Nepal’s Maoists: Helpless in Power
The other day I was riding a bus and we got pulled over by a traffic cop. A big argument ensued between the cop and the driver. Eventually half the bus passengers were hanging out their windows, arguing with the poor young traffic cop standing there in the baking sun. And it made me realize a thing or two about Nepal.
But we’ll get to that in due time. Because this little incident is illustrative of the political situation in general. So let’s have a quick look at that.
The big thing in Nepal these days, the past few weeks I suppose, is the case of their COAS (Chief of Army Staff) who’s refused to obey an order from the (Maoist!) Minister of Defense. The COAS wanted to hire 3000 new recruits, his minister told him not to do it, and he went ahead and did it anyway! Now, of course, the Maoist government wants to sack him.
This being Nepal, of course it’s all become very complicated, political and symbolic laden. A couple of the points being debated and rumored these days: Were the Nepal Army about to make a military coup last week? Can the PM fire the COAS, or would that be the president’s job? Are the Maoists trying to take control of the army by appointing their own loyals? So on and so forth.
Interesting questions but, and I think this is symptomatic for public debate in Nepal, not really THE question. THE question being: Were the COAS, who’s name by the way is General Rookmangud Katawal, were he in his full right to disobey an order from the (democratically elected) government or not? Personally, I think his actions amounts to treason. He’s a general and if he’s forgotten to click his heels and say YES SIR!, then maybe it’s just as well to get rid of him. But that’s now up to the Supreme Court to decide.
The Maoists may well have ulterior motives here. About 3 months ago I actually mentioned that they were likely to try and pull a stunt like this (The Honeymoon is over for Nepal’s Maoists). But nevertheless, the good General has now handed the Maoists a fantastic opportunity to get rid of him!
And the thing that I’m starting to realize is this: Don’t blame all Nepal’s misfortunes on it’s leaders and bureaucrats. They may be incompetent and self-serving as hell, but they are not the only ones to point fingers at. Have a look at the general population. Have a look at culture, traditions and norms in the society. They always seem to have a big go at all the symbolic stuff, most prominently the monarchy, which they spent a couple of years getting rid of, never really debating what to put in it’s place.
Now they are (supposedly) writing a new constitution. But there’s no substantial public debate about what it should look like! The debate is over who’s doing what, who gets what, what to call it etc. Symbols. Superficial things.
But getting back to our traffic cop in the sun, now arguing with a busload of passengers. “Dude, it ain’t necessary. If you saw a traffic violation, write a ticket. If you didn’t, stop bothering us!”
Things get fuzzy and derailed so easily here. Maybe that’s why the country is perpetually in the mess it’s in!
So to drive the point of the headline home, the Maoists are in charge, officially, symbolically, but have yet to capture true state power. They have the mandate to lead, but not to hire and fire people based on their actions. Like the bus situation, things get fuzzy, efforts gets derailed and fizz out all the time!