Nepal’s political closed circuit
The appointment of the Khanal government in Nepal, accomplished after xx number of failed attempts at installing a prime minister, is broadly seen in New Delhi as a positive. However, the Indian system is hardly agog. As far as it can tell, what has happened is still part and parcel of the closed circuit of Nepalese politics.
The Maoist decision to support Jhalanath Khanal, New Delhi believes, reflects the following: One, Maoist leader Prachanda having tried every possible twist and turn to make himself prime minister has failed. Khanal, a Marxist known for his strong suspicions regarding India, was seen as the best choice among the leaders of the various democratic parties.
Two, New Delhi believes, this thus means general Maoist desire to come to power, break up its principal enemy, the Nepalese army, and then make Nepal into something close to a one-party state has not changed.
The Indian system knows that less than a fortnight ago the two main democratic parties, the United Marxist Leninist party and the Nepal Congress, had told Prachanda: let’s settle the integration of the Maoist and regular armies and you can take power. Prachanda said nothing doing. He placed the preservation of the People’s Liberation Army ahead of becoming the ruler of Kathmandu.
Three, given the evidence Maoists are far from reconciled to democracy, the idea behind supporting Khanal seems to be that it will at least mean better peace process terms for the left militants. It also keeps the democratic parties from coalescing together against the Maoists. New Delhi believes Prachanda’s move is basically tactical. The Maoists haven’t changed their stance.
Having said all this, it is interesting to see how Khanal and the Maoists have already distanced themselves from each other because of disagreements on the peace process. It may superficially be about ministry berths, but his refusal to let the Maoists have the key home/internal security portfolio was the real breaking point.
The closed circuit of Nepal politics remains that way. The political alliances are only two: the Marxists and Congress together against the Maoists, or the Marxists and Maoists together against the Congress. The system flits between these two alternatives.
The game will now be to see how far Khanal can on the peace process before the Maoist tire of him. There are other trends India is watching: Prachanda seems to be facing unusually strong dissent from within his party, the democratic parties continue to show strong and spirited support for the peace process. All this points to Khanal’s government being yet another interim step and that another round of political contestation awaits Nepal soon.