The ins and outs of it, here and there

People's Review - - COMMENTARY - 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?

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