President Ram Baran Yadav must be in a very confused state while watching the erratic behavior of the major political parties regarding forging consensus to clear the current political stalemate. Party leaders appear very serious a day or two after their meeting with him, showing conciliatory gesture, which is soon followed by blame game so popular amongst them. Unhappy at the repeated failure of party leaders to reach consensus, President Yadav invited leaders of twenty one parties represented in the dead CA for interaction on the last day of September. Urging leaders to set a deadline for reaching consensus on the future political course, the President also signaled in a sober way that he would not remain a silent spectator in the event of leaders failing to forge consensus, despite repeated promises.
As usual, the political parties assured him that they would reach consensus on all issues by mid-October. As in the past, Prachanda, in his capacity as the chair of the largest political party, took the initiative to see leaders of major parties such as Koirala and Khanal and whatever was thrown for mass consumption made people hopeful that something nice was happening towards forging consensus. This did not, however, last long as twists and turns have again found a dominant place in their initially unconditional-sounding commitments to forge consensus.
A seemingly confused and unhappy President has indicated again that he will not remain a spectator to the crisis after mid-October. Parties are taking turns in floating proposals with lots of strings attached to them. The issue of CA revival has again assumed prominence, especially after Prachanda’s proposal along this line to Nepali Congress. This proposal has come at a time when people thought the parties were done with this, in view of their earlier decision, despite persistent sharp division in both NC and UML over this issue. Prachanda has also stated publicly that resurrection of the CA and not holding fresh election is the best option to clear the current stalemate.
This flexibility of Prachanda has surprised NC stalwarts, amongst others, even those canvassing support for resurrection of CA.Political pundits belonging to different parties argue that Prachanda is trying to avoid election at a time when he is poised to receive a major threat from no other than the recently formed CPN Maoist led by Kiran.There is some sense behind the argument that the split has weakened his party and Prachanda needs time to weaken his rivals for which he needs resurrection of CA. What cannot, however, be ignored is the fact that almost all the major political parties are skeptical about their electoral fate because people, given an alternative, will not easily vote for them in the current circumstances. Intra-party wrangling and desertions, if not resolved properly, will cost NC and UML as much as the split in case of the Maoist party.
No matter how much we doubt his intention, Prachanda’s proposal to resurrect CA and leave the contentious issues to be resolved by the new parliament has surprised even his rivals who suggested more or less this line before the CA dissolution. If elections are at all held, individuals with clean credentials will be chosen and the party led by Kamal Thapa (RPP, Nepal) is likely to make some electoral gains. Commoners have been profusely confused by our leaders time and again and it now appears that they haven succeeded in confusing also the President who has been seeing how the self-given deadlines are broken, the newest being the mid-October one. Some leaders have also succeeded in dividing people along ethnic lines, creating a battle ground for the poor people to hurt themselves. Far-western region of Nepal, inhabited by the poorest Nepalis, suffered a lot in the recent past due to clash between indigenous Tharus and those from the hills: Tharus wanting a separate state for them and the latter protesting hard for an intact region. The region, where dozens of people starve to death and cholera takes a heavy toll on them every year, suffered a lot in the past when it was brought to a standstill for more than a month by the supporters of intact Far- west. As if the injuries inflicted on the poor there were not enough, DPM Gachchhadar in a recent political gathering in Kailali vowed to severe the two districts (Kailali and Kanchanpur) from the region, setting ablaze the flame of racial conflict that had almost extinguished. This was highly unbecoming of a person of Gachchhadar’s stature and political experience, which infuriated people who virtually chased him away from the area. No less worrisome is the decisions of CPN-Maoist to restrict Indian vehicles from entering Nepal, ban on screening Indian films and indication by the party that they could form an army of their own. Formation of the National People’s Volunteers by the party soon after the completion of integration into Nepal Army of former Maoist combatants is also looked at with lots of confusion and skepticism.
While summoning our leaders to break the political stalemate next time around, Mr. President, ask them to do something about the deteriorating condition of common Nepalis. Economy has been totally ignored all these years and workers’ remittance has been the lifeline of our economy kept on ventilator since long. People facing scarcity of drinking water, electricity, cooking gas, etc are faced with double digit inflation, more than 11 percent, during festival time when even low income people tend to eat and cloth themselves well. Economic theories and principles do not apply in case of our economy. For example, talking of the external sector of the economy and its sensitiveness to exchange rate fluctuation, it is observed that our international trade is inelastic to fluctuations in the value of our currency because when our currency sharply depreciated against US$ and remained constant with Indian currency, being pegged, in the recent past, more goods from here should have flown to the west to fetch better returns and imports from India should have accelerated on cost grounds. This did not happen, indicating that problems of structural nature have chained our economy so hard that changes here and there cannot make it move. In South Asia, we have the war-torn Afghanistan to look at and derive some solace because they are not doing well either, and on the corruption front, we are engaged in a battle to assume the position of the most corrupt nation in this region. All other South Asian nations are doing much better than us.
Worthy of mention is the case of Bhutan that has maintained a remarkable balance between modernity and tradition. While physical infrastructure work is progressing, utmost care is taken to prevent environmental degradation. A low carbon economy, Bhutan wants only quality tourists in and is on the way to doing away with application of chemical fertilizers. Even if we fail to learn good things from Bhutan, we will definitely be flocking in large number into Bhutan to get a breath of fresh air and to try organically grown food there. Chinese are worried that their economy is slowing down, Indians are trying hard to achieve a growth rate higher than the expected six percent, Europeans, suffering setbacks after setbacks, are trying hard to push reforms amidst political chaos and Obama administration in the US is happy that the sickening unemployment level is going down but who do we have here to worry about our stagnated economy that has not been given even a full-fledged budget? Mr. President, will you?
Dr. Rawal is former Governor of NRB