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Friday, May 8, 2009

In haste, a Maoist retreat
5 May 2009,

Tarun Vijay
Prachanda should have read Mao more carefully. He adopted a non-Nepali revolutionary leader of a neighbouring country as his hero and named his band of terrorists People's Liberation Army (PLA), exactly after the Chinese Communist army. But he forgot to do his homework. Mao had always warned against taking action "in haste" and "impetuously". His famous line: "We should not be impetuous; impetuosity leads only to failure."

This time Mao proved true for his errant follower.

In any case, an ideology based on violence and inspired by an alien school of thought is bound to fail in a deeply religious and nationalist country like Nepal. Prachanda, or Pushpa Kamal Dahal, rode over the crest of an artificial revolution romantically praised by India's failed communists and their secular cohorts and became the prime minister promising democracy and friendship with coalition partners who supported him hoping this may stop Maoists going back to the jungle, as was 'threatened' by the extreme communist leaders. No doubt Indian communists, led by an overwhelmingly influential CPM leader facilitated, and rejoiced at this change-over in Kathmandu, which saw the Hindu nation tag removed as the first show of strength of the first "revolutionary republican government" led by the red flag.

Prachanda, changing Nepalese tradition, took oath in a western three-piece suite and went to China before he shook hands with the Indian leaders in Delhi. His diplomatic skills were in full swing when he tried to impress the Hindu nationalist political leaders with his glib talk of comparing Nepal-India relations with Janakpur-Ayodhya civilizational links. Soon the mask was off with his "assault" on the Pashupatinath temple's sanctity and orders to change the chief priest who happened to be of Indian origin following hundreds of years tradition. It created a public furore and he had retract. He next misstep followed soon, indicating he had not learnt his lessons well and instead of concentrating on governance and the mandated mission of constitution writing, began pressing the army chief to have his rogues of the PLA inducted into the regular army. The army chief refused logically and got instant support from Maoists' coalition partners and the president, who is the constitutional head of the armed forces. There was enough time the president provided a reason to Prachanda to take back his decision, but he made it an ego issue and chose a dramatic exit.

This may prove to be a blessing in disguise for Nepalese people and Maoists both.

Prachanda wanted his PLA rogues, highly indoctrinated and intoxicated on a terror ideology, inducted into the Nepalese army of accomplished and trained soldiers so that in due course he would hold a complete control over the government and the security forces, becoming an unquestioned ruler of Nepal like it had happened in many east Asian countries where communists came to power using the democratic means but once established, completely ruined the democratic norms and decimated the non-communist parties paving the way for a communist totalitarianism.

A presidential intervention and the army chief's flat refusal to yield to an unconstitutional pressure changed the scene and as I write this column, a coalition of Nepalese Congress and Communist party of Nepal United Maoist-Leninist, led by the suave and soft-spoken democrat Madhav Nepal is expected to form a non-Maoist government invited by President Ram Baran Yadav.

Not surprisingly Prachanda's colleagues severely criticized the army chief accusing him of acting under the instructions of a foreign power (read India). But almost the entire Nepal felt a great relief seeing Prachanda resigning and though there were usual demonstrations on Kathmandu's roads by Red Flags, it hardly created a ripple or sympathy.

For the last two months Nepal had been in a state of uneasy silence. Most of the democratic parties were seen sending signals of disquiet over Maoists' bulldozer governance, and efforts to change the profile of police, administration, judiciary and the education department. Heads of departments were sacked or compelled to seek retirement, seniority of officers was ignored and those considered "closer" to the Maoists family were inducted and promoted. Though Prachanda had shown a deftly crafted diplomatic skill when he visited India and even impressed the leaders of the Hindu right, he was rude to his coalition partners, on whose support depended his government's survival and didn't feel obliged to take them into confidence before taking any major decision.

He was also under tremendous pressure from his erstwhile terror outfits that he had promised almost everything under the sun. Having joined a democratically elected government he felt it was difficult, if not impossible to implement those promises that required bending laws and twisting procedures. Those included induction of PLA into the regular army, jobs for ill-trained and half-skilled cadres spread out in the remote villages, making Maoist functionaries part of the government by providing various important posts which "yielded" benefits. He was at pains to explain to the cadre that it was "not a Maoist regime but a coalition government just led by them". Maoist cadre won't listen. They saw their leaders at the top wearing expensive watches and living in luxury and felt why shouldn't be they acting the way they had promised. In a way, the resignation of Prachanda has given an opportunity to the Maoist leaders to save their cadre from disintegration and frustration and directing anger publicly against their leaders who were being blamed for enjoying the fruits of the labours of ground-level workers.

It was this pressure from the cadre that made him act to effect changes in the Pashupatinath temple and then sack the army chief. Both the decisions boomeranged.

Nepalese people, his coalition partners and the opposition showed an extraordinary solidarity against the Maoists. Though he silently took back the Pashupatinath temple decision to change the head priest, his hotheaded colleagues prevailed on him to disregard the army chief's reply to his notice and the sagacious advice of the president bringing him to a point of no return. He appointed Kul Bahadur Khadka as the acting army chief because he thought he would help PLA cadre to be inducted through back door. His major failure was to make the people believe he was serious in governance and implementing the mandate's main purpose - writing the new constitution. Everything else would have followed if he had shown some patience and prudence.

He utterly failed to gauge the mood of the people post-Pashupatinath imbroglio and the fact that 18 political parties of Nepal petitioned to the president to stop Maoists removing the army chief shows the extent to which Prachanda and his people had lost confidence of all within the political system.

The best way for the frustrated Maoists now is to play martyr and blame, as usual everything on India. The South Block, which had followed a policy of wait and watch till the elections are over and new government with a clear Nepal policy has been sworn in, is in for a barrage of attacks not only from the leftist press of Kathmandu but also from the "friendly" pals of the Maoists in Delhi. So far Indian political parties, including the BJP and the Congress have reacted cautiously and indicated that it's the Nepalese people whose wishes must reign supreme. That's the right way.

Maoist will try every trick - threaten to go back to the jungles, start violence once again, take to the streets and force decisions through bullying. Kathmandu's political fraternity must stay firm and united against all this and start governing the way Nepal aspires. Maoists have lost the steam and can't go too far now.

India must keep its options open and as always support the real democratic players to take charge of their country. Maoists are a dangerous game for Indian security and strategic policies. We are already facing diplomatic tsunamis on our left, right and on the southern tip. Another flash point on the border with Nepal, having an immature left extremist group playing ping-pong with Beijing would be ill-affordable for us.

Kathmandu needs patience and a cool decision-making procedure. Its democratic institutions must be given time and the right atmosphere to mature and keep the weeds of violence out so that the Shangri La doesn't turn into a hub of communist violence. Though President Ram Baran Yadav has asked Prachanda to continue till the next government takes over, in the present scenario, Madhav Nepal's chances to take the prime ministership in a Nepali Congress-supported coalition seem to be the workable choice left to restore peace and a sense of democratic confidence in Nepal.


Siddharth (Nepal) said...

I first read this article in a few days back. I had wanted to leave a comment then but for reasons unknown to me, the website never displays any of my comments. So I am hoping and praying that your website does put up my comments.
Your analysis of the situation in Nepal as always is dead accurate. I may not be a very patriotic Nepali but even I can see that this Prachanda is a snake and for Nepal to progress and prosper, we have to rid ourselves of this monster. Taking a mass murderer (Mao) as his hero, killing thousands of innocent Nepalese, extorting money from millions - I was really surprised when he dared to show his smug face to the public two years back. If he had a conscience, he would have gone and killed himself along with his terrorist comrades.
Things started going downhill for Nepal ever since these bandits decided to start a revolution based on a belief that many didn't share or even care. Now he acts as if he has done this country a world of good.
I have always been pro-India and the only complaint that I have against India is the fact that you allowed the Maoists safe sanctuary in India when they had a bounty placed on their heads. If they all had been killed there and then, we wouldn't have had to see this day.
I am sincerely hoping that all Nepalese will be able to stand on their feet and rid themselves of this monster before it is too late...or is it already?

Anonymous said...

I came across this group "WE HATE YOU PRACHANDA" in facebook a few days back...its members are increasing exponentially...
Please inform everybody about this group...