By P. Kharel
In the 1960 election campaign, John F. Kennedy was criticised as being a millionaire without empathy for the welfare of others, and hence not fit to become the president of the United States. Kennedy, however, managed to breast past the race to the Oval Office. Things have changed drastically ever since. No American citizen, today, with modest financial means can realistically hope to preside over the White House.
Elections are increasingly becoming extremely expensive. Nepal can be a model for the rest of the world as to how a peace-loving nation living most harmoniously between two ideologically opposed nations with the world’s two largest populations can be rocked by a political mess that has deepened the problems of unemployment, impunity and openly rampant corruption right up to the core high places.
MONEY-DRIVEN: Candidates spend crores of rupees in the first-past-the-post elections. Mafia elements also manage obtaining party tickets for direct polls or succeed in having their names inserted securely in the list of proportional representation. Three million rupees as election fund is considered to be clean and modest in a poverty-stricken like ours who would not be able to move things an inch without foreign money. And foreign aid money is what corrupts our politicians, ministers, bureaucrats and who have you.
The mechanism of proportional representation has become a vehicle for riff-raff making passage to the exalted hall of “people’s leaders”. Going by sections of “A” Class press reports, dubious characters and profiteers have made it to parliamentary precincts.
The 2015 Constitution, “endorsed by 90 per cent of the people”, has utterly failed to restore the political normalcy derailed by the very parties that have held the reins of power these past 11 years. Strong voices calling for major amendments to the constitution continue unabated, underscoring blatant disregard to Nepali ground reality, core values as a sovereign nation and inherent popular aspirations.
If analysts worth of any value conclude that most Nepalis do not want their country to be declared a “Hindu State”, they no longer need to venture into analysing and assessing events.
In a true multiparty democracy, right to debate and dissent are expected, encouraged and allowed with alacrity. In “loktantrik” Nepal, one is free to air one’s voice without fear of being arrested but there are numerous other consequences that are bound to hit the dissenting voice. Opportunity apartheid is a statement of fact in the functioning of “loktantrik” regime.
DISPLAY OF DECEIT: Elections in Nepal are won not through information but disinformation and, most importantly, money power. Moreover, few faces and families monopolise distribution of tickets. In the process, profiteers, “goons” and corrupt also obtain tickets from all major parties of different stripes. One woman MP a couple of years ago accused several senior leaders of the party that nominated her to the “Constituent Assembly-Legislature” having been bribed to ensnare the seat.
Partisan sections of the press have very little to offer by way of fair coverage. Diversity in opinions finds little or no space. Disinformation is a weapon widely in use to downgrade and revile opponents and create negativism. Some of the “senior” journalists are political party activists affiliated with publicity departments focusing on, for instance, general, provincial and local elections. They loyally, rather blindly, abide by the directives issued by the party bosses.
Shekhar Koirala, Nepali Congress leader, in an interview to The Rising Nepal the other week, confessed: “In Nepal’s politics, there is no ethics.” Relentless faction-fighting, intra-faction feud, bending organisational rules by those at the helm, splitting parties for personal ambitions have fuelled corruption to new heights.
Four-time Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba has a history of nurturing faction, splitting Nepali Congress, only to return to the mother group. He also has the dubious record of dissolving parliament in 2001 but backing out of the promised poll schedule and yet claiming premiership notwithstanding the incompetency. Had he been allowed to continue, it would have set a most undemocratic precedent that a prime minister can dissolve parliament, promise elections and then defer the same.
UML’s chief K.P. Oli-Maoist supremo Pushpa Kamal Dahal relationship is all smiles on the surface; but rivalry on the issue of leadership in the post-election scenario runs fast and furious just beneath the surface, stoked by cronies. Publicly they are close-mouthed on their differences, skating as they are on thin ice.
Chief of Naya Shakti, Baburam Bhattarai’s political jaywalking makes his own supporters cringe when having to defend the “intellectual” former prime minister’s fickleness.
NC promises “renaissance”, UML and Maoists of the “New Nepal” bluster combine to vow serving “national” interests, and Naya Shakti pledges “politics for economic prosperity”. Former panchas cry hoarse in support of Nepal as a “Hindu State” and turn coy about federalism and constitutional monarchy which they anchored on other occasions.
With such characters and parties set to retain their stranglehold on power once again, what’s the future of Nepalis in general? We get the leaders we deserve in our passivity. The answer should be partially known by next month.
Merchants of Electoral Mandate
By P. Kharel