Finding a place between haughtiness and hopelessness
Maoist Center chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal's taunts and gibes to the Nepali Congress seem to be troubling quite a few prominent members of our senior ruling party. The leftist alliance so suddenly sprung upon the nation amid the Dasain festivities has given an opportunity to the Nepali Congress to rejuvenate itself, Dahal began pontificating shortly thereafter. That line has become almost a refrain on that side of the political spectrum. Granted, Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba and his allies gave a bit of an opening by their undue alarmism in response to the development. But, really, their agitation was probably triggered more by the unexpectedness of the event than by an earnest appraisal of its potential implications. Lately, Deuba and his colleagues seem to be exuding a more relaxed attitude. Just the other day, the prime minister left out the M word when he rumbled on about how his party had vanquished the Rana and Panchayat autocracies. Now, was his apparent amnesia relating to the events of April 2006 an accident or a deliberate omission? That's something the lefties can scratch their heads on. Meanwhile, Gagan Thapa, the most prominent Nepali Congress republican of his generation, has detailed the ways in which his party could stand to gain from leftist unity. His core contention: the leftward drift of the Communist Party of NepalUnified Marxist-Leninist (UML) could only widen the potential base for the Nepali Congress. Other Congress leaders are torn between eternal smugness and abiding shock. The latter sentiment seems to be in greater abundance in their private engagements. Yes, the Nepali Congress is in poor shape. No, it is not sapped of its intrinsic strength. Like any party in power in the world these days, Congress leaders can't seem to see or think right. Worse, they are busy evaluating the guy or gal standing next to them in the party. Comparisons in terms of time spent in jail or of springs crossed versus current stature in terms of patronage and pelf emerge to ruin the animation and energy of wielding power. In terms of resilience, however, the Nepali Congress is in a league of its own, bolstered no doubt by its enviable legitimacy. Party leaders may seem odious while in power, but in the end, they are the ones called to clean up the mess. After all, can Dahal and his comrades imagine the April 2006 uprising and its aftermath without Girija Prasad Koirala and his organization? Sure, the left mobilized themselves on the streets. But what other party could have rewritten history in a way that turned what was a popular uprising against autocratic monarchy into a republican one and gotten away with it? Still, the Nepali Congress easily manages to mismanage things by veering between alarmism and arrogance. The temptation gripping sections of the party to put off the elections to stop a possible leftist landslide is misplaced. The UML and Maoists couldn't do anything separately to turn the Nepali Congress into another Praja Parishad. This may be a case where they won't be able to do much together, either. In fact, let the proponents make up their minds whether the realignment heralds a radicalized UML or a much more moderated Maoists. In the meantime, all you Nepali Congress leaders and supporters, quit telling us how great you and your party are. We the sovereign people don't like it when you keep rubbing it in like that.