By P. Kharel
In Nepal, individual interests inspire laws more than anything else. This came under sharp criticism when the proposal for giving pensions and other facilities to former parliamentarians came up for discussion the other week. This came shortly after a new law was passed, under which those convicted of crime and corruption are barred from contesting elections.
Public impression cannot be just wished away by invoking the technicality of the absence of any “proof” regarding the issue of some regulations being inspired purely to target specific individuals in the immediate future. The task is for the various civil society “leaders” to come up with impartial opinions.
TARGETED TRIO: Three high profile leaders came for discussion in connection with the above-mentioned issue. Khum Bahadur Khadka, Chiranjivi Wagle and Jaya Prakash Gupta, who were ministers multiple times representing Nepali Congress, are seen as being victimised for the potential threat they posed to political parties in factions. On top of the list, Khadka wields a strong influence on a sizeable section of the Congress. Wagle is a gone case. Gupta could have some clout among voters.
As an organiser, Khadka is skillful to the extent that Prime Minister Sher Bahadur simply cannot afford to ignore him when it comes to making appointments within the party organisation or the formation of government. The ambitious Home Minister Bimalendra Nidhi, who is hobnobbing with groups with interests his own party would not support openly as well as with others claiming to uphold democratic values, is hunting with the hounds but does not stop running with the rabbits.
Admittedly, Khadka, Wagle and Gupta were convicted in the court of law for corrupt practices. The issue is more than that. So pervasive is corruption here that the question is not who are corrupt but who really are not. There are numerous politicians, bureaucrats and many more in various sectors that ooze with enormous volumes of riches and flaunt lifestyles far disproportionate to their known means of earnings.
Politicians rarely get convicted for corruption in Nepal, though it is no state secret that without political patronage rampant corruption could not have thrived for so many years. Political leaders are rarely booked for amassing wealth far in excess of their known sources of income or their and their parents’ tax records.
Since the 1990s, politicians have developed iron-clad shield plus peer networking for ensuring protection to one another, whichever party might be in power. If a trend toward booking politicians on charges of corruption were to gather momentum, they would run helter-skelter desperately for patronage and protection. The public all along is rudely put to witness the impunity this brings about.
Maoist supremo Pushpa Kamal Dahal the other day was nostalgic of the days when his rank and file “inspired great fear”, whereas they were later to bear with the times in being dismissed as a has-been. However, Dahal, perhaps to uplift the party cadre’s morale, claimed that, his party workers have “of late, begun striking fear in others”. He also lamented that “those who placed a price on Maoists’ head have become strong now”.
That’s life, Comrade Chairman Dahal! Look at yours and your seniors’ roller-coaster lifestyle sharply brought to the fore of public talk: “From chappal to mahal” [from slippers to mansions].
At a party meeting in August, Dahal came down heavily on party members who had begun to inflate their self-importance and role in the organisation, as if they were indispensable. He reminded that there were many like them in the past, who met with crushing results when they overstretched they eluded themselves into considering themselves more important than collective will of the party.
SORRY STATE: That was Dahal’s warning as well as advice to his party members. It was also a reluctant admission that not all is well in the party. Dissent is a running issue in the Maoist Centre. Any hint of greener pasture on the other side of the fence threatens to create a split, which would not be surprising at all, given the organisation’s declining fortune in the local elections, despite pathetically turning to the coattails of the Nepali Congress, the party that had dangled ransom money on the heads of Maoist leaders in the past.
Dahal in September declared his intention of contesting the general elections in December from a constituency in Chitwan, hoped to cozy-up with Deuba and his Congress for an election tie-up. Although Dahal now has signed a poll pact with the main opposition CPN (UML), he insists that his party members continue in the Deuba government, the equation has changed.
All along, however, neither political leaders nor “youth leaders” speak about checking corruption for fear of triggering scorn and laughter from a public fed up with their stale rhetoric and unconvincing promises. Very disappointing is that the same old faces are likely to dot the candidates’ list of all “major parties”. Without an effective check on corruption, the nation will not move forward; only the corrupt and even criminal elements will benefit from such sorry state.
By P. Kharel