• Monday 19th August 2019

Flashback: Modi-fying our hopes and fears

  • Published on: May 29, 2019



  • The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s electoral triumph has triggered predictable reactions across our political spectrum vis-à-vis its impact on Nepal’s troubled polity.
    From Foreign Minister Mahendra Pandey, representing the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist, to Rastriya Prajatantra Party-Nepal (RPP-N) president Kamal Thapa, representing the right end of the spectrum, disparate voices have emerged. But when you boil it down, expectations of calm continuity or critical change depend on the hopes and fears of who is speaking.
    The status-quoists, so to speak, do have a point. The Congress-led government of Manmohan Singh may have anointed our Maoists as the drivers of republicanism. Still, it was the BJP-led government that had opened channels to the rebels, while still labeling them terrorists in public.
    For adherents of the international-conspiracy angle of the Narayanhity Massacre, at least, the fact that the entire line of King Birendra’s family was wiped out while the BJP was at the helm says a lot. So does the fact that the BJP-led government tried hard to use the Indian Airlines hijacking to bring Nepal under New Delhi’s security umbrella. And when that failed, the Indian establishment’s attempt to feign outrage at the Hrithik Roshan controversy was a poorly disguised effort to pursue that objective in a different way.
    So when Foreign Minister Pandey and other members of the ruling establishment hope that Nepal’s post-2006 republican political order is safe, they have some justification. RPP-N president Thapa, for his part, has grasped the other side of the story.
    Even before the BJP won its own majority, and was still expected to return to power at the head of an alliance, there was reason to believe that the Sangh Parivar would exert a far greater influence over a Modi government than it ever had over Atal Behari Vajpayee’s.
    Constituents of the wider Hindu nationalist base the Parivar embodies have been more vocal in their opposition to the secularization of the world’s only Hindu state. As the Parivar pushes the BJP’s campaign to take over the state governments in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar – after sweeping the parliamentary constituencies there – and tries to build on the opening it has made in West Bengal, Nepal is likely to come under greater weight from events in the three largest Indian states it borders.
    It would not be unreasonable to expect the BJP and its base focusing exclusively on the restoration of Hindu statehood in Nepal. But, then, you don’t really have to be a rocket scientist to conclude the inevitability of a restoration of the Hindu monarchy to operationalize a restored Hindu state. If some things are sometimes left unsaid, it is because they are too obvious.
    Thapa’s public comments on the monarchy’s role in the future of the RPP-N agenda can best be understood in this spirit. His latest attempt to blame the monarchy for its irredeemability, at least in its constitutional form, was bound to be taken as brazen impudence, given his status as home minister in the royal regime. But, then, Thapa can afford to take some political license in the circumstances.
    He does not merit too much of our opprobrium. After all, as Maila Baje has often pointed out, if the monarchy is ever to be restored in Nepal, it will be through the Nepali Congress and the CPN-UML and, specifically, their ownership of the spirit of the 1990 Constitution.
    As for the debate raging in Nepal over the outcome of the Indian election, it could have been tempered with a little realism: Whatever a Modi government does vis-à-vis Nepal, it will have done to advance India’s core interests – regardless of our hopes or fears.

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