Desperate Means for Distressing Times

<br><P><EM>–Dipak Gyawali</EM></P>

March 13, 2011, 5:45 p.m. Published in Magazine Issue: Vol. : 04 No.- 18 Mar.11-2011 (Falgun 27,2067)<BR>

A friend recently described running into former US Ambassador Moriarty at a transit lounge somewhere in Asia. What shocked him was how ole Jim – in charge here while the US outsourced its Nepal policy to Delhi – seemed so very embarrassed to meet a Nepali, would not ask anything about Nepal, and was simply anxious to slink away into anonymity. Wuz it dem bad, nasty ghosts from Wikileaks?! Hardly. It is because the current Nepali quagmire has become the pricking of a bad conscience to the architects of the Loktantrick regime change, and not just the Americans. Those going to Delhi describe an even greater reticence among the cheerleaders of the 2006 street protests to mention Nepal. If the practice of Loktantra can morph swaggering superpower viceroys into tail-tucked puppies, imagine what it is doing to the domestic votaries themselves! Where are the Civil Society leaders of Janandolan-2 hiding today?

Just in the last few weeks, enough examples of political desperation have surfaced. Topping the list is the Supreme Court’s decision that the Constituent Assembly’s mandate will not end until the new constitution is made, whenever that be. Earlier, the court had decided that the CA can change anything in the interim constitution but republicanism, secularism and federalism. Why, one may ask, and for what divine reason? By propping up that which is collapsing from its own incompetent weight (and taking the Supreme Court’s prestige with it), has the court thus not granted the CA infinite life while rewarding gross ineptitude and dereliction of duty?

The main reason why the CA will not be able to make a new constitution is because these ill-digested ideologies (“imported ideologies” said former PM KP Bhattarai) are in dissonance with Nepal’s ground realities. Writing a breaking story in Kathmandu Post last week, Mulmi and Kharel describe the rise – in secular Nepal, something impossible when the country was Hindu – of a Nepali version of India’s RSS, a militant Hindu organization. The root cause they identified was the sense of insult and insecurity experienced by the majority Hindus in the way secularism was dumped on them. Embedded in this action was the accusation that a Hindu state could not be just, even when the missionaries who bankrolled it happen to come from crusading Christian or jihadist Islamic monarchies. A telling point that the two authors bring out is that this group of cultural militants took an active part in the street protests of 2005/6 to remove the king “because he did nothing for the Hindus” and now want the highest office of the land to go to only Hindus! If Janandolan-2 was basically a consensus Muglani project of both the Congress(I) and the BJP, no points for guessing which end of the geopolitical spectrum this militancy draws its roots from.

Highlighting the problems with federalism, Gagan Thapa, one of the younger MPs and a member of the Kangress central committee, admitted in a TV interview that he, as a member of Nepal’s largest ethnic group, would be unable to put his signature on an ethnicity-based federal constitution that would make him and others like him second class citizens in a motherland they call their own. Wonder why he and his party never thought of it when they served as cheerleaders of the Maoist agenda and passed it, with nary a thought of the consequences? Is leadership not about being able to see just a few steps and days ahead of the rest of us in the followership mode?

Such short-sightedness is not limited to the parliamentary parties alone: the Maoists enjoy more than a fair share of it as well. Comrade Hisila Yami recently led a delegation of Newa Rajya activists to the NEA demanding that Newa Rajya, aka Kathmandu Valley, be freed of loadshedding, a demand as impractical as ridiculous, especially coming from a politician with a technical background. She seems to have met her match in the wizened veterans of the NEA: they reminded her that it was her own party’s agenda that water, land and forests belonged to the local federal units, and poor Newa Rajya has no hydropower station to meet the demands of some 10% of Nepal’s total population that reside here, the majority of them, incidentally, not Newars. A gaggle of Newar MPs from several political parties demanded on TV a week back that Sugat Ratna Kansakar (of the alleged Airbus scam fame) be released from jail. They argued that he was being locked up only because he was a Newar. Indeed, why is nothing being done to those who have looted the NEA as well as the Nepal Police in Darfur or been deep up to their gills in passport and telecom scams?

An answer was unwittingly provided by Gagan Thapa in the above-mentioned TV interview when he acknowledged that political parties in Nepal were anything but parties as normally defined in the political sciences. They were basically “federation of cliques” and the basic interest of the top ten leaders of every of party was not any aspect of national development such as ending loadshedding or making the constitution. Their laser-like focus was only in enhancing their clique’s powers and finances. In essence, the top political parties – the Kangress, the EhMaley and the Maobadees – are, as described in a signed guest editorial by former finance and foreign minister Prakash Lohani, “rent-seeking neo-feudals”. It is a sign of the depths to which the vanguards of the 2006 movement have sunk when a former Pancha accuses them of being “neo-feudals” – and the socialist and communist parties are unable to counter back!

The reaction of the political parties, their shedding of crocodile tears, at the death of KP Bhattarai was a vivid demonstration of the disjuncture between their political philosophies and the desperate, parasitic search for any sustaining legitimacy. The last politicians who practiced value politics were those like KP Bhattarai and Sailaja Acharya, who stood for constitutional monarchy and the need for a democratic Nepal to keep the position of head of state and army out of competitive party politics for the very survival of the country. That position was rejected, and both were hounded out of everyday politics, by the very people who today have the gall to drape their dead bodies with party and national flags!

If one were to step back and indulge in a bit of philosophical reflections, the puzzle is to understand why political leaders behave the way they do. When PM Khanal could not sell his 7-point agreement with the Maobadees to his own party, normal ethics would say that he gracefully resign. However, in the war-lordism of enclave politics, there is a different ethics at work: what enhances clique interest is ethical, and what does not is not. So Khanal or Nepal or Koirala or Dahal will hang in there at all costs as long as their enclave brethren approve. This leads one to agree with the philosopher Karl Popper that we Nepalis have been asking the wrong question this last decade: it is not Loktantra that we should be aiming for but rather the building of a political system with checks and balances that would prevent misrule. Unfortunately, that is one task the current CA is genetically incapable of addressing.
Dipak Gyawali.JPG

Dipak Gyawali

Gyawali is Pragya (Academician) of the Nepal Academy of Science and Technology (NAST) and former minister of water resources.

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