By P. Kharel
Prime Minister KP Oli sounded confrontationist when responding to questions pertaining to the government’s outline of policy and programs read out on May 5 by President Bidya Devi Bhandari at a joint session of parliament. Bhandari mentioned the phrase “my government” nearly two dozen times. To which response in parliament was driven on partisan lines—the ruling side generally supportive and the opposition vociferously opposed.
In the subsequent debate, the policy and programmes were dismissed as not meeting people’s aspirations, formulated as they were when the drafters were “asleep” and hence a mere “essay”. Oli added fuel to fire when he declared he would refuse answering severely weak and prejudiced questions. The main opposition Nepali Congress came down heavily on the premier’s use of “unparliamentary” language. In the next House sitting, Speaker Krishna Bahadur Mahara directed the “unparliamentary language” rendered in the previous proceedings to be expunged.
This debate was extended outside parliament as well. Four-time Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba portrayed Mahara as “history’s weakest and helpless” house speaker. Political parties love to defend their party candidate who lands at Shital Niwas, as “the guardian of all people”, which is not the case. All temporary recruits, advisors and suggestions to the president give the flavor of the ceremonial head’s previous political affiliation. Neither of the chief occupants at Shital Niwas so far has been able to strike the right chord with the general public as someone free from partisan interests and focused on the collective interests of all Nepalese. Presidential “guardianship” is yet to generate spontaneous reassurance.
ROOTS OF CRISIS: In Nepal, references like “the Right Hon’ble” and “the Hon’ble” are made with such relish that they might make the British blush, notwithstanding the past they fostered during the feudal heydays and colonial rule in earlier centuries.
Less than two decades after Pritivi Narayan Shah laid the solid foundation of Nepal’s unification, the United States produced the shortest and, so far, the shortest Constitution. In the course of their discussions, delegates from various parts of the emerging independent nation focused on how the proposed American executive president should be addressed. Suggestions included “His Majesty” and “His Excellency”, until the eventual decision opted for a simple “Mr President”. India’s President Pranab Mukherji, toward the end of his tenure in office, discouraged the use of the term “Right Hon’ble” in addressing him, apparently to rhyme the practice with the liberal spirit of a republic.
The Oli-led government does not exude enthusiasm for a working rapport with critics, engaged as it is in sparring sessions or slanging matches with the opposition and independent commentators. Two-thirds majority in parliament is no blank check to any government for ignoring public opinion and fair governance. Of note here is what the 19th century United States President Abrahm Lincoln’s oft-quoted definition of a democratic government as an institution—“of the people, by the people, for the people”.
MISCAST: The government’s penchant for chasing controversy is amazingly baffling. The consistency in which Oli and coterie let loose their tongues has dismayed even some of their close supporters. Venom-filled war of words rends the air between the ruling side and the mainstream opposition.
For creditable governance, credentials-driven innovation is required and not jargon-laden acrobatics. In its bid to paint every state avenue Red, the communist government pulls the plug on individual prospects for opportunities to the vast majority of people not belonging to the ruling group and not having any patron with close proximity to the powers that be. Appointments and assignments to positions of pelf and power point to the exclusive preserve of NCP’s faction faces or leaders’ personal patronage.
DEATH DOESN’T DELETE: The past gives the present a context to those who care to make a reference point. In Australia, radio stations in April began dropping Michael Jackson’s music in the wake of fresh allegation against him of child sex abuse. In response to public opinion, they put the “King of Pop” off air. After all, even death cannot defy the consequences of one’s deeds when it comes to critical study in the trail of true history.
Dr. Baburam Bhattarai, of the newly unified and renamed Socialist Party Nepal, wants the past “to be forgiven and forgotten”. Nepalese in general might find it too cruel and daunting a demand. All is not forgotten by everyone everywhere, including the former Maoist insurgent now turned “socialist” former premier Bhattarai. Things do not augur well for those searching for fodder to retain the 2006 achievements that are losing steam. The mast of claimed achievements, together with its cast and banner, drifts without direction.
MISSING COMMITMENT: Ideological commitment is not a platform to profit personally the moment greener pastures are within sight. Integration of political organizations in Nepal is very loose, as prospects of opportunities are the binding factors and not any political ideology. Parties create caste and class system. Non-party members are treated as outcastes to be shunned if possible, and tolerated if circumstances prove unavoidable. An artificial halo is simply a shallow show of delusion driven by misuse of power and political patronage. They are lionized by paid pipers, party press and pen pushers alike.
Home Minister Ram Bahadur Thapa’s hasty—and perhaps, inspired—decision got overturned by the Supreme Court with regard to issuing of citizenship certificates. In a democracy, the topsy-turvy that the NirmalaPant’s rape-and-murder tragedy stirred would have pressed for the resignation of the minister in a democracy. Here, that does not happen as politicians are “not running way” from their core responsibility of finding the culprit that simply does not show up.
Hence Bhandari’s “my government” is seen as the government of the ruling party, by the ruling party and for the ruling party. Ownership of a government is not claimed but earned by sheer action.
Achyut Koirala, in Shukrabar weekly: “Either victory must be secured by not speaking; [or] if one has to speak, one must learn to maintain the sanctity of the word.”