In the politics of patronage, players rise and fall like ninepins, but the rule of the game always remains the same. The iron rule of any absolute rule is that there are no rules at all. So when two weeks ago, faded comrade Devi Prasad Ojha, jaded business-person Mahesh Lal Pradhan, and the yellowed bureaucrat Dharma Bahadur Thapa were shown the same door through which they had entered the ante-chamber of state power, no
tears were shed.
After all, the trio of neo-reactionaries knew what they were getting into when they decided to ride the express bus of Clause 127 to Singha Darbar. By now, even Lokendra Bahadur Chand must have realised that every new dawn brings another portentous day in Baluwatar. Sher Bahadur Deuba was thrown out because he had failed to hold parliamentary elections within six months of the dissolution of the Lower House. Chand has been in that hot seat for longer, and he hasn't even tried.
Narayan Singh Pun must be doing some serious thinking as well. From being the one-man team ushering Maoist negotiators around town, the good colonel has been demoted to a mere member. That's a mighty fall for the high-flying helicopter pilot, but Pun is a survivor and knows the controls too well to complain. He is a practical man who offered his services to Girija Prasad Koirala and then to Sher Bahadur Deuba, then dumped both to join the royal government.
Subtlety is not Koirala's forte, but the force of his argument hit home when it made even a seasoned and superannuated scribe like Ramesh Nath Pandey fumble for words. All that the government spokesperson could mutter in response was that a showpiece has its uses. Indeed, it does. It allows dummies to pretend that they
are for real.
Considering this cabinet's irrelevance, it is astonishing why there is such a rush to get into it. From R K Mainali of the UML to Bijay Gachhedar of the Deuba Congress, all kinds of exhausted personas are getting their labeda-suruwals pressed. Since a minister's job in the present context is like that of a day-labour hired to perform designated tasks under a faithful superviser, what do they seek to achieve by being inducted into this cabinet?
The Chand cabinet was unabashedly 'non-political' from the day it was formed, and it became 'unconstitutional' as soon as four main political parties of the still surviving Upper House raised questions over its legitimacy. After having entered into negotiations with the Maoists to scrap the existing constitution itself, the government has now become amoral as well.
Morality gets a stretch in any armed insurgency, and the political position of Maoist negotiators is getting rather shaky. All circumstantial evidence indicates the vanguard of the rebel force has already entered into some kind of a secret deal with the ancien regime. By the time Lenin's 'untutored rabble' realise that they've been had, it will be too late for them to do anything about it. And they will do that with a vengeance.
The people will allow the team of Comrade Baburam Bhattarai to cruise down the Raymajhi Path and then let them join the new corps of Royal Communists. The very thought of a revolution going to rot is revolting. But reality can't be wished away. Comrade Pushpa Kamal Dahal's statement this week has done nothing to allay the public fear that the Maoists are hand-in-glove with the reactionaries.
National politics is brimming with all kinds of anomalies these days. Maoists seem to enjoy almost absolute power with no responsibility, while the emasculated mainstream political parties are expected by society to act responsibly. Meanwhile, the 'government' is merely an instrument of the ruler, lacking legitimate political authority, and thus free from all moral responsibilities.
Whatever be the unintended consequences of stifling democracy, one thing is for sure: the onus of delivering peace doesn't fall either on this government or the political parties. It is the Maoists who are the problem. So no one expects any solutions from them. Under the circumstances, King Gyanendra is solely responsible for everything that has happened in the country after October Fourth simply because he hasn't made any attempt to share political authority with any one else ever since.
Poised between post-insurgency ennui and pre-movement euphoria, the state of the state is drifting amidst the waves. But enduring peace can't be pursued without first restoring democratic order in the country. There is no sanitised short cut to the slow and messy process of mass politics.
It's never too late to correct a mistake, but time and tide doesn't wait for us. Today, the students have taken to the streets. No one can predict who will be at the gates next.