Jyeshtha 18 Vik Samvat 2066. Yugabda 5111: June 1, 2009

1. FESTIVALS: RATH YATRA, the chariot festival is celebrated every year on second day of Ashadha Shukla, corresponding to June 24 this year, in Jagannath Puri of Orissa. On this day, the three deities of Lord Jagannath, his brother Balabhadra and sister Subhadra are taken out in a grand procession in specially made gigantic temple-like chariots called raths, which are pulled by thousands of devotees. Nine days later, the journey is repeated in the opposite direction. The Puri Rath Yatra is world famous for the crowd that it attracts. Puri being the abode of these three deities, the place plays host to devotees, tourists and about one million pilgrims from across Bharat and abroad. The Rath Yatra is celebrated in many other towns of Bharat and the world.
2. BHARAT, US TO DO THE MOONWALK: About 400,000 km from planet earth, there are probably chunks of ice trapped inside huge craters on the moon’s surface. And they have been left untouched by the sun for about two billion years. This has so far been a conjecture.
Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) of the US are going to find out whether those dark holes actually hold ice and the secret of the solar system.
The details of the experiment —manouevering the orbiters to cruise along over the lunar poles, ensuring simultaneous operations and exchange of data — would be worked out with NASA in Bengaluru next month.
The first such effort by the space faring nations will involve two lunar orbiters, Chandrayaan-I and Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRA) of NASA, operating in sync over the moon’s polar region. They will bounce radar signals off the craters to spot the nether world of ice.
3. DEFEAT OF BJP IS NOT REJECTION OF HINDUTVA IDEOLOGY: The results of the just concluded Lok Sabha elections are unexpected to all, said Dr. Manmohan Vaidya, Akhil Bharatiya Prachar Pramukh of RSS in Nagpur on May 19. He was interacting with the media persons at Reshimbag premises where the third year RSS Sangh Shiksha Varga is underway. Talking informally, Dr. Vaidya said the people seem to have voted for a stable government and this is a welcome sign for the democracy. He said, with one national party getting a near majority, the regional parties have lost their bargaining and nuisance value. Both the Congress and the BJP, the two main national parties scored over 350 seats out of the 543, is a good omen for the survival of democracy in Bharat, he said.
He expressed concern over the low percentage of voting while replying to a question on appeal by the RSS Sarsanghchalak to the people to vote in the election and his exhortation to the swayamsevaks to ensure 100 per cent voting in the elections. Dr. Vaidya said the reluctance of people to vote is serious and dangerous for the democracy.
Defeat of BJP should not be construed as rejection of Hindutva ideology by the voters, Dr. Vaidya said in reply to a question. Various regional and other local factors work during the elections and all they have a cumulative effect on the results.
4. NEPAL SC STAYS ORDER ENDING BHARATS’ MONOPOLY ON PASHUPATINATH: Nepal’s Supreme Court has stayed a Government regulation aimed at ending the 300-year old monopoly of Bharatiya priests at the famed Pashupatinath temple, one of the holiest Hindu shrines.
Under the new regulation framed by Ministry of Culture and State Restructure on May 4, any qualified person without any nationality bar could become priest in the temple, with the selection made through written tests and interviews.
The Supreme Court issued a stay order to maintain status quo on the issue in response to a Public Interest Litigation filed by Bharat Jangam, a local resident.
5. DRDO HERBAL ALTERNATIVE MAY GIVE CANCER PATIENTS RELIEF: There's good news for cancer patients undergoing radiotherapy. A new breakthrough by Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) may finally provide them some relief from the serious side effects of radiation that's given to them during the treatment process.
The DRDO has developed a herbal substitute for the "only effective'' but toxic chemical radio protector, given to cancer patients undergoing radiotherapy to minimize the harmful side effect of ionizing radiations. The herbal radio protector is developed from two plants found in the Himalayan region. Following the encouraging pre-clinical trial results in animals, DRDO is all set to conduct human trials.
The human trials will be conducted on cancer patients undergoing radiotherapy at Army Research and Referral Hospital and All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS).
6. BIG B TURNS DOWN Oz DOCTORATE: Amitabh Bachchan has reacted to racial attacks on Bharatiya students in Australia by rejecting an honorary doctorate offered to him by the Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane for his contribution to the world of entertainment.
"I have been witnessing with great dismay and shock, the recent violent attacks on Indian students in Australia," Bachchan wrote on his blog.
"I mean no disrespect to the Institution that honours me, but under the present circumstances, where citizens of my own country are subjected to such acts of inhuman horror, my conscience does not permit me to accept this decoration from a country that perpetrates such indignity to my fellow countrymen," he added.
7. ENCYCLOPAEDIA BRITANNICA WILL REVIEW ITS HINDUISM ARTICLE: In response to a letter by Amit Raj Dhawan, an electrical engineer by profession, Encyclopedia Britannica has agreed to revise its article on Hinduism. In his expose, Dhawan wrote, “Britannica has misrepresented the concept and message of Hinduism, and Hindu values have been disparaged. The articles on Christianity, Islam, and Judaism have been written in a very good sense, and the evils of these religions have been subjugated by the way of presentation of those themes. It seems that the ambition of Encyclopaedia Britannica is to show Hinduism inferior to Christianity, Islam, and Judaism.”
Britannica’s Senior Editor of Philosophy and Religion, Brian Duignan said that “We agree that the article is in need of revision. We are working now to identify a Hindu scholar to lead that revision.” The revision will take some time.
8. TWO TEMPLES, BUDDHIST AND HINDU, ATTACKED IN FRANCE: A Hindu temple in La Courneuve suffered minor damage in a Molotov cocktail attack on May 11 night, quickly following an attack against the Bourget International Buddhist Center. Police have arrested four young men of Sri Lankan origin who are suspects in this latest attack.
9. MCKINSEY ENDORSES BHARAT’S GREEN STAND: After the World Bank endorsed Bharat's stand in international climate negotiations, McKinsey and Company in its yet to be released study has acclaimed that Bharat is already on way to becoming one of the least carbon intensive countries in the world even as it continues to climb up at a healthy 7.5% economic growth rate.
In a presentation made of its preliminary findings, McKinsey has said that Bharat which in 2005 recorded a greenhouse gas intensity of 0.70 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per US $1,000, would automatically go down to 0.45 tonnes by 2030 if it just carries on with its economic progress as usual.
The figures, part of a larger economic modeling of low carbon growth in Bharat, bolster this country's position that it is already walking along an economic route, paved by the national action plan on climate change and the 11th plan, to decoupling its future growth from increase in climate changing emissions.
10. PROTEST RALLIES BY ABVP FOR STUDENTS IN Oz: Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad held protest rallies against the attacks on Bharatiya students in Australia at various places like Delhi, Hyderabad, Mumbai, Bengaluru. At Shimoga in Karnataka Vice Chancellor of the University and faculty also joined the protest.
A statement issued by ABVP stated that when the world is heading towards a knowledge society and cooperation such attacks seem very inhuman and unprogressive. ABVP further urged central government to take the situation very seriously and to send our Minister of External affairs to Australia to restore the confidence in all the students abroad and their parents in Bharat.
11. ARJUN RUMBLES TO LIFE, ARMY RAISES MAIDEN REGIMENT: The Arjun tank has finally rumbled to life. The Bharatiya Army on May 25 raised its maiden armoured regiment equipped with the indigenously built main battle tank — a jinxed project that hit several lows during its 35-year-old gestation period.
Almost 10 years after placing an order for 124 tanks, the army received 16 tanks from the Combat Vehicles Research and Development Establishment (CVRDE), Avadi, Tamil Nadu, taking the number of tanks delivered so far to 45.
The Arjun has been designed and developed by the CVRDE, Defence Research and Development Organisation and a slew of industrial partners.
12. BHARTI, INFY, TCS, WIPRO AMONG WORLD’S TOP TECH COS: Telecom player Bharti Airtel and IT firms Infosys, Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) and Wipro have made it to the list of 100 best performing technology companies in the world, compiled by American magazine BusinessWeek.
The ‘Infotech 100’ list for 2009 based on shareholder return, return on equity, total revenues, and revenue growth is topped by Amazon.Com for the second straight year.
Ranked at the sixth position, telecom giant Bharti Airtel leads the pack of Bharatiya companies featured in the list. The three IT majors — Infosys, TCS and Wipro find a place in the top 50. Infosys is ranked 25, TCS is at the 30th spot and Wipro is placed at the 43rd position.
13. DR. MAGESAN NOW A JP: Dr Guna Magesan, a senior scientist at Scion Research in Rotorua, New Zealand was sworn in on May 20 as a Justice of Peace (JP), making him the only JP on the Crown Research Institute’s Rotorua campus.
Dr Magesan has served the community for many years through his work with several organisations and trusts. Guna’s work on youth development and Hindu-Maori relations are well recognised.
JPs are appointed by the Governor-General on the recommendation of the Minister of Justice, following a nomination by the local Member of Parliament.
A JP’s duties fall into two categories: ministerial and judicial. All JPs have to undertake ministerial duties, but they can also opt to do the judicial functions, which include issuing arrest warrants and sitting in a judicial capacity in court.
Dr Magesan has been elected to provide ministerial duties only, such as: witnessing signatures, certifying documents and taking affidavits or affirmations.
14. BHARAT BEATS CHINA AS LOW-COST MANUFACTURER: Bharat, for long considered good for only services, has beaten the ‘world’s factory’ China to become the second cheapest manufacturing destination after Mexico.
China’s cost advantage has eroded over time largely because of a wide range of cost increases, while Bharat’s currency has turned weak against the US dollar which in turn has offset increase in internal cost and freight rates.
The Index, which analysing the cost of manufacturing in the United States as against that in low-cost countries like China, Bharat, Brazil and Mexico, shows that in the last six months there has been significant change in aggregate low-cost country manufacturing rankings, due to fast-moving changes in cost drivers such as exchange rates, labour and shipping.
15. THIRD-YEAR SANGH SHIKSHA VARGA BEGINS IN NAGPUR: 936 swayamsevaks drawn from various parts of the country have been currently undergoing the rigorous physical and ideological training at the regular third-year Sangh Shiksha Varga (RSS training camp) at Reshimbag since May 10, 2009. This month-long training camp, began in the scorching summer heat of Nagpur, is being attended by RSS volunteers between the age groups of 18 and 40. There are six swayamsevaks from Nepal and one from the United Kingdom.
Besides this, there will be 50 first-year and 13 second-year training camps throughout the country this year.
The camp will be concluded on June 8, 2009 in the presence of Sarsanghachalak Shri Mohan Bhagwat. Former Judge of Supreme Court from Kerala Justice KT Thomas will be the chief guest at the concluding ceremony.
16. NEW ENGLAND US SEVIKA VARG 2009: On the occasion of the Birth Centenary of Vandaneeya Tai Ji Apte, over 35 sevikas, yuva, and kishoris from the New England Vibhag participated in an overnight Sevika Varg at Adharshila, the Foundation Stone Learning Center in Shrewsbury , MA on May 16-17, 2009 . In the Varg, sevikas had the pleasure of the company of Sai Patil, the National Sevika Pramukh and Sreevidya, a Vistarika who attended the varg for its entire duration.
Besides usual programs like khel , yogasana and geet added attraction was Yogchap and Ghosh training. 'Bharat Darshan', was a guided tour to various places of cultural and religious importance in Bharat. Volunteers from Gayatri parivar presented melodious bhajans. Dr. Sujata Gadre, explained several terms used in Ayurvedic treatment and its application in our lives.
17. CONCORD SHAKHA GURU VANDANA: On May 16, 2009, HSS Concord Shakha in California celebrated Guru Vandana where the Shakha's children invited their teachers and honored them. 14 teachers, many with their families, from two school districts, Mount Diablo and Benicia Unified School District attended this first ever Guru Vandana celebration of Concord shakha.
After Deep Prajwalan and mantra chanting, Madhulikaji from Milpitas made an enlightening presentation about the concept of 'Guru' in Hindu philosophy.
Each student came up, put tilak on his/her teacher's forehead, performed aarti and bowed down and did a pranaam to receive teacher's blessings. The students gave a rose and a gift to their teachers and shared why their teachers are special to them. All the teachers also shared their words of wisdom.
18. PAKISTAN - SECOND STRIKE NUKE CAPABILITY: Pakistan, which has kept open the option of first use of atomic weapons against 'nuclear-armed aggressors', has also developed a second strike capability. "Pakistan has reportedly addressed issues of survivability through second strike capability, possible hard and deeply buried storage and launch facilities, road-mobile missiles, air defenses around strategic sites and concealment measures," the Congressional Research Service (CRS) said in its report on Pak nuclear weapons dating May 15.
CRS is the research wing of US Congress, which prepares reports on issues of interest of the US lawmakers.
Pakistan has also pledged 'no-first-use' against non-nuclear-weapon states, but has not ruled out first-use against a nuclear-armed aggressor that attacks Pakistan - for instance, Bharat.
19. H-1B RESTRICTIONS WOULD CHOKE US OF TALENT: Wipro's executive chairman Azim Premji has warned that a proposal to restrict hiring holders of H-1B visas for skilled workers will choke America of talent coming in and could generate a trade war with countries such as Bharat.
"In my opinion it's a very drastic initiative," he said in an interview with BusinessWeek, referring to a bill in the US Senate basically preventing firms from hiring H-1Bs in the US or bringing in holders of L1 visas for semi-skilled workers.
Premji suggested the US must realize that today 60 to 70% of the growth of the revenues of large American companies comes from Bharat and China.
"These are the growth markets. It's a simple thing for our government to raise tariffs. It's a simple thing for our government to say no American corporation will get central or state government contracts, or defence contracts," he warned.
Noting that the software and BPO industries for Bharat represent 24% of its exports, Premji said: "These are critical industries for emerging countries... There's no way our government can take it lightly."
Asked what would happen if the bill passes, the Wipro chief said Obama "is too sensible to pass it. He's too mature".
20. ALPHONSO WINS OVER AMERICANS IN 2 YEARS: The crop has been bad this year, but exports are growing. It has been that kind of a year for the Alphonso, the most expensive of the about 1,000 varieties of mangoes grown in Bharat.
Americans have especially taken to it. The Wal-Marts and the Nature’s Prides are lapping up full quotas of Alphonsos. They are even being ordered online. Mangoes had found their way back to the US last year — after a two-decade ban, over concerns about undue pesticide use, was lifted as part of a deal signed by US President George Bush during his Bharat trip.
According to the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA), there has been a 60 per cent growth in the exports of mangoes.
21. VETERAN PRACHARAK VISHNU KUMAR PASSES AWAY: THE MAN BEHIND RSS SERVICE ACTIVITIES: Veteran Sangh Pracharak Vishnu Kumar who practically materialized the service concept of RSS in Delhi, passed away on May 25. He was 76. he was unwell for the last few months.
Born on May 5, 1933 at Chikvallapuram Nagar, near Bengaluru, in Karnataka, Vishnuji was the youngest among the six siblings. He became a swayamsevask in his childhood and became a Pracharak after completing his BE mechanical in 1962. He mostly worked in Aligarh, Pilibhit, Lakhimpur, Kashi, Kanpur, Delhi and Bhopal. He worked with Shri Ashok Singhal during the emergency. He was popular as 'Masterji' during the Emergency in Kanpur. He also played a key role in the satyagrah. He came to Delhi in 1978 to look after the responsibility of Praudh Shakhas. But later he fully devoted himself to the cause of service activities, carried out under the banner of Sewa Bharati after the call of the then Sarsanghchalak Shri Bala Saheb Deoras. He was shifted to Bhopal in 1995 where too he expanded the Sewa Bharati work even in the remote areas of the region. Today, there are six Matrichhaya Kendras, 21 hostels and thousands of Ekal Vidyalas in Madhya Kshetra alone and all this has been possible due to the tireless efforts of Vishnuji.
Vishnuji had developed a live and close contact with the workers, teachers and students joining the sewa projects. There are more than 1000 youth in Delhi alone who had been moulded by Vishnuji as their guardian. These youth are now working in different professional groups and companies as successful professionals. Sewa Bharati today runs more than 2200 service projects in Delhi alone. Vishnuji had formally founded the organisation in May 1979 with the inauguration of a Samskar Kendra By Bala Saheb Deoras.
22. HOMAGE TO DR CHILUKURI SUBRAHMANYA SASTRY: Leading educationist and social worker Dr Chilukuri Subrahmanya Sastry passed away in Vishakhapattnam on May 15. The last rites were performed by Sri Rama Sastry, son of his younger brother in Vishakhapatnam. Dr Sastry bcame a Pracharak in 1945. After working in several districts, he came to Hyderabad in 1953 to establish Hindusthan Samachar. Later, he went to Vishakhapattnam for higher studies. He was awarded gold medal in BA (Bons) for Telugu at university level. He was an ideal teacher. he traveled for decades as Prant Karyavah, Sah Prant Sanghchalak, Prant Sanghchalak, Kshetra Sanghchalak and as national executive member of RSS. He always used to encourage functionaries to make new experiments.
23. ITALY: REQUESTS FOR “DEBAPTISMS” SOAR IN MILAN: The northern Italian city of Milan is experiencing a boom in the number of people who want to renounce their baptism and leave the Catholic church. A report in the Italian daily Il Giornale said the diocese had received over 200 requests in the first five months of 2009, equalling the total number received in 2008.
Luigi Manganini, the priest who presides over the discipline of the sacraments of the Milan diocese said this upward trend of so-called debaptisms is “worrying” because the majority of the cases are of people between the age of 40 and 50.
The act of debaptism amounts to apostasy and the applicant is thus automatically excommunicated and prohibited from taking sacraments or having a funeral in a church.
24. CYCLONE STRANDS MILLIONS IN WEST BENGAL AND BANGLADESH: Cyclone Aila hit parts of coastal Bangladesh and West Bengal on May 25, triggering tidal surges and floods and destroying hundreds of thousands of homes. Heavy rains triggered by the cyclone raised river levels and burst mud embankments in the Sundarbans delta, causing widespread flooding, landslides and extensive damage to rice and other crops.
The cyclone killed at least 275 people and at least 5.1 million people were displaced, with more than one million people stranded in Sundarban islands alone, most of them without any food or water, officials said.
"The situation is alarming and we need a lot of help to combat the outbreak of water-borne diseases," said Kanti Ganguly, a senior West Bengal minister.The Bharatiya Air force air-dropped supplies to remote islands in the Sundarabans and people scampered to grab packets of pre-cooked food, water and medicines, witnesses said.
25. SHRI VISHWA NIKETAN: Visitors: Shri Vipin Tripathi from U.S.A. Pravas: Shri Ravikumar, Sah Samyojak vishwa Vibhag will tour Bali and Singapore.
26. FOOD FOR THOUGHT: We must be silent before we can listen. We must listen before we can learn. We must learn before we can prepare. We must prepare before we can serve. We must serve before we can lead. -- William Arthur Ward.
Ronojoy Sen
This is one election result that has gone down well with the international media and observers. Most Bharat watchers have welcomed the decisive
mandate for the Congress. And why not? This has been the Congress's best showing, in terms of seats, in several years. But the general reading of the poll results seem to be off the mark. The mandate is being commonly interpreted as a vote for stability and economic reform and a rejection of centrifugal policies as represented by regional parties and caste-based populism. This has found resonance in Bharat too. One commentator in these pages described the election as a "game changer". And L K Advani has said the results foreshadow a two-party system. But the results don't necessarily support these claims.
Let's look at the simple arithmetic. The two national parties Congress and BJP have together got roughly 47 per cent of the votes, almost the same as the last elections. So the regional parties and the Left still got a combined vote of over 50 per cent, which does not reflect either bipolarity or a resounding vote in favour of the Congress. The real difference this time was the 10 per cent lead the Congress had over the BJP as compared to 4 per cent last time. This was partly responsible for the Congress winning 206 seats. However, the Congress vote share is almost the same as in 1996 and 1999 and nearly 8 per cent less than in 1991.
A striking feature of this election was the strong showing of regional parties, such as the JD(U) and the BJD, which were the governing parties in their respective states. The JD(U) under Nitish Kumar won 20 seats in Bihar and Naveen Patnaik's BJD totted up an impressive tally of 14 in Orissa. This goes to show not only the continuing strength of regional outfits but also a decline of anti-incumbency, in situations where parties are seen as delivering on governance. Even the DMK bucked the usual trend of anti-incumbency in Tamil Nadu by winning 18 seats as opposed to the AIADMK's nine.
Indeed, the narrative of a decisive mandate to national parties breaks down when we look at individual states. Uttar Pradesh, where the Congress won an unexpected 21 seats compared to nine last time and increased its vote share from 12 to 18 per cent, is rightly being seen as representing a revival of the party in the Hindi heartland. But most people are ignoring the fact that though the BSP did far worse than expected, it actually increased its vote share in UP by 2.7 per cent to 27.4 per cent. That it won only 20 seats points to the complicated electoral math in UP. At the same time, the Congress revival in UP was offset in neighbouring Bihar where the party won only two seats after it decided to contest on its own.
There were local factors at play, too, in some states. In Maharashtra, for instance, without Raj Thackeray's MNS hurting the Shiv Sena, the Congress might have won fewer seats. And in Andhra Pradesh, film star Chiranjeevi's party helped the Congress better its performance from last time though its vote share fell from 41.6 to 39 per cent.
Some analysts have argued that the relatively good showing of the Congress is different from earlier occasions in that the latter were preceded by a major national event. In 1971, Indira Gandhi won a landslide soon after the Bangladesh war; in 1984, the Congress got its biggest mandate ever following Indira's assassination. But the Mumbai attacks possibly played a similar role. This mandate could be seen as a rejection of the BJP's divisive politics especially when it sought to politicise the threat of terrorism. 26/11 and its aftermath also led a substantial number of Muslim voters to vote for the Congress instead of parties such as the Samajwadi Party and fringe Muslim outfits.
Finally, the impact of the Congress alliance with the Trinamul Congress the largest constituent in the UPA with 19 seats in West Bengal has largely been overlooked in the analysis of election results. The alliance in West Bengal where the Congress capitulated to the Trinamul's demands by contesting the bare minimum seats is a good example of the Congress giving in to the immediate exigency of getting higher numbers in Parliament rather than concentrating on long-term revival. At a time when anti-Left sentiment was at its peak in West Bengal, the Congress chose to cede the opposition space to the Trinamul. It is ironical that the Trinamul, which has over the past year advocated an anti-development and anti-industry line, is a crucial constituent of the Congress-led government, which is now expected to steer a path of economic reform.
While the election results might well have been, in the words of a political scientist, the "best possible outcome for Bharat", here's a sobering thought. When the Congress won its highest ever majority in 1984, there were justified expectations that it would usher in sweeping changes. But the Congress government failed to live up to expectations. The experience of 1984 should act as a warning for soaring expectations.
The writer is currently a visiting fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy, Washington, DC. -- The Times of India, 29 May 2009.
Baleshwar Agarwal
More good news for Manmohan Singh this week as one more lot of Commies has collapsed, this time in Kathmandu; but a fresh bout of trouble is in the offing.
After following Nepal for nearly sixty years, I never tire of anticipating the next crisis. But the one that we are seeing now is a unique one. There has never been an occasion like this when the hand of the Indian government is more apparent. Whether or not India's intervention in keeping the dreaded People's Liberation Army out of the mainstream Army would prove beneficial remains to be seen.
If the former King's drastic action of March 2005 may be taken as the origin of the crisis, then the role played by the government of Manmohan Singh in those early days was quite damaging for the long term interests of India. For Nepal too it proved disastrous because the UPA government, under pressure from the CPI(M), adopted a hands-off approach. But it was not really a hands-off, because it was the Indian Communists who interfered in the internal affairs of Nepal. Sitaram Yehchury came to be regarded as the de facto external affairs minister of India for Nepal affairs. It used to be jokingly said that the UPA government had ‘outsourced’ Nepal to the CPI(M). Yehchury used to camp in Kathmandu and summon the Indian Ambassador for carrying out his political errands.
When the Marxists withdrew support to the UPA government, New Delhi was finally able to follow a foreign policy based on India's long-term interests. Having a Communist regime openly flirting with China at India's doorstep was quite a dangerous proposition. Though Prachanda succeeded in fooling the BJP into believing that his regime did not pose a threat to India (he paid a surprise visit to Rajnath Singh at his house in September 2008 and transformed India's nationalist party from a foe to a friend), he had no idea that the Congress dispensation on Raisina Hills was in no mood to accommodate him.
Ambassador Rakesh Sood rose to the occasion when Prachanda tried to fire the Army Chief of Nepal for challenging the entry of the hated PLA into the regular armed forces. That Prachanda had secured the tacit support of the moderate parties made no difference to India. The Manmohan Singh government acted with a firm hand. The end Maoist rule in Kathmandu is the best piece of news for India's foreign policy since Pokhran-II. One of the first acts of the post-Maoist dispensation was to revoke the unilateral sacking of General Rookmangud Katawal.
The biggest challenge for the Madhav Nepal-led government would be to keep the coalition partners together. The largest Tarai party, MJF, remains divided between the parliamentary group and party's central committee. Differences are bound to emerge over the selection of ministers from both the camps. Even if there is a compromise on this, there will remain other vexed issues including the 8-point agreement. The Tarai parties are insisting on "One Madhes one province" which would be difficult for the UML-led coalition to address. On the other hand, the UML is also equally divided. One group is with Madhav Nepal and the other with Jhalanath Khanal. At the moment, there is a show of unity but this is unlikely to last long. Even the NC is divided into two factions. The NC president, G P Koirala, wants his daughter, Sujata Koirala, to be part of the new cabinet and already had a meeting with Madhav Nepal to appoint Sujata as the foreign minister, which is being opposed by some senior NC leaders. Therefore, there are several issues and challenges before the new government. Besides, the law and order situation is the country is also worsening. The recent bombing of a church in the Kathmandu Valley killing two and injuring several people on May 23, is the latest incident which is embedded with religious colour.
Prime Minister Madhav Nepal has announced that the new Constitution would be drafted within the stipulated time despite the challenges ahead. In the course of his 18-minute-long address on Wednesday, he said "we have the responsibility to write a new Constitution which people will not only feel it to be good but also as their own". He acknowledged that the process of developing the Constitution had been sidelined due to political upheavals. He recalled the 12-point agreement which had ended the conflict and had led to the development of a peaceful and stable Nepal.
In a reconciliatory gesture towards the Maoists, he offered them rehabilitation and integration in society. At the same time, he held out hope to the thousands who the Maoists had displaced. He made it clear that he was willing to forgive the Maoist leadership for their betrayal during the Presidential election if they gave up their differences and joined his government as partners. At the same time, he called on the rebellious groups in the east and in the Terai hills to come to the peace process. He assured them that their demands would be considered and expressed his commitment to implement the agreements reached with them in the past.
But the Maoists are not interested. This is the basis of the suspicion that China may be behind their new arrogance. All eyes were on Prachanda after Madhav Nepal offered reconciliation. But his spokesman, Dina Nath Sharma, dismissed the overture saying it was "quite a joke". At another level, Baburam Bhattarai, the number two in the party who was finance minister in the Prachanda regime, said that there was no hope for the peace process' revival.
As is well known, the Maoists are trying to project themselves as the victims of a conspiracy hatched by India. It was their transparent plan to merge the much-feared PLA with the regular Army and then suppress the democracy. But thanks to India's intervention, this has been avoided. Now the Maoists feign as if the Army chief's refusal was an act of 'insubordination' to 'civilian authority'.
It cannot be denied, however, that the fall of the Maoists means just the replacement of one bad regime by another. The old, discredited conservative political establishment is now expected to assert itself. But Nepal will constantly have to look over his shoulder at the five different power centres which are backing him: General Katawal, Pushpa Kamal Dahal, President Ram Baran Yadav, Bijay Gachhedar and, last but not least, the Indian Ambassador.
A lot of Nepalese liberals resent India's role. It must be pointed out that the same people had lauded India when Sitaram Yechury had become a power centre in Kathmandu. Now, New Delhi has no choice because the dangerous appeasement of Prachanda had led to China getting its hands on the levers of control. (The writer is Secretary General of Antar Rashtriya Sahyog Parishad) -- The Pioneer May 30, 2009.