By Maila Baje
Prime Minister Khadga Prasad Oli increasingly relishes mocking the Nepali Congress, but he doesn’t seem to be exuding authentic mirth. If anything, his external pleasure seems to reflect his inner perplexity. Put simply, our prime minister cannot understand the mounting public disaffection with his government when what he sees from the driver’s seat is so sunny.
Oli’s Nepal Communist Party (NCP) enjoys a comfortable majority in parliament and allies put his government in a cozier position. His vision for the country is spotless – ships surmounting our landlockedness and trains defying our harsh terrain. The world’s sole superpower considers us central to its new Indo-Pacific strategy and wants our help in opening up to North Korea. One way or the other the Chinese and Indians will learn to live with this wider respectability.
The practical realities the people perceive, however, are depressing. Internal rivalries and personality clashes have weakened organizational sturdiness and collective morale in the NCP. Oli’s complicated relationship party co-chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ appears to have deteriorated following Dahal’s return from the United States. This is bound to worsen as the government inches its way toward the middle of its five-year term, when Dahal believes his turn as prime minister would begin.
In fact, the government’s two-year mark will open the door to a no-confidence vote. Theoretically, that shouldn’t matter for a majority government of a party that takes pride in discipline. But the merger of the Unified Marxist-Leninists and Maoists was an electoral compulsion and the NCP remains a single entity only in name. Moreover, the pervading fluidity has allowed erstwhile UML stalwarts like Jhal Nath Khanal and Bam Dev Gautam – and Madhav Kumar Nepal to a lesser extent – to coalesce behind Dahal in order to confront Oli.
The prime minister, for his part, is digging in his heels. Not only is he making decisions unilaterally, but he is also intent on centralizing key levers of state power. After having brought such agencies as the National Investigation Department, Department of Revenue investigation and the Department of Money Laundering under the Prime Minister’s Office, Oli is now said to be seeking the authority to mobilize the army directly.
Ordinarily, Oli’s deal with C.K. Raut and decision to go after the Biplav group might have been expected to engender public sympathy and support. The perception that he grossly mishandled both issues is directly linked to his premiership’s general disarray. Parables and allegories may have worked when the nation was struggling the complete its transition to newness, no matter how nebulous. People today expect their government to perform and the person atop to toil, not trivialize.
If Nepal is speeding along the way to socialism, as Oli recently stated, he should be focusing on how Nepali communists could organize workers and peasants to face the irrelevance the global biotech and infotech revolutions is inexorably bringing. Those revolutions may be happening in advanced countries, but they certainly won’t leave us alone.
Trains and ships are fine and dandy only if we know who and what we are going to put on them. Seeking to restrict the activities of a former head of state, banning a political party and cracking down on social media posts do not exhibit the government’s willpower but expose its weakness. Sure, the Nepali Congress is neck-deep in conflict and confusion. Leaders of that party will swim or sink on their own. The people did not elect the Nepali Congress to govern them.
K.P. may not need to learn from B.P. because 2019 is far different from 1960. Yet history, according to Marx, repeats itself as tragedy then as farce. Let’s not even begin to think of the ways in which farce can reprise itself.
Ah, those jitters jingling behind the jibes
By Maila Baje