Appeasement Politics

<br>Yubaraj Ghimire

July 24, 2011, 5:45 p.m. Published in Magazine Issue: Vol.: 05 No.-3 July 22-2011 (Shrawan 06,2068)<BR>

Finance Minister Bharat Mohan Adhikari recently presented a 'please all' budget in the parliament. He knew, in Nepali politics, making promises did not mean having to keep them. Nor was he bothered by the outcry regarding the impropriety he committed by posting the entire budget text on the internet before it was presented in the House. Secrecy of the budget has its own sanctity. In case the budgetary proposals or details find their way to the public prior to their presentation at the House, the Finance Minister is expected to resign under the parliamentary practices. But in our case, no one knows what kind of politics we are following. The slogans and conducts of the leaders and the parties are often at variance. Political parties of all hues are demanding 'federalism with the right to self determination'. But the decision making powers are concentrated in one individual or a small coterie within each party.

A dissection of the recent happenings within the major political parties will amply show this. Prachanda is both the party chief and leader of the parliamentary party of the Unified Communist Party of Nepal-Maoists (UCPN-M). He refused to bow to the growing demands in his party that he quit the parliamentary leadership and pave the way for a takeover by Baburam Bhattarai, his comrade-in-arms and the closest aide until less than two years ago. All that he was willing to concede was that he would entrust organizational, parliamentary affairs and military affairs related responsibilities to Mohan Baidhya Kiran, and Baburam Bhattarai--the vice chairpersons--and Ram Bahadur Thapa Badal, the general secretary of the Party. Naturally, the three stalwarts who have ganged up against Prachanda now know that they will have their new responsibilities only as long as Prachanda wants.

In another event, unconnected with the tussle within the party, Maoist student leader Himal Sharma called his son Saral Sharma back from China where he was pursuing his MBBS education. The decision on Saral's behalf was taken unilaterally by his father, an advocate of the right to self-determination on the question of forming provinces. But in this case, the father appropriated all rights to decide on behalf of his son giving him no say. Preaching decentralization of decision making power is one thing, but actually delegating power voluntarily is not something that such preachers resort to. The gap between words and actions is the real, if not the only, measure of credibility or lack of it among politicians and public figures. A comparison between Prachanda and Himal Sharma,Maoist party's top and second rung leadership, shows there is not much difference between the two.

Prachanda is no longer a leader with charisma in the estimates of the Nepalese people. Nor is the Maoist party a different political outfit compared to the Communist Party of Nepal-Unifed Marxist Leninist (CPN-UML) or the Nepali Congress. Prachanda 's probity in public life is as doubtful as any other mainstream leader. He sidesteps issues. He fails to confront the problems head on. When Kiran, Bhattarai and Badal approach him to shed power, he simply tries to appease them, saying 'even if I hold the power, I have no problem if you exercise it'.

For that matter, how is Prachanda different from G. P. Koirala who enjoyed absolute power totally vested on him. In his last avatar as the hero of 2006 April movement, Koirala was not only the head of the government and acting head of the state, but he also continued as the head of the Nepali Congress. Democracy and concetration of power do not go together. Prachanda may have Stalin or Mao as his hero, but his actual role-model in the Nepali context can only be GPK. In the post 2006 politics, he appeased every one--from the international community to Prachanda, and of course his daughter Sujata-but when people realized that he was acting no differently from his previous tenures as the Prime Minister and that he was pursuing politics sans principles, they rejected him in the election held in April 2008.

There are speculations over the future of the Nepali Congress. It has no doubt a history with glorious moments of struggle in favour of nationalism and democracy. But it has also seen compromises –bartering power with values--at times. Current chief Sushil Koirala wants to appease both Ram Chandra Poudel and Sher Bahadur Deuba, but there are chances that he may please none.  The party is fast moving towards being a mere spectator than being an actor and leader like in the past.

Prachanda has at times reported to Sushil Koirala and told him the current fights within his party would not be 'affecting the peace and constitution making process adversely'. But both know the peace process and constitution making are not even the least priority areas of either party. But Prachanda is much more communicative and magnanimous in making promises to the people and leaders. He is exactly following GPK's foot-steps. He has shown tremendous weakness for his kin. Probity in public life is not something he believes in. His extravagant lifestyle has lowered him in the esteem of his own supporters now. But as he faces, arguably, the most challenging battle of his political life, spanning over three decades, he finds the strength of his admirers and followers exhausted. He has resources, and a charisma, totally burnt out. He is trying to appease all, but beyond a point that hardly works.

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