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M.R. Josse: A Numbers Game & Impending Fireworks

A Numbers Game, Impending Fireworks, Revealing Differences And Stuff

By M.R. Josse

LAST WEEK'S rally at Tundikhel's open-air (Khula Manch) Theatre addressed by a slew of Maoist top guns, albeit not by supremo Prachanda or his second-in-command Baburam Bhattarai, was undoubtedly a landmark political event. That, not least, because of the massive turnout – larger, by all accounts, than earlier rallies by the SPA.

If Prachanda's absence was disappointing for many, it was

certainly memorable and reassuring in that, contrary to popular expectation, it turned out to be a mostly peaceful affair. That no doubt was a shrewd and calculated decision effectively enforced by the organisers, as far as this weekly babbler is concerned.


Of course, what should not go unmentioned is that a goodly section of the assemblage bussed from outlying districts had done so not entirely of their own accord, at least going by glowing blow-by-blow reports in the daily press. Nor, as per similar sources, can it be said that the large number of transport vehicles that has been used for the purpose – and which very largely accounted for the large crowds – were voluntarily provided. But, never mind.

Given that posters that had been pasted all over town weeks in advance had clearly indicated that the rally would be addressed by Prachanda himself, it is interesting to speculate why he did not. A couple of days earlier, for example, he had done so at a smaller gathering in Makwanpur district. Was it because of a lack of confidence in the government's ability to provide adequate security cover, or what?

Or, was it merely meant to test the waters, to be a dress rehearsal or dry run, for a future Happening to be addressed by the Maoist supremo in the flesh? Yet again, was it a subtle message to the SPA government and the powers that be that if such an enormous crowd can be mobilized in the heart of the capital even in the absence of their apex leaders, it should have second thoughts before seeking to mess with them in the future?

Most importantly, was the show of political strength meant to substantiate their very credible assertion that their contribution to the events leading to the 24 April proclamation by the King was far more substantive than that of the SPA and other claimants? Perhaps we shall never know or perhaps time alone will reveal all.


Yet, given the general tone and thrust of the speeches made on the occasion this scribbler is fairly sanguine, sports, that it must have sent shivers up the spines of SPA types that are now behaving as if they were solely or mainly instrumental for the dramatic changes that have taken place lately. By the way, Prachanda's warning (TKP, 31 May) in his speech at a mass meeting at Chakari, Makwanpur of a "violent storm" if talks with the government fail is most arresting, wouldn't you agree, old pal?

No doubt, boys and girls, such developments may help explain the rationale behind intemperate outbursts such as the following by UML's Keshav Badal (TKP, 4 June): "Dogmatic ideology would eventually help rightist forces only. Even the parties won't swallow the Maoist demand for a People's Republic." Gosh.

By the by, noting that pointed barbs were also directed at interfering specimen of the Kathmandu-based diplomatic corps, more than a few cocktail glasses were probably rattled that Friday evening along the Kamaladi-Lajimpat axis, don't you think? Heck, crickey, and baaf-ray-baaf!

Incidentally, writing about the Maoists, your Graces, it is interesting that, post-Khuna Manch rally, there are reports of Maoist curfews in Panchthar district and Maoist patrols in Dadeldhura district. No less riveting was the disclosure in the Himalayan Times (5 June) that quoted Maoist honcho Dev Gurung thus cautioning: "There is still the possibility of the army ruling the country."

Read along with a news item disclosing Janamorcha Nepal's Lila Mani Pokhrel's statement in parliament (THT, 5 June) that "it is reported that the government is buying weapons from China, while India is trying to sell a package to Nepal", this chappie can only say, oh boy, fireworks are clearly in the offing!


I don't know about you chum but as far as this political innocent is concerned it is enormously revealing that my two favourite (believe me) daily reads – TKP and THT – seem to have parted editorial company. While not too long ago they were virtually on the same editorial wavelength, now however yours truly believes they are poles apart. They are certainly not on the same page, as "Amrikans" are wont to say ever so often.

To cut a long story short, dear and loyal sports, to me it appears that TKP is now pretty critical of the Maoists while THT tends, on the whole, to treat them with kid gloves – when, that is, it is not bending backwards attempting to appease them. Now, there's a hot subject for all you Ph.D-aspiring types to delve into. Perhaps the NPI or some other such centres of journalism learning might also be interested to probe into that abiding (at least for me) mystery.

Of course, there are other occasions they both TKP and THT seem lost, quite incapable of calling a spade a spade. I have in mind a few of their recent editorials that seemed to me pretty sitting-on-the-fence, if you know what I mean?

While none can doubt, of course, that language-wise, THT beats TKP hands down, both seem to have lately developed the annoying tendency in their edits to talk, as the cliché goes, from both sides of their mouths.

But then, that is perhaps the way all of us hacks should go in the future: not really saying what's on our minds but only what is expected to please the new powers that be or the powers that are in waiting. Ah well, as the wise ol' Frenchies say c'se la vie: that's life.

On that note of "resignation" – a word that is very, very much in the news these days, if you'll notice – allow me, mon ami, to bid adieu till next week..


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