Ris­ing up from hurt and hubris

People's Review - - COMMENTARY - By Maila Baje

Is Mad­hav Ku­mar Nepal’s near-in­sur­rec­tion against K.P. Sharma Oli’s lead­er­ship at a time when our prime min­is­ter and rul­ing party chief is abroad an act of cow­ardice? Or is it a bril­liant in­cur­sion based on the per­fect con­ver­gence of time, con­text and per­son­al­i­ties? It’s hard to say. What you can’t say is that it wasn’t com­ing. The cre­ation of an overtly for­mi­da­ble com­mu­nist party through the amal­ga­ma­tion of the in­flu­en­tial Uni­fied Marx­ist-Lenin­ist (UML) and Maoist fac­tions was hailed as a har­bin­ger po­lit­i­cal re­ju­ve­na­tion. The ju­bi­la­tion seemed in­her­ently con­trived, though. The lead­ers of the two fac­tions sat to­gether in se­cret for hours over sev­eral ses­sions and couldn’t agree on much. Then, presto, they re­solved ev­ery­thing, in­clud­ing ways of mas­sag­ing their mas­sive egos. Other egos were bound to be bruised. The grum­bling on the Maoist side was gaudier. As the new­est kids on the block, the erst­while ‘peo­ple’s war­riors’ had a greater in­cen­tive to rue what they had be­come. The dis­af­fec­tion on the UML side sounded more sub­stan­tive and cere­bral. More ex­pe­ri­enced in power and pa­tron­age, these com­rades were bound to ru­mi­nate more on the ero­sion of in­flu­ence than on that of ide­al­ism. The united com­mu­nist party held crit­i­cal de­ci­sions in abeyance. The co-lead­er­ship of Oli and Pushpa Ka­mal Da­hal couldn’t even get the new party’s name right for regis­tra­tion pur­poses. So, they added the ab­bre­vi­a­tion as part of the proper noun to ful­fill the im­per­a­tive of nov­elty. In­di­vid­u­als shunted out of the party hi­er­ar­chy had to be ac­com­mo­dated ac­cord­ingly in the govern­ment. Da­hal had it a bit eas­ier. His prin­ci­pal chal­lengers like Dr. Babu­ram Bhat­tarai and Mo­han Baidya were out­side the party. Oli, on the other hand, had to keep in check the rest­less­ness and de­sires of for­mer pre­miers Nepal and Jhal Nath Khanal from within the party. With peren­nial deputy premier Bam Dev Gau­tam as mo­ti­vated and mal­leable as ever, that task be­came all the more daunt­ing. Once the con­tra­dic­tions grew thicker, Da­hal sought to strike the first blow through his much-hyped In­dian and Chi­nese trips. Through their egre­giously hos­pi­tal­ity, the In­di­ans ended up thwart­ing Da­hal. If the Chi­nese were ever plan­ning a warmer re­cep­tion to our erst­while Maoist chief, they must have been dis­suaded by the In­di­ans. Clearly, Mad­hav Nepal saw his op­por­tu­nity. The Nepal-Oli ca­ma­raderie that was at its apoth­e­o­sis in the months im­me­di­ately be­fore and af­ter the tragic death of Madan Bhandary never con­cealed the Jha­pali v. non-Jha­pali rift grip­ping the Marx­ist-Lenin­ist fac­tion. As men like Oli were ei­ther hunt­ing other heads or scratch­ing their own be­hind bars, other com­rades were lead­ing dou­ble lives to evade ar­rest. Oli and Nepal were en­trenched on op­po­site ends of that di­vide, re­gard­less of what­ever came af­ter. With the Oli govern­ment un­der siege, the op­po­si­tion Nepali Congress has built enough mo­men­tum to make us for­get its drub­bing in the last elec­tion. The me­dia – so­cial and the tra­di­tional vari­ant – am­pli­fies ev­ery act of govern­ment dere­lic­tion, real and oth­er­wise, push­ing the govern­ment fur­ther on the de­fen­sive. Amid all this, Oli sounds un­ruf­fled. Brush­ing aside the hul­la­baloo back home, he headed to Costa Rica from New York City. How can the prime min­is­ter af­ford to be so blasé? Or is he merely putting on an act – for the next turn in our in­ter­minable spec­ta­cle he, too, so as­sid­u­ously awaits?

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