that the size of the cabinet is the prime minister’s prerogative. And it’s not as if his image of affinity for elephantine ministries created circa 1995-1996 was going to go away just because he suddenly turned lean and mean.
How all this will play out is anyone’s guess. The government is working overtime to tamp down fears that the provincial and federal elections might be put off.
It’s useless to fret over the prospect of a combined communist juggernaut taking over Nepal. What are they going to do with all that power? Divided, our comrades couldn’t be expected to stand. In unity, too, they are hobbling.
The alacrity with which the Nepali Congress – or at least the ruling part of the party – has turned rightward has raised new possibilities from that end. But the options being talked about there have not really been off the table since April 2006.
External stakeholders – state and non-state alike – seem equally baffled. And they may not be faking it. The Chinese ambassador in Kathmandu has been telling everyone willing to listen that her country had no hand in the sudden realignment on the left.
Maybe so. But that has not stopped the Indians from mounting their own version of an anti-access/area denial campaign. Could Bhattarai’s hasty exit from the left alliance suggest something here? Perhaps. But what if New Delhi engineered the Dasain surprise?
The right hand is free not to know what the left hand is doing – or not to want to know. There’s no rule saying you have to be inside the country or outside to display such obliviousness.
Our national transition has acquired a momentum of its own, based on exigencies and imperatives that are not entirely our own. Let these dynamics play out as they will as part of an open-ended process. We can all take turns feeling good and bad, regardless of who’s in or out. What could be fairer for those here and there?
The ins and outs of it, here and there
By Maila Baje