By Maila Baje
As the post-Dasain/Tihar political momentum picks up, introspection seems to be the byword on the left center and right alike.
Former prime ministers Pushpa Kamal Dahal and Madhav Kumar Nepal of the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) have promised that the government will begin showing more life. It is significant that the assurance comes from the two men most responsible for disrupting Prime Minister Khadga Prasad Oli’s government from within the party.
Dahal’s much-hyped geopolitical excursion turned out to be a dud, largely owing to the excessive hospitality New Delhi showered on him. Madhav Nepal’s use of Oli’s absence from the country to mount a virtual insurrection didn’t turn out be propitious in its timing, either. Still, the two ex-premiers can’t escape part of the blame for our political plight. Dahal has little compunction in accusing the bureaucracy of impeding a government enjoying a two-thirds majority in the legislature. Madhav Nepal hasn’t been as callous in deflecting responsibility, but he hasn’t been terribly receptive of what is arguably his share of it.
Over at the Nepali Congress, president Sher Bahadur Deuba has lost none of his newfound zeal for going his way. The nomination of Bijay Kumar Gachchaddar as vice-president is proving hard to swallow for many party functionaries, including who have nothing personally against the man. The party hadn’t quite suffered such a drought of qualified candidates that Deuba had to turn to someone who left and rejoined the Nepali Congress in circumstances that still are largely obscure. Gachchaddar’s skills as a leader are not in question here. What kind of message does Deuba want to send by rewarding, so to speak, a water pot without a base, regardless of the shininess of the brass? (If you ask Deuba privately, he’d probably have a short and easy answer: personal loyalty.)
The Nepali Congress is so divided that the anti-Deuba factions can’t be sure that anything of significance really unites the dissidents. So Sujata Koirala talks about Deuba’s last chance, while cousins Shashank and Shekhar speak of the imperative of checking the ideological and institutional disarray the party finds itself in. Little wonder that non-Koiralas like Ram Chandra Poudel feel the need to tip-toe around things: letting everyone know how mad they are but not enough about what they intend to do.
The right is once again animated by talk of reunification among the three principal factions. Kamal Thapa of the Rastriya Prajantantra Party seems to be preparing for the storm he predicts will rage after India’s national elections next year. Pashupati Shamsher Rana of the Rastriya Prajatantra Party (Democratic) insists he will restore Hindu statehood, without elaborating how he intends to achieve that. Prakash Chandra Lohani of the Rastriya Prajatantra Party (Nationalist) insipidly maintains that unity will be achieved sooner than later.
The fusion/fission cycle on the right has become so routine that most people aren’t too bothered about what really unites and divides the men and women on that end of political spectrum. The mere process is exciting enough to drive the larger narrative that politics is alive.
Still, the fact that all three points on the ideological spectrum are undergoing a form of overt introspection can’t be coincidental. At a basic level, it underscores the tentativeness Nepali politics hasn’t been able to shed even after the promulgation of a new Constitution and elections at all three tiers. Politics, like most other things, shuns a sense of finality. But haven’t we been loitering around the starting line for far too long? Maybe the key to Nepal’s destiny still isn’t in the hands of Nepalis.
A glance around the neighborhood does little to clarify our outlook. Is Doklam or Wuhan the operating word regarding Sino-Indian relations? An election in the Maldives is said to have thrown out a pro-Chinese government. But it only seems to have shifted geopolitical rivalries north-eastward to Sri Lanka. Pakistan was said to have become a shining emblem of the inherent senselessness of China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). But the joint statement announced after Prime Minister Imran Khan’s visit to China appears to have given new impetus to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, the flagship of the BRI.
In such a situation, you can’t blame our political class for not knowing what might happen here next and when. The best they can do is prepare for the indefinite. How do you do that best? By looking like you are busy preparing all the same.
(Originally posted on Saturday, November 10, 2018)
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