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Dahal’s dilemma of enquiry and learning

By Maila Baje

Barely done fulminating about the purported power-sharing deal predicating the unification between our erstwhile Maoist and Unified Marxist-Leninist (UML) factions, Comrade Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ wonders what all the fuss is about.
There should be no debate on whether Khadga Prasad Oli will remain prime minister for the Nepal Communist Party’s full five-year term, the former Fierce One says. Whether Oli would do so would depend on, well, circumstances, Dahal adds. All the former Maoist supremo says he did during that touchy TV interview was fondly reminisce over how the NCP was created against all odds.
Oli’s predicament is quite understandable. His departure from the country always seems to precipitate some robust debate over who should be leading the government and when.
In the latest iteration, at least, former prime ministers Madhav Kumar Nepal and Jhal Nath Khanal have stood behind Oli and Dahal respectively. The main protagonists, for their part, know that any alliance is purely one of convenience.
The middle and lower rungs are where the real action is. And it is pretty clear there that the NCP is in a flux. Some of Oli’s worst critics today emanate from the former UML stream while Dahal has lost key allies during the ‘people’s war’ to the prime minister. This floor-crossing is bound to continue amid the deep resentments and rancor gripping the NCP.
Considering the number of times and ways he has broached the subject, Dahal is quite convinced that different people should lead the party and the government. When one party co-chair also happens to head the government, the other can barely be construed to be equal. As a transitional mechanism, such an arrangement might be palatable. What do you do when the transition becomes so interminable?
Ever since he emerged as a peacemaker, Dahal’s personal life has suffered a series of blows. He barely dodged the transitional-justice bullet in Washington DC earlier this year. Patience is a virtue in politics only when it is pursued as a means to an end.
Amid all this, Dahal is less clear about the job he wants. Control of the government would matter little for someone schooled in the supremacy of the party. Yet the government is the storehouse of pelf and patronage so essential to control of the party.
The longer the dilemma persists, Dahal seems to sense, Oli’s morbid antics risk plunging the party deeper into the abyss of unpopularity. What good would it be for Dahal then if he happened to gain control of both the party and government? Yet he can’t seem to seize the initiative from a ground that is continually shifting. Every trial balloon he floats blows up if not in his face, then very close.
So, one day Dahal swaggers about how he enjoys such excellent relations with both Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping. The next, he characterizes the Biplav bombings as a prelude to peace. The show must go on, irrespective of the content and context.

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