By Maila Baje
These last couple of weeks must rank as some of the wackiest in Nepal’s politics. Caretaker premier Girija Prasad Koirala exudes a palpable sense of relief when he asserts the onus for solving the nation’s problems lies with his presumptive successor, Prachanda. Yet Koirala, demanding the presidency as the price of relinquishing the premiership, lectures us on the virtues of political morality.
Unified Marxist-Leninist (UML) general secretary Jhal Nath Khanal, calling February’s accord between the government and the agitating Madhesi groups flawed, claims that no agreement is ever etched in stone. The UML’s chief whip, Ram Chandra Jha, accuses Madhesi leaders of following in the footsteps of Pakistan’s founder, Muhammad Ali Jinnah. To avoid any religious connotation to the analogy, Jha, himself a Madhesi, also throws in Sri Lanka’s Tamil Tigers chief Velupillai Prabhakaran.
The separatism slur too much for Madhesi Janadhikar Forum (MJF) leader Bijay Kumar Gachchadar. He accuses the UML of trying to divide the madhesis. Now look who’s talking. Isn’t the elevation of Gachchadar, a Tharu, as the MJF legislative contingent’s chief a blatant effort to split one of the principle groups against the One Madhes One Province demand. Who can forget Koirala’s tap on Gachchadar’s shoulder in the assembly chamber following his resignation speech that wasn’t, which set off the post-monarchy bedlam? Or, for that matter, Gachchadar’s defiant claims till the very last minute that he would never abandon the Nepali Congress?
The Maoists, wearied by this war by other means, finally agree to consensual politics before any resort to majority governance. Nepal could head toward disintegration if it does not stick to the path of consensus, Prachanda concedes. Hard to quibble with that, although it would have been nice to see that realization while the unelected interim legislature was busy foisting that overly liberal citizenship law on the country.
The Nepali Congress immediately scents a Maoist-Madhesi alliance (Remember the Maoists’ self-proclaimed “restraint” after the Gaur carnage?) Bolstering the NC’s suspicions is the Madhesi reps’ boycott of the legislative session to allow the fifth amendment to the interim statute to be adopted. In doing so, the Madhesi MPs retain the right to agitate at will and, by extension, provoke a wide array of other Nepalis as the Pandora’s Box lets out its most vicious apparitions.
Army chief Gen. Rukmangad Katuwal, underscoring that matters had not reached boiling point as far as Nepal’s sovereignty and territorial integrity were concerned, nevertheless suggests the moment of reckoning may not be so far off.
Then comes the stunner. Paraphrasing UML chief Khanal, Kamal Thapa, president of the only avowedly monarchist party in the assembly, emphasizes the interim nature of our nascent republic. While his Rastriya Prajatantra Party-Nepal continues a campaign to reinstate the monarchy during the drafting process of a full-fledged constitution, Thapa also foresees cooperation with the fiercely republican Maoists on issues of nationalism. Bewildering as that balancing act appears, it remains consistent with our out-of-whack politics.
(Originally posted on Monday, July 14, 2008)