By P. Kharel
The ding-dong manner in which the prime ministerial chair changes its occupant in Nepal mocks at the existing political practices in Nepal. Marriage of opportunism is the order of the day, without batting an eyelid. They have no qualms about the expediency they resort to.
Marriage of opportunism breeds dubious deal-makers. In the last change in government, when he was, under prior agreement, to hand over power to Nepali Congress leader Sher Bahadur Deuba, Dahal told the national address in an attempt to prove that he lived to his commitment. The Deuba-Dahal deal in sharing the top job alternatively did not conform to any order of the best in a functioning democracy. Ironically, Dahal, who jaywalked on commitments made public, tried but failed to make capital out of the farce.
The publicly could see through the vainly bid to make a virtue out of compulsion with the alternative of having his increasingly unpopular Maoist party (Communist Party of Nepal—Unity Centre) off the seat of power. Deuba sang profuse praise of the man he was in the process of replacing. It was a sham that bubbled out when Dahal, true to his character, bonded with the main opposition, CPN (UML), on the eve of the deadline to register candidates for the impending general elections.
UNINSPIRING INNINGS: Prime Minister Deuba never had any inspiring innings, he is certain to give continuity to this unflattering trait of his. This would not be doing anything new, though. His predecessors in the 11 years of loktantrik Nepal had paved the way for the infamy. All past three Debua-led governments proved jinxed for both his party and the nation. This time, too, all indications are of things not improving.
On the diplomatic front, good neighbourliness requires careful planning and determined implementation of policies. In this regard, the panchayat decades were much better, followed by the “democratic years” until 2005. Loktantric years have drastically affected the country’s image and reputation on account of many agendas and decisions being made at the behest of foreign forces.
It may be recalled that Pushpa Kamal Dahal shed all qualms to abruptly announce a public holiday when Indian President Pranab Mukherjee visited Nepal. The Indian government deputed a minister of state to receive President Bidhya Devi Bhandari who was on a “goodwill visit” to New Delhi. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi personally received Bangladeshi Prime Minister Hasina Wajed in New Delhi. The contrast was too recent and glaring to go unnoted, especially against the background of the public holiday that greeted Mukherjee in “loktantrik” Nepal.
There are some sections in Nepal and India with exaggerated emphasis that the two countries share “sameness” in numerous respects, including the “roti aur beti” (bread and daughter) ties. Culture, language and religion form part of this “sameness” between the two contiguous neighbours. In many ways, indeed, these are established facts. However, there are more Hindus in Bangladesh and Pakistan combined than in Nepal which was till recently, and might return in future, a Hindu state. Sameness does not justify any dent in the sovereignty of an independent nation.
Last November, a month after Chinese President Xi abruptly cancelled his visit to Nepal, Deuba, as former premier, addressed a conference in India, also attended by the “prime minister” of the Tibetan government-in-exile. Shedding diplomatic discretion, Foreign Minister Prakash Sharan Mahat held a press briefing to deny news reports on Deuba rubbing shoulders with the Tibetan “prime minister” as “a figment of imagination, false and motivated”. Mahat’s party senior and general-secretary Shashank Koirala, however, described his party president’s “reported participation” as “inappropriate and to China’s irritation”.
The largest party in a functioning democracy becomes the main partner in a coalition but not in Nepal. The past 18 months are witness to the largest party in parliament being in the opposition seats or being led by not the second but the third largest grouping headed by Dahal. As the two largest parties in parliament, the Congress and the UML did not find a common ground between themselves to form “a grand alliance”.
POWER POLITICS: Sheer craving for power is what ails politics in Nepal. This has been the pattern since the dawn of democracy in 1951. The existing state of affairs has its antecedents in May 2002 when a duly elected government headed by Deuba dissolved the House of Representatives, only to retract and seek unconstitutional postponement with risks of indefinite spell of the suspension.
Holding the elections in itself is nothing to be proud of. The excruciating delay in conducting elections for local bodies stands as a stark confession of a political crime that deprived Nepalis of their right to timely periodic vote and local governance through elected representatives. The previous local elections were held 20 years ago. Now we wait for the general and provincial polls with the least certainty of political stability returning and minimum employment opportunity for most Nepalis. This is something the existing dispensation and its ilk just cannot deliver, as events time and again have so emphatically underscored.
Political Stability: Losing Battle
By P. Kharel