But how real is our new re­al­ity?

People's Review - - COMMENTARY - BY MAILA BAJE

In ret­ro­spect, that Da­sain pic­ture spoke a thou­sand and one words. Com­mu­nist Party of Nepal-Maoist Cen­ter Chair­man Pushpa Ka­mal Da­hal ‘Prachanda' ob­served tika fes­tiv­i­ties af­ter a hia­tus of 22 years but left it to son, Prakash, to pub­li­cize the affair via so­cial me­dia. Our es­ti­ma­tion, be­fore the pic­tures emerged, was that Da­hal, as usual, would have goat slaugh­tered at home and pretty much stay in­doors. Our col­lec­tive as­ton­ish­ment fo­cused squarely on this phase of the ‘nor­mal­iza­tion' of Da­hal, and he played along very shrewdly. That must be why we're hav­ing a hard time mak­ing sense of the dra­matic realign­ment that has gripped the left. Da­hal's one-time deputy, Dr. Babu­ram Bhat­tarai, who broke away to form his Naya Shakti, was de­fi­ant against ever join­ing hands again with the Maoist Cen­ter chair­man, at least in this life. Yet there Bhat­tarai was, jubilant amid Da­hal and an­other fel­low ex-premier he rou­tinely be­rated, Khadga Prasad Oli, chair­man of the Com­mu­nist Party of NepalUni­fied Marx­ist Lenin­ist. Won­der of won­ders, the erst­while peo­ple's war­riors con­sented to play­ing sec­ond fid­dle to the half of the par­lia­men­tary duo they rose up against. The master hair-split­ter he is, Bhat­tarai may be tech­ni­cally cor­rect in claim­ing that he has not joined Da­hal or be­come a fullfledged com­mu­nist again (he is merely con­test­ing the up­com­ing elec­tion on the UML sym­bol). The other group­ings that have grav­i­tated to­ward the UML-led al­liance rec­og­nize which side their bread is but­tered. More en­ti­ties and in­di­vid­u­als are bound to do the same in the days and weeks ahead. The Nepali Congress, for its part, is torn be­tween in­dif­fer­ence and ap­pre­hen­sion. Some lead­ers see the de­vel­op­ment as a nat­u­ral out­come of our choppy pol­i­tics as it seeks equi­lib­rium. Other Congress lead­ers fear for the fu­ture of Nepali democ­racy. The di­ver­gence of opin­ion therein merely means that the Nepali Congress still hasn't been able over­come its decade-long iden­tity cri­sis. It is be­ing pushed to­ward form­ing one faster than party lead­ers wish to ac­knowl­edge. Lest we worry about the fall­out from the lat­est de­vel­op­ment, Chief Elec­tion Com­mis­sioner Ay­o­d­hee Prasad Ya­dav has urged us to re­main con­fi­dent that the elec­tions would be held ac­cord­ing to sched­ule. We have to be­lieve him, at least, for now. With two suc­ces­sive leg­is­la­tures hung in the midst of over a dozen po­lit­i­cal for­ma­tions, Nepalis might be for­given for any temp­ta­tion to put faith in a two-al­liance sys­tem. Since the pu­ta­tive Nepali Con­gressled group­ing re­mains in the realm of pos­si­bil­ity, it would be ger­mane to fo­cus on what im­pelled the realign­ment on the left. We have it on the good au­thor­ity of UML leader Bishnu Poudel that this was the cul­mi­na­tion of a decade-long process. If so, the se­cret con­fabs the UML's then gen­eral sec­re­tary Mad­hav Ku­mar Nepal held with Maoist lead­ers on In­dian soil and the two royal takeovers they sup­pos­edly pre­cip­i­tated start to make greater sense. True, the im­per­a­tive of tam­ing the Maoists gained ur­gency af­ter 11 p.m. on June 1, 2001 af­ter it be­came clear who didn't sur­vive the Narayan­hity Car­nage and who did. Tam­ing, by def­i­ni­tion, en­tailed rel­e­ga­tion to sec­ond or third place. But the Maoists ended up gain­ing strength un­der royal rule, even­tu­ally oust­ing the monar­chy, en­flam­ing the south­ern plains, and emerg­ing the top vote get­ters in elec­tions cer­ti­fied as free and fair. The job of Messrs. Poudel and Co. just be­came harder. But they had to per­sist. On the geopo­lit­i­cal front, things were in flux. Since Ti­bet and the Olympics were of para­mount con­cern to the Chi­nese, their alacrity in aban­don­ing the old and al­ly­ing with the new was un­der­stand­able. As our tran­si­tion got murkier, sec­ond, third and fourth thoughts be­gan to emerge up north. The In­di­ans didn't want the Chi­nese veer­ing too deep in­side Nepal, but they were more in­ter­ested in keep­ing third coun­tries out, a de­sire shared by Beijing. The UN spe­cial po­lit­i­cal mis­sion came in handy as a tem­po­rary fix but was soon coopted by the very third par­ties and over­stayed its wel­come. The Chi­nese, for their part, be­gan send­ing rep­re­sen­ta­tives to con­fer­ences of Tarai-based par­ties. While the Dragon and the Ele­phant suc­ceeded in evict­ing the United Na­tions, they had a harder time fig­ur­ing each other out. Some­one had to take that one bold step, but nei­ther side wanted to be the one. The Chi­nese had more lu­cre, lev­el­head­ed­ness, and luck while the In­di­ans had more laments. Still, nei­ther side would take the plunge. Then came Dok­lam, which re­ally hasn't gone away. As geopo­lit­i­cal dy­nam­ics cut across our two po­lit­i­cal for­ma­tions, we can brace for a proxy ri­val­ries that would dirty only our hands. The search for a new equi­lib­rium will have be­gun in earnest, ev­ery­one will have ducked blame, and our hopes will have sput­tered into life for an­other stretch. But, then, all this would de­pend on how real our new re­al­ity is.

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