By Maila Baje
A suddenly salient feature of our politics today is the post-Dasain transformation in its language.
Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba’s campaign rhetoric is reminiscent of the pre-1990 era wherein anything the communists said or did was tantamount to a conspiracy against the Nepali Congress and democracy (which the party considered synonymous).
The communists, for their part, have brought back memories of an even distant era, one preceding the Pushpa Lal Shrestha-Keshar Jung Rayamajhi rupture (or, more appropriately, the Sino-Soviet split). It’s as if idealism should continue to trump achievements to votaries of that ideology, even after all that was sifted from the rubble of the Berlin Wall.
The results of the local elections, the unification drive between the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist-Leninist (UML) and the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre) and perceptions of a diminution of the royalist threat as the country hurtles toward the culmination of the post-April 2006 process have all played a part.
No less important are the realignments on the geo-political front in the post-Doklam/Dong Lang context. International headlines today are eagerly portraying elections that are supposed to signify the complete and irreversible affirmation of Nepal’s entry into newness as one more front in the Sino-Indian contest for supremacy.
From that standpoint, at least, Nepalis may be forgiven for wondering whether these times presage the kind of surprise the multigenerational Pande-Thapa bhardari rivalries produced before the Kot Massacre of 1846.
The UML and Maoist Centre seem content to perform their respective roles as members of a mutual admiration society. UML chairman K.P. Sharma Oli, when he is not training his jests and gibes on Deuba and his party, has been adulatory of the impending union between the two major Nepali communist parties.
The superlatives Maoist Centre chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal used in support of UML leader Madhav Kumar Nepal the other day were, at best, cringe-worthy. And not because of the words per se.
On its own, Dahal’s praise for the great personal risk Nepal took in meeting with Maoist leaders during their days underground in the interest of building confidence and consensus is laudable. However, the echoes of ‘Delhi’s lapdog’, ‘poison tree’, ‘royal supplicant’ and other slurs Dahal & Co. have used against Nepal in the past continue to grate us.
Days earlier, Dahal exhorted his rivals in the Nepali Congress-led alliance to mind the language they are using against the communists. His point was that the imperative of cooperation among today’s rivals would continue to exist even after the elections. “Let’s not exchange words today that might make us too embarrassed to shake hands tomorrow,” the Maoist chairman said.
True words. But, then, isn’t the converse equally true? Don’t compliment today’s allies to the skies lest you lose the potency of words required if (when seems more likely) the time comes to censure them again tomorrow.