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Choice: ‘Quislings & authoritarians’

BY P. KHAREL
pkharel1By this day next week we should be able to gauge what happened to which party where, how and how, with the final phase of the two-stage elections to parliament and provincial councils scheduled to be completed next Thursday. The issue is not the holding of the elections in itself but the composition, policy and determination of the next government. Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba’s Nepali Congress, the CPN (UML) and the Maoists in particular are chanting slogans that all money and honey is within grasp within the next few weeks if their own grouping is placed in power.
For all practical purpose, whoever forms the government, political instability will continue, thanks to the seeds of negativism and poison these very parties sowed more than a decade ago. Secularism, federalism and republican polity are supposed to be the main features of the 2015 Constitution that was greeted also with a wave of protests from different quarters.
If the major political parties and their leaders in the fray are not liars and mischief-makers-in-chief, Nepal and Nepalis are headed for either a sell-out of the nation, dictatorship of communists or rule by the inexperienced with serious governance deficit.
DIATRIBE: During the entire campaign last month, Deuba had a one-point slogan: “If the communists come to power, there will be no more free elections but only authoritarian rule. The gains of loktantra will evaporate.” On the other hand, K.P. Oli, the de facto coordinator of the Left alliance, K.P. Oli and Pushpa Kamal Dahal claim that national interests and political stability are served only through their alliance, failing which “the nation will be pushed into the pit of eternal uncertainty and deep risks to national sovereignty”.
What are we to make of all this? If there were any semblance of truth in what these leaders and parties have been crying hoarse about, we Nepalis are headed for more instability and all the ills in the functioning of the political system experienced during the loktantarik decade since the spring of 2006. To elaborate, we will either have an authoritarian communist regime that will not hold any more democratic elections or the nation will be turned into a puppet of extraneous forces.
Needless to over-emphasise the cheek these parties have in believing that the general voters are common sheep that can be herded any which way without any memory of the political mess witnessed in recent years. In 2008, former panchas who previously were committed to active monarchy, divided into various strands of Rastriya Prajatantra Party, were not allowed to even campaign freely. Their leaders were intimidated and some of them found their faces smeared with soot by the cadres of the “loktantrik” parties.
Today, the former panchas have been anointed by NC as “democratic forces”. If this declaration were to have any weight, the panchas would be absolved of any “anti-democratic” credentials. This has been certified by the NC, which boasts of having “led all major popular movements” in Nepal since 1950. NC pretends to forget that the Madhesi movement in the loktantrik decade saw more martyrs than any previous “popular movement” in the last seven decades. Several dozens of people were “martyred” under NC-led government.
Deuba was the prime minister in 1996 when the Maoists went underground and started an armed insurgency. In response the NC government declared the rebels “terrorists”, inviting bounty hunters “to bring the heads of Maoists in one hand and return with money in the other hand”. UML was not far behind the NC, though using less rhetoric but bidding for the power-saddle to “restore order”.
In the name of “need”, NC embraced the former panchas to head a coalition government or be an important partner in governance. The rhetoric of democratic ideals was conveniently buried without qualms. This year, however, the former panchas, wearing their worst ever look, have, ironically, reasons to celebrate, whatever the poll outcome.
GROSS DISCREPANCY: Known for frequent break-ups, the communists in Nepal have been at daggers drawn against each other. UML and Maoists were no different. This autumn, the two largest communist groups have joined hands for electoral victory, triggering panic in the NC camp and intense speculations in the cross-section of society. What actually the power-motivated scheme delivers should be known this time next week.
NC-led forces and Left alliance both confess, even if unintentionally, that they took the nation down the garden path all these years. Their common theme is: “We now need to focus on stability and economic prosperity.”
In reaction to the UML-Maoist move for joining November-December election and unity efforts thereafter, Mohan Vaidya, another Maoist figure who parted company with Pushpa Kamal Dahal, described his communist counterparts as “new watchmen of the old polity; they are rightists in the garb of communists”.
No wonder, wise folks keep reminding us that we get the leaders we deserve when we refuse to learn lesions from past experiences and oblige the corrupt when the crucial choice is made. As we sow, so we reap. But trouble keeps brewing with soaring intensity.

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