Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Nepal update on vote


The legislature parliament has failed to elect a new Prime Minister at the elections held Wednesday after motions filed by Nepali Congress and Unified CPN (Maoist) got rejected and CPN (UML) withdrew its motion. Unified CPN (Maoist) had fielded its chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal, Nepali Congress had fielded its vice president and parliamentary party leader Ram Chandra Poudel and CPN (UML) had fielded its chairman Jhala Nath Khanal for the prime ministerial race. At the voting that took place Wednesday evening, Maoist candidate Dahal failed to gain majority as only 242 lawmakers out 597 present at the House voted for him. 114 lawmakers voted against him and 236 lawmakers stayed neutral.

Likewise, NC candidate also failed to get majority as he secured only 124 votes in his favour. 235 lawmakers voted against him and 228 lawmakers stayed neutral. CPN (UML) withdrew its candidate Jhala Nath Khanal from the prime ministerial race after its efforts to secure a two-thirds majority at the parliament failed. The party had fielded Khanal as a candidate for the post of the Prime Minister only if two-thirds majority is assured before the votings. The Maoists had also pledged to support Khanal if he managed to secure a two-thirds majority.

As today's elections failed to elect a new Prime Minister, Speaker of the legislature parliament announced that the re-elections to the post of PM would take place on Friday. He has summoned the next meeting of the House at 1 pm, Friday. The schedule for the elections will be published later.

Comment: Only 5 non-maoist members supported PK Dahal. All the opposing votes should have come from NC as the CPN (ML) abstained (CPN ML has 108 votes). That says how much people are polarized against the maoists. Are the 118 others who stayed neutral waiting for some key concessions from the maoists? It is clear that the 82-strong Madhes parties want the assurance of a Madhes state, which noone promised, so they abstained. So is the stage being set for some kinda backroom deal before the Friday vote again? Only 10 non-NC members voted for RC Paudel. Almost all the maoists voted against RC Paudel. The rest including the CPN (ML) abstained -- I dont know the exact voting patterns, I am just guessing from the vote split and key facts published in bits and pieces.

The Jhalnath Khanal-led CPN (ML) abstained after getting hit with mud on their face. Jhalnath wanted to stitch a 2/3 majority in the Sansad, and would nt take anything short of that. The maoists assured them their support in case Jhalnath could come up with the 2/3 number given that 237 of the 601 are maoists. Simple calculation shows that Jhalnath needed to split the maoists rank and file -- across the Baburam Bhattarai and Mohan Baidya Kiran axis. Idiocy or plain charlatan behavior, god only knows. The maoists closed their rank and Jhalnath ended with not even a simple majority. Jhalnath claims to have 391 out of the 401 needed for 2/3 majority. I cant believe that, why will some of the maoist members support Jhalnath when there was a whip issued? In fact, there are enough rumours that Baburam Bhattarai was pissed with PK Dahal when Prachanda wanted to corner the PM post for himself. Baburam Bhattarai apparently chose to extend his support to Prachanda provided that Prachanda would not resign in the last minute in support of Jhalnath Khanal. Crazy!!! Really really crazy...

Now there is a possibility that a backroom deal can be stitched if NC chooses to support Jhalnath in return for CPN (ML) abstaining from NC motion and saving the NC h&d by a bit. And since PK Dahal and the maoists are close to Jhalnath than they are to MK Nepal or KP Sharma Oli, a cobbled consensus could still emerge. But this is going to be tricky. Such a consensus would nt have the Madhes support unless the Madhes demands are met. And noone, Jhalnath or Sher Bahadur Deuba or PK Dahal or KPS Oli or RC Paudel or Baburam Bhattarai can assure that. It goes against the Nepali h&d show to promise the Madhes-Terai people a separate province right next to the Kathmandu valley. Without the Madhes support, things are going to get violent as Upendra Yadav of Madhes Janadhikar Forum is going to act as the cat's pawn for Prachanda to stir up trouble as and when things take to a head.

All this begs the question: why not fresh elections? I am as clueless on this as you are. In India, we will right away have fresh elections if a consensus cannot emerge over years at a stretch. That is how we do it in our place, not quite so in nepal. Why, beats me? If the maoists are so powerful as they claim they are, why not prove it by getting an overwhelming mandate from the people? If the NC seems to have fresh ideas post-GP Koirala, why not prove it with the people? If Jhalnath is the consensus PM, why not prove it with the people? Why would nt someone or anyone use a god-given opportunity to prove to everyone who the boss is? The answer is clear: bankruptcy of ideas and Indian silence in not giving any party a takleef issue and allowing them to forge a consensus with the people. So far, the Narasimha Rao policy of "doing nothing is also a policy" has worked wonders in letting the maoists pull whatever little hair they have from their heads. One thing is clear: PK Dahal has divided and polarized everyone. Can the maoists actually come up with Baburam Bhattarai as a choice? That will mean asking the maoists to put their thinking cap on :). That will also mean Prachanda to actually not be greedy, kid me not, that is a surefire NO. Knowing Prachanda, greed is the first word in the Angrez lexicon. Can the Marxist-Leninists actually stop fighting publicly and crying openly about how they should be the right candidates? A joke, if there was any, would be better. Can the Congress-is actually have an issue to talk about? Yawn, even GPK has died, so what issue other than "we are nepalis now," do we have to talk about. Fun and mayhem never meant anything different, especially in nepal. Aye Gorkhali.
Ok, a second take. I am as confused as everyone else, so I am trying to put two and two together in this strategic calculus/game.

Possible PM candidates
1) Prachanda -- pro-china in china, pro-India in India -- in short, a double-speaking untrustworthy person, spent a lot of time in Noida during the People's War phase
2) Dr. Baburam Bhattarai -- spent a lot of time in India, the key ideologue of the maoists, not pro-India in many sense, but not anti-India either, guarded in terms of India vs China calibration, irritated with Prachanda's greed to corner the PM post
3) Mohan Baidya Kiran -- pro-china, anti-Tibet, anti-India in many sense, irritated with Prachanda's greed to corner the PM post

Nepal Congress:
Possible PM candidate
1) Ram Chandra Paudel -- consensus candidate of NC, Sher Bahadur Deuba will be the remote control PM, pro-India, even the NC is pro-India in many sense esp post-GP Koirala

Possible PM candidates
1) Jhalnath Khanal -- pro-china in many sense, ambivalent about India, trying to co-opt India in supporting him, irritated with MK Nepal on MKN's lack of support for his candidacy, good friends with the Prachanda clique inside maoists
2) KP Sharma Oli -- pro-India in many sense, gets the support of MK Nepal, pretty much the opposite camp of Jhalnath Khanal, ambivalent about china

If Prachanda is thrown out and the maoists succeed in planting their PM, Baburam Bhattarai is going to end up as PM with support of Mohan Baidya Kiran. That is one pro-India element with a pro-china lobbyist. Besides that Prachanda is going to end up causing vertical divisions in the party over petty India vs china matters. If things could come to a head, Baburam Bhattarai has the ideological strength, but Prachanda has the YCL in his hands. This is going to be a violent one, if it could lead to the banishment of Prachanda and his double-speak, and Mohan Baidya Kiran's anti-India activities could be curbed, Dr. Baburam Bhattarai would make a nice combo with Dr. Ram Baran Yadav in steering nepal to a state of decency. But dont get too happy, Baburam Bhattarai can be as violent as anyone else, cutting his teeth during the bygone relatively more violent days of nepal.

If KP Sharma Oli can be propped up instead of Jhalnath Khanal, that will be excellent. A good replacement for the pro-India Madhav Kumar Nepal. But that is very unrealistic. Jhalnath Khanal holds the strongest possibility in CPN (ML) at this stage, especially with prachanda's overt support. But the maoists will be vertically divided against Jhalnath Khanal's stand. The Nepal Congress folk will remain ambivalent to Jhalnath and may even abstain. If Jhalnath's rise can result in cutting his size -- an oxymoron I know -- this may end up ok. But I doubt it, Jhalnath's overt and covert singing of the china tune will only end up hurting more in the long run.

I am not keen on analyzing Ram Chandra Paudel's case. It is as unrealistic as KP Sharma Oli's despite he being pro-India. One has to choose the right amount of success probability before venturing into a fantasyland.



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