Oped

Chance to take centre stage

  • The goodwill Prachanda received in New Delhi was reciprocation of his new avatar
- Atul K Thakur

Sep 21, 2016-

Prime Minister Prachanda’s recently concluded visit to India should be considered to be successful as it brought derailed bilateral relations back on track. However, it will be not missed by anyone that the goodwill Prachanda received in New Delhi was reciprocation of his new avatar. He now appears promising as a head of government who is clearly bent on reconstructing Nepali society which has suffered a deadly earthquake, a controversial constitution and extreme insensitivity of the previous government towards agitating parties.

The hardest hitting disturbances in recent decades in trade transit were caused by the sheer inability of the two governments to guard the spirit of the bilateral treaties. Last year’s complete transit blockade was a bit different from preceding events as visible factors of discontent were expressed through prolonged messing with the newly implemented constitution. Indeed, the much awaited constitution is not inclusive in nature, and it delivered a phase of alienation where Madhesis felt completely cut off from the mainstream.

A long path

Consequently, Madhes-based parties adopted a new way of protest by blocking the borders to make the erstwhile KP Oli administration serious about amending the constitution. Sadly, all these things happened just a few months after the terrible earthquake. India, of course, didn’t follow plain diplomacy in those few months when New Delhi maintained the status quo at the cost of losing valuable trust and revenues through trade transit. The establishment there waited for the imminent fall of the Oli administration, and once the change of guard took place in Kathmandu, it has found in Prachanda a person willing to heed long-pending issues. A changed politician, if not a person, Prachanda seems to be a winner in the short run, as now he can keep the Modi-led government in good humour by not sending a strong message of the “China’s chairman is our chairman” type.

In his new Darwinian avatar, Prachanda is fit and going to survive on the slippery pitch of Nepali politics. The highlight of Prachanda’s India visit was his confession along the same lines, and the way he mingled with right-wing leaders and a lapsed royal but a surviving soft Congress politician Karan Singh. Prachanda’s long conversation with him during the reception hosted by the Nepal Embassy was amusing for many. Prachanda has travelled a long path from being a stubborn ultraradical to someone who knows the criticality of ‘adjustment’ to stay relevant in the troubled

mainstream politics of Nepal. Nevertheless, he must not forget the ‘invisible power’ of his former comradesinarms, especially Baburam Bhattarai who will pose a serious challenge on strategic fronts like Madhes and the world, especially in India where he is still better connected.

Writing on the wall

On policies, Prachanda should go ahead instead of only talking about resolving the constitutional deadlock. Politically, it will do well for his interest besides projecting him as a statesman. In case of non-delivery, he will not have too long to serve in office. Nepal is passing through a phase where not only the masses but the politicians too are no longer finding the state of chaos beneficial for their interest. He has someone like Bimalendra Nidhi, as the deputy prime minister and home minister, who is well placed to ensure governance on his home turf in Madhes. He is already engaged in handling key infrastructure projects and looking at constitutional issues.

Nidhi’s latest India visit was surely impactful, and as Prachanda too has now made an impactful visit to New Delhi, India will again be seen as an elder rather than a big brother. The best spirit is back in New Delhi for Nepal, and Prachanda should read the writing on the wall. His reciprocation is pragmatic in sending Ambassador Deep Kumar Upadhyay back to head the New Delhi mission. Upadhyay’s dramatic sacking by Oli was not applauded by anyone considering that he had played an effective role during his adversely eventful year-long first stint.

Playing it right

Based on what he does in the future, Prachanda will re-establish his own position and help the country to come out from the manmade crises. It would not be viable for him to ignore the country’s slow pace of development, hence efforts should be made from Kathmandu to reach out to the hitherto disadvantaged sections. The alarming high rate of outbound migration of Nepalis to remote and inhospitable parts of the world is reflective of an insensitive political system.

Prachanda should feel restless about it; he owes a lot to the masses. His immediate crucial task is to effectively solve the constitutional deadlock, and give Madhesis equally citizenry rights besides meeting their expectations on federalism and statehood matters. Alas, with the missed opportunities, the infrastructure (both physical and industrial) in Madhes is near redundant. The new government should not attempt to buy more time to rebuild broken spines but make additions through new structures. In hindsight, Prachanda should see a chance to remain centre stage for a long time.

 

Thakur is a New Delhi-based journalist and writer

Published: 21-09-2016 08:22

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