By Maila Baje
In fairness, we must accept President Bidya Devi Bhandari’s repeated use of ‘mero sarkar’ while presenting the government’s annual policies and programmes for the next fiscal year to parliament as a matter of course, rather than a sinister assertion of neo-royal privilege.
Ordinarily, many of us wouldn’t have even bothered how many times the head of state use those two words together. In a strict sense, by our collective reckoning, this is the first government each Nepali can truly claim ownership of. As a member of this empowered citizenry, the president, too, can make an individual assertion.
Prime Minister Khadga Prasad Sharma Oli thus didn’t have to exert himself over external precedents to expose the purported prejudices of his internal critics. The simple fact remains that President Bhandari isn’t operating in ordinary times. Nor are the people.
The incumbent government, which enjoys a massive legislative mandate, is not exactly perceived as a living embodiment of the popular will these days. Instead, it is increasingly being seen as the personal fiefdom of a handful of leaders of the ruling party, where, for example, state property can be bought and sold with impunity.
Moreover, when the ruling party obstinately asserts its democratic credentials while clutching on to its communist appellation with greater defiance, popular misgivings can only deepen. And when the president is seen as an adjunct of one faction of the ruling party, the people are bound to speak out. In this instance, a populace cloyed by Oli’s castles-in-the-air approach to governance had little choice but to count the number of times Bhandari invoked those grating words.
Minister for Communications and Information Technology Gokul Banskota keeps complaining that the media portrays the incumbent government as anti-democratic just because it is led by a communist party. That perception must be corrected because the Nepal Communist Party is also an organization that has taken part in movements for democracy, Banskota said while addressing a function to mark World Press Freedom Day.
Just because Nepali communists took part in popular movements led by a democratic party doesn’t quite make them democratic. The Nepali Congress and communists both hated the partyless Panchayat and royal regimes but couldn’t do anything alone. They joined hands to restore democracy.
The corruption and maladministration that thrived under successive Nepali Congress governments have done little to undermine that party’s democratic credentials. The populist programmes of the communist governments haven’t help to burnish their democratic credentials. Maybe calling yourselves communists is a big part of the problem.
The NCP top brass and rank and file don’t seem that eager to defend the government, either. Deepening factionalism and ever shifting internal alliances should prompt greater introspection, not a desire to go after your critics.
Moaning and whining at the bad rap the communists are getting won’t help. The fact that the people are supreme in today’s Nepal also means they are great at name-calling. And crybabies inspire them to be more creative.
Two words that don’t go together well: My, my, what wrath hath two words wrought?
By Maila Baje