BY P. KHAREL
“Every man has his price,” said British Prime Minister Robert Walpole. Indeed, individuals often fall for offers they weigh as matching their interest, cooperation, service, dishonesty or perhaps betrayal. As such, its proponents insist, “Nothing is impossible in politics.” In a variation of the same, they reiterate, “Everything is fair in love and politics.”
Recall Rastriya Janata Party-N’s pledge in the course of the 2015 Madhes agitation that “when we come to power” Rs 5 million would be given to the families of those who became “martyrs”. That the same lot, on subsequent occasions, joined hands with the lot that ordered the “loktantrik” bullets is a telling tale of irony as an affront to peace and democratic governance.
ABSOLVED: Reviled as reactionaries who aided and abetted the partyless Panchayat, Rastriya Panchayat Party (and its variants) could be seen embraced by the champions of multiparty democracy (Nepali Congress) and progressive-roaders (CPN-UML) either as “liberal panchas” or as “nationalist panchas” during the hung parliament years in the 1990s. The closing months of 2017 went on to graduate the same lot as “loktantrik”. As in the 1990s, parties that “struggled” for thirty years and against “monarchical autocracy” unrolled a red carpet welcome as deputy prime minister and senior ministers in the last few years.
The 2015 Constitution proclaiming its key tenets as republican polity, federal structure and secular thrust saw the former panchas, who publicly pledge against these traits, were cuddled, pampered and brought aboard the seat of governance. In the elections just concluded, the RPPs, which come together one day and split the next season, have shrunk in size and clout because of their chameleon-like characteristics. They constantly squabbled among themselves and grabbed at any carrot dangled at them by the big parties with their own axes to grind.
Now the one-time “reactionaries” can join hands with Nepali Congress which had extracted compound interests far in excess of the capital they invested in the 1950-51 revolution for democracy, the 1990 movement for restoration of multiparty polity and the 2005-6 people’s movement which resulted in more than a decade of “transition” period of chaos, impunity and corruption. Here, the major parties use the term “transition” as an excuse for their gross mismanagement of the state affairs, accompanied by rampant cronyism and nepotism.
Eleven governments in eleven years and the twelfth in a lineup of certainty any time soon, record number of ministers were brought in by one government after. NC chief Sher Bahadur Deuba broke all previous records, including his own, when he presided over a team of 64 ministers, four times the new constitution’s letter and spirit actually envisages. He also worked with the largest number of ministers without portfolio, probably a world record in itself, thanks to the nine ministers and eight state ministers retained but without portfolio on the night of October 14.
Little wonder then that NC leader Shekhar Koirala, in an interview to The Rising Nepal, remarked: “In Nepal’s politics, there is no ethics.”
Of the dozen governments since the spring of 2006, six were headed by communist prime ministers and the seventh in the pipeline is again to be by K.P. Oli leading the communist combine of UML and Maoists. Maoist Centre’s supremo Pushpa Kamal Dahal donned the premier’s mantle twice. UML President K.P. Oli, too, is soon returning to the top job for the second time.
Deuba and his party must be wishing for either break-off between the two communist groups or a vertical split in their partnership to prevent the probability of the first government to rule for a full term seven decades. But, as the saying so eloquently goes, if wishes were horses, beggars would ride them. To improvise it, if NC’s wishes were power, Deuba would return at least three more times to power.
ILLOGICAL: The coming together of the UML and Maoist Centre is described by NC as a partnership both “unexpected”, “unnatural” and even “dangerous”. Actually, when two communist groups form an electoral partnership, it is very natural, however painful for others who stood to gain from their continued division.
Even in the much-hyped 1959 general elections, the NC obtained two-thirds majority on the strength of less than two-thirds of the votes cast. Voters’ turnout itself was poor at about 42 per cent and NC obtained less than 40 of the votes cast. The fault-filled poll process and procedures, together with bad governance, made most newspapers report and comment on the rank inefficiency of the government and rampant corruption, nepotism and favouritism. These are papers defunct since 25 years or more but whose editors are hailed in high esteem by Nepali journalists and also politicians.
In any opposition party, including those of the former panchas, political apathy and complacency should be treated like tainted currencies in organisational structure and functioning. Intra-party transparency and free debates should be the hallmark honoured in uninterrupted practice than being paid mere lip service. Parties, big or small, have their own meaning, and should cast their lot with a new deal to shore up their prospects with single-minded concentration without any let-up.