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When we live in different worlds

A populace anxiously awaiting its government’s response to vital questions of the day ends up with an earful of prime ministerial censure of the very notion of criticism. Maybe that’s what you get when the governors and the governed live in different worlds.
The country speaks in specifics; the government responds in generalities. In his hour-long speech to parliament, Prime Minister Khadga Prasad Oli mounted a spirited defense of his 10-month government. He blew his opportunity to assuage the opposition – if not the nation per se – by failing to mention such burning issues as the controversy surrounding the purchase of a wide-body aircraft for the national carrier.
Firm on fulfilling his pledges on developing rail and sea transportation, our prime minister seemed quite embittered by the mockery and ridicule criticism of his government has sometimes bordered on. But, then, Oli has distinguished himself through the efficacious use of sarcasm and satire as a tool of public speaking. If he can’t take it, maybe he shouldn’t dish it out.
To Oli, criticism of the president is tantamount to criticism of the republic. Just because that rule seemed to work against the monarchy doesn’t mean it is applicable today. Questioning the unmerited perks and privileges some in power have been tempted to enjoy does not sink the system. It’s meant to cleanse it.
A government enjoying a two-thirds majority in parliament has been on the defensive since its formation. Communist rigor and regimentation have not been able to check the ruling party’s inner turmoil. That turbulence tends to define the government’s response to events. Instead of solving the rape/murder of a hapless teenager, the government resorts to harassment and obfuscation.
Questions prompted by reasonable suspicions of sleaze in the purchase of the wide-body aircraft results in a crude display of the narrowness of the government’s mind. In the 1990s, the Unified Marxist-Leninists had used the Dhamija and Lauda scandals to denigrate the entire Nepali Congress. Today, when the tables are turned, everything becomes a conspiracy against the system.
Sure, aspects of the parliamentary investigation were bungled, such as the fingering of the home secretary who as tourism secretary (and Nepal Airlines Corporation chairman) had actually attempted to strengthen transparency and accountability in the purchase. Such investigative malpractice should have counted against the principal investigator, the Nepali Congress.
The government’s strident defensiveness, however, has emboldened the main opposition party. And not just on this issue. A party routed at the polls and riven by deep factionalism is showing signs of new life among the wider public. So much so that Oli’s party co-chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ has started warning the government that its insensitivity to public grievances could doom the system.
The system can only be as good as the people running it. Oli keeps stressing that his government is not your usual revolving-door variety. He compares it with the ones formed after the 1959 and 1991 elections. And how well did they turn out!

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