A republican order means that ordinary citizens can rise to the highest ranks of power. By asking the President not to “forget his roots of being a buffalo herder,” the Maoists have exposed that republicanism is just a smokescreen for their ulterior goals.
General Rukmangad Katwal (Picture: telegraphnepal.com)
I think everybody agrees now that a disastrous front-page story in Kantipur daily by its editor Sudheer Sharma (who I respect) accompanied by an english equivalent in The Kathmandu Post (by its editor Akhilesh Upadhyay, who again I respect very much) describing a failed coup d’état by the CoAS of the time, Rukmangad Katwal was largely a product of imagination (not necessarily the Editors’). It is not easy being in the media business- you get information of all sorts from people of all kinds. You then have to decide what to trust, what to publish, what to watch for a while or what to out-rightly reject. However, the imagination was successfully planted in two of the major daily newspapers in Nepal.
Accept it or not, we were all smitten by the Maoist bug once in our lives; the amount may vary. There was a time when the whole country was madly in love with the comrades despite all they had done, written and said many times over. We believed ourselves, our analysts, our media-men and many people in many guises when they said that the Maoists had signed the 12-point agreement in order to find a “safe landing,” a way for them to join peaceful democratic politics and pursue their beautiful goal of making Nepal a highly democratic, developed, and modern country. Today, many heartbreaks later, the only difference seems that some people got over this bug sooner than others. Some others never had this bug- as they would soon be comrades-in-arms, or had been so all along. They had a choice: to be the useful idiots, or to aid the war in different capacities (fighting with guns is always risky, you know, or ask DPM Narayankaji, or some writers and columnists).
“Strongman”: Akhilesh Upadhyay has written about Baburam Bhattarai’s tendencies (click on the picture for the story) (picture: nepaliblogger.com)
Another product of imagination seems to have found its way into the media lately. I can guess that the esteemed Editors mentioned above, among many others have survived the heartbreaks and learned a lesson or two. That explains why this imagination could not find its way into any mainstream news outlet, and had to be unceremoniously planted in a blog. Apart from that, the Maoist conviction that President Dr. Ram Baran Yadav planned a failed coup d’état recently against Baburam Bhattarai’s government was sneaked into an interview of the finance minister Barshaman Pun. A couple of other government ministers made similar allegations against the President in some press meetings. This got the President’s office miffed, and they have challenged the government to investigate the matter and bring out the truth to the people. They have further called for action against the ministers if the accusations are not substantiated. The President has also made it clear to leaders of major parties that “he will not, and cannot take any action without the consensus of political parties.” Not surprisingly though, a news story whose major portion sounded very much like a government distributed propaganda-material was published yesterday in The Hindu. The story contains no mention of the call by President’s office to investigate the matter or his refusal of the allegation. The writer, Prashant Jha, is known to be close to the ruling coalition, and also as a lobbyist for Prime Minister Bhattarai.
Sounds familiar? Why is this happening all over again? The truth of the matter, as put by another Editor who earns my great respect is that the “parties don’t feel any pressure from the President, they just pretend they do. Reason: the public.” The President of Nepal has largely been a conciliatory figurehead acting as per the court’s or the constitutional provisions. The Maoist-Madheshi Morcha government led by Baburam Bhattarai on the other hand, has repeatedly been an aggressor in the national politics, both before and after it successfully dissolved the Constituent Assembly that was also acting as a parliament.
PM Bhattarai is said to be one of the most intelligent and shrewd politicians Nepal has seen after 1990 (picture: Mercantile Communications)
The government, deemed “care-taker” by the President, has misappropriated the national treasury in a shameless manner (see recent press reports for the massive scale in which this is going on), and has been unable to hold elections it announced in a unilaterally. In the ensuing constitutional and political vacuum, the government’s supporters have openly announced that they’ll continue ruling like this for 25 years to come. They have taken actions to back up this claim too, for example: the Judiciary and all major constitutional bodies are going to be defunct because of the failure to man them by the government, and many arbitrary actions of the government in the absence of the parliament look like preparation for a new bout of authoritarian regime in Nepal, under the leadership of Dr. Bhattarai. In such a situation, the President’s office is now standing between the government and its will to get a free hand in running the country. Aware of this, the government even dared to ask the President to issue an ordinance which would in effect make ordinances unnecessary, making the cabinet’s decision equivalent to law. Naturally, the President’s office refused to budge to such an outrageous attempt. In the absence of a regular parliament, ordinances cannot be discussed within one month of being issued, as required by the interim constitution. The constitution further requires all major decisions to be taken by the parties in “consensus.” the President’s office is only trying to abide by the constitution and not invite any controversy for its actions.
Maoists protesting against the President in 2009, after resigning from power. They staged roadshows mimicking the President as a buffalo herder (picture: demotix.com, Edwin Koo)
Recently, the government has publicly threatened the President to issue an ordinance on the fiscal budget, and has warned of dire consequences if he fails to do so. The planted news stories seem to have come in this context. It seems like a last-ditch effort to destabilize the President’s office, having done so with almost all established institutions in the country. Of course, observers of the Maoists’ protest rallies in 2009 following their government’s resignation know pretty well that their advocacy of the republican order is just a smokescreen for their ulterior goals (it was during this very time that the Gen. Katwal led coup story made headlines) . After getting down from power, apart from the propaganda about Gen. Katwal’s coup d’état, the Maoists staged a very vulgar scene in the streets. I was first-hand witness to their mimicry of the President as a buffalo-herder and statements indicating that a buffalo herder has forgot where he belongs by not coming to the aid of their plans. Let me remind you that President Yadav has humble roots as he used to be a buffalo herder in his village during his childhood.
Of course, it was stupid of us all to be smitten by the Maoist bug in the first place. Here is a party that has never flinched one bit from its commitment from a totalitarian system of governance and violence as a political tool, here’s a party that advocates centralization of power into a group of elites called the “party politburo” (contrast this with their federalism gameplan), and that has in its official records, repeatedly denounced established democratic norms, and here’s a group of leaders who do not believe in economic freedom and individual liberties- still we chose to believe in the opposite. Of course, people who want to replace a monarchy with a republican order with the noble goal of making it possible for ordinary citizens to rise to the highest ranks of power cannot be challenging it’s very fundamentals- that the beauty of a republican order is just that a buffalo herder can become our President. It has neither apologized for such vulgarity, nor has shown any indication of changing that attitude. It was all along a love affair based on impossible dreams and lies. So when I say that the rumor spread by the Maoists on the Presidential coup is just another in a series of such propaganda they have mastered, I do not expect to be believed.