In the whirl of unsettling domestic developments and the perennial bad penny of Indo-Pak tensions, momentous events in another strategically important neighbour, Nepal, seem all but forgotten. The resolution or otherwise of the ongoing crisis in the mountain nation will have a profound impact on Indian foreign policy, if New Delhi is interested that is. Nepal has bucked the trend of third time lucky in its efforts to elect a new prime minister with a fourth round scheduled tomorrow. It is a clear indication of the political confusion that has reigned for over two months that the 599 lawmakers have been unable to give a majority to any of the candidates, notably Maoist chief and former prime minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal (Prachanda) or Nepali Congress vice-president Ram Chandra Poudel.
But as the next round is upon the country, Mr Prachanda seems to have an edge with some smaller parties aligning with the Maoists. Irrespective of the outcome of tomorrow’s poll, what is significant is that two months have been lost with virtually no governance. The country only has 10 months left to frame a new constitution, failing which it will be plunged into further turmoil. No party, Mr Prachanda’s included, seems to have any positive agenda for the impoverished nation once a famed tourist magnet. It has become routine, especially for the Maoists to be suspicious of any effort by India by way of investment to shore up its economy. While decrying what it sees as Indian hegemonistic ambitions, politicians like Mr Prachanda have tried to woo the Chinese. Beijing too seems a little wary of rushing in to invest time and money in what has become a chronically unstable country.
The tragedy of Nepal is that it does not have robust democratic institutions that can run on auto pilot while its politicians feud for power. The great red hope that the Maoists were supposed to represent has come to nothing when, in his maiden stint as prime minister, Mr Prachanda did little more than seek greater power with little to show for it. The present crisis originated in the inability of the Maoists to make any compromise with those who are not ideologically compatible with them. This kind of rigidity cannot work in a democracy. Even if things are resolved tomorrow, it will take some vision and effort to get things back on an even keel in a country that has been virtually left to its own devices with even foreign aid agencies giving it a wide berth. A cruel joke on the people who fought so hard and paid so much for this flawed democracy.