Inviting the Second Coming of King Mahendra
BY BIHARI KRISHNA SHRESTHA
Currently, NC happens to be caught in an unprecedented existential crisis. But this was foreseeable and therefore, also avoidable had the NC leadership wished so. When Sher Bahadur Deuba ascended the presidential throne following GP Koirala’s demise, the Congressites knew what kind of horse they were betting on. While Deuba, known more for his history of physically-demanding, anti-Panchayat struggles, he was never known for possessing standard leadership skills of ideological vision, capacity for articulation, and ability to attract followers based on integrity of character. For all practical purposes, he presided over a big faction whose members had one thing in common, disgruntlement against the despotic disposition of the then president GP Koirala, himself the standard bearer of corruption in post-1990 Nepal.
Then the problem was exacerbated by the party’s “India connection”. While Deuba clearly remained India’s “blue-eyed boy” in Nepal politics, the NC as a whole too was near-totally wedded to the Indian political establishment. Although individual NC politicians are known to have personally benefitted in myriad ways from this extra-national relationship, it did cause a grievous harm to the Nepali nation as well as to the party itself too, particularly in the court of public opinion. For all practical purposes, the basic decision making of the party was surrendered to the Indian apparatchiks and the party functionaries acted merely as India’s subalterns. That was why NC failed to oppose India’s 2015 blockade of Nepal even as some of its leaders such as Shekhar Koirala and Minendra Rijal were publicly categorical in denying that India blockaded our country.
When election came last year, the party just did not have its “brain” with it to sort out an agenda to approach the voters even as its leaders, following on the path of its corrupt predecessors, indulged in massive money-making by, as the media reports went, bartering for cash every single appointment and every single ticket for contesting election many of which incidentally were bought, not by dedicated party cadres but by the sitting members of the contractors’ association of Nepal. The result has been there for all to see: a drubbing at the polls of unprecedented proportions.
If NC were to be a democratic party, such a debacle should have automatically led to Deuba’s stepping down, making room for a new leadership to lead the party as respectable opposition in parliament and to possibly better fortunes in the next election. The latest international instance in this regard has been Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel who, following her party, CDU’s “heavy losses” in a recent regional election, just announced that she would give up leadership of her party. But not NC’s Deuba. Akin to the time-tested resilience of a village Thalu, he is still scheming to hang on to the party’s presidency with support from his cronies.
The more unfortunate part of the story is that the rest of the functionaries in the party seem to be no different either. While they are discussing the possible amendment to the party’s constitution, the debate is now centred around the possible eventuality of Deuba being elected president all over again. While his own faction wants most positions in the party executive to be filled by presidential nomination to enable the president to subdue any possible opposition to him, the opposing factions want most positions to be elected so that other leaders too would count.
Completely lost in this debate is the central element of party ideology that alone should have dictated the party structure to ensure that all organs of the party work in tandem towards the attainment of the commitments made to the people based on it. While NC’s stated ideology has been social democracy all along, there is absolutely no mention of it in the current debate. Sans ideology, the debate In the NC now comes out more as a power struggle in a mafia. It has all been about robbing Peter to pay Paul or vice versa.
In its essence, social democracy is a political philosophy that advocates national development with social justice under which state plays a strong role through policy intervention and even state ownership of means or production. However, at the global level, social democracy has come under immense pressure lately due to globalization which is about worldwide integration of markets, finance, trade, services, and so on, that neutralizes the role of the state in ensuring social justice. In Nepal; despite the Congressites incessantly parroting about social democracy, almost all of its members had gone headlong after ill-gotten wealth, and there has been not been even any spurious effort to implement the ideology in the country. But now that social democracy as a political ideology has come under serious threat internationally, the NC now has the unenviable task to sort out an ideological plank based on which it plans to govern the country and bring about development with social justice.
Surely, going by the content of NC’s debate at present, it is clear that its apparatchiks do not have this fundamental issue even remotely in mind. It is all about the apportioning of the booty when they get to lay their hands on it.
But it the NC is so very bad, the new NCP seems to be no different. While the new party has an unassailable majority in parliament, it is more apparent than real, because internal strife, based again on the issue of power (read, booty) sharing, continues to mark its newfound unity. However, the worst aspect of this unity has been that it is nothing more than the erstwhile UML hosting and protecting the erstwhile Maoists who, at the very least, should have been going through the Truth and Reconciliation process,. If not, serving extended jail terms for their crime against humanity during their so-called people’s war waged and sustained from foreign soil. In short, democracy, at the hands of such “democrats”, has failed to deliver in Nepal ever since its Second Coming in 1990.
In Christianity, there is a belief that there would be the Second Coming of Jesus Christ to fulfill some of his remaining prophesies. Similarly, King Mahendra had punished the NC and other parties back in 1960 for their betrayal of the people in the name of ideologies that they did not honestly follow. But in the mean time, during the last nearly three decades of “democratic restoration”, things have only gotten worse, thus, apparently setting the stage for the Second Coming of King Mahendra.