Politicians are smart because they have clawed their way by guile or guts, mostly the former, to the top of the totem pole to lord it over the rest. That fact cannot be denied. Then how does one explain the utter absurdity of the political quagmire they have created and, more galling, are wildly spending our resources to prolong that mess and their political lives in today’s Nepal? What is their method in this madness?
Let us look at the madness first, and then try and fathom the logical reasons for this nonsensical politics. The current crop of Loktantricksters was sent to CA2 anew by the Nepali voters to solve the political deadlock of CA1: they did promise during elections, among many other sweet things such as holding local elections, to definitely do so, but having broken their promises, failed again.
They came, they refused to see, and they failed to conquer Nepali hearts and minds. All their “high level” committees have failed both inside and outside parliament. They failed us in 2008, in 1990 and if one really thinks about it, indeed even in 1951 as they are failing in 2014. They failed to establish a political order the way Mao succeeded in China, Gandhi-Nehru in India, Lenin in Russia or the Founding Fathers in America. Given that even one of their leading lights, Baburam, now admits a new political vanguard is required, how many chances should this Loktantrick lot (including him and his coterie responsible for 17,000 wholly unnecessary Nepali deaths) be given and for what? Just for their telling us that they are for Loktantra and Pragati? Are they, really? Have they not proved beyond doubt that they are just a visionless nepotistic bunch, their parties mere neo-feudal kleptocracies?
It is a serious matter for all of us to brood over. Why are they so good at failing? It is now plain they will fail again this time to give us a new order by December 2014 as promised. Excuses are already in the air: we have, they say, five years, till 2018 to do that so why hurry and produce a bad constitutional curry? How many promises have they made, to us and to each other, in the many n-point agreements that most of us have long stopped counting? They failed Nanda Prasad Adhikari and our collective national conscience. They failed national development in its manifold, whether in surrendering to neo-colonialism in the form of BIPPA or PDA, in failing to revive the national airlines, in providing jobs to our youth getting proletarized in the sands of the Middle East, or in reviving Nepali diplomacy in our vacant chanceries around the world. But, given how street-smart they are, have they really failed? Is all this not perversely to their immense benefit?
It makes sense to go back and reflect on the political economy of Loktantra to see where the rot comes from. Why is there really no difference between Cash Maoist Baburam Bhattarai and Kangressi Ram Sharan Mahat in the economic philosophy they have pursued? Where is there any shred of Maoist self-reliance in the former or democratic socialism in the latter, given that both have pursued neo-liberalism and externally tutelaged development with vengeance against those who would argue otherwise? Why does the Loktantrick political class engage in ideological fraud and why do they behave as if it does not erode their moral legitimacy?
The realization that Nepal needs some form of industrialization came as a national policy in 1938 before the outbreak of the Second World War with Juddha Sumshere, worried that the large number of youth with no prospects of jobs would lead to regime instability. And it was obvious to the rulers that subsistence hill agriculture was incapable of providing such jobs. This approach was continued by the Panchayat under King Mahendra with the establishment of manufacturing industries such as shoes, bricks, cigarettes, agriculture machine tools, airlines and so on. Panchayat also encouraged the development of Butwal, Balaju and Patan Lagankhel as sites of industrial production which they still are. Stagnation and loss of creativity had metastasized in the Panchayat, especially after the National Referendum of 1980, and it had succumbed to the fatalism of “structural adjustment” by the mid-1980s. Even then, under early King Birendra, cement and paper factories for import-substitution were initiated and there were plans to set up fertilizer plants. O, if only we could make such a list with what our Loktantricksters have achieved during their stint in power!
Shah Kings and the Ranas can be faulted for failing to industrialize Nepal fast enough or deeply enough as the contemporary Meijis did in Japan; but they did honestly try. It is the Loktantricksters, however, who have actually pushed the country’s de-industrialization forward. And leading the charge was the Kangress that still swears by BP Koirala’s “democratic socialism”. Rather than reform public enterprises, they liquidated them and the proceeds were not re-invested as better and enhanced capital assets but were used to finance running costs, basically of public enterprises where their political cadres had been nominated as CEOs.
Let us take Bansbari shoe factory set up with Chinese aid as an example of “democratic socialists” as well as EhMaLey communists kowtowing to sidelining the state as an instrument of development. This factory did meet a small part of Nepali demand for footwear; but more important were the upstream-downstream linkages wherein it processed raw material and provided value addition as well as jobs all along the supply to demand chain. With its closing down and conversion to real estate, with the demand for shoes ever increasing (and one can say the same for cigarettes, agri-tools, paper, electricity etc.), Nepali share of the market went down to zero, completely replaced by imports or cheap assembled varieties.
When goods do not have to be produced in Nepal but are imported (even with electricity in our “blessed with hydropower” land), the political economy of the country shifts to the comprador bourgeois trading commission agent and decimates the nascent, just-being-nurtured industrial class. It also discourages whatever land-owning feudal class there is from shifting to becoming industrialists and instead asks them to become rentiers and commission agents. And his commission from import profits is enough to keep party bosses happy and election costs covered. You want proof? Look at whom they all – from die-hard communists to “democratic socialists” nominated to CA1 – princelings of big comprador bourgeois business houses!
Why open factories and hotels and take up the hassle of managing raw materials, labour and sales? Convert existing ones to shopping complexes and earn easy rent without having to bother with party-backed aggressive trade unions! Jobs for our youth at home? Let them go to Doha or Malaysia, build factories there, send remittances home to boost imports and our rents and commissions. Our tax laws broadly lay out the same principle: keep your money in your bank and allow us to play with it financing letters of credit for imports, you pay only some five percent tax on interest. If you feel like doing something more productive, invest in real estate, build a house and rent it out to expatriates and get taxed double, ten percent on the rental amount. If you feel more industrious and build a factory, besides being milked dry by our trade union thugs, we will tax you a third of your earnings! This is the message of our rulers to national investors.
The current political doldrums is very conducive to this political economy. Hence the total lack of political will either to establish another “new order” with a new constitution or to hold local elections and deal with pesky grassroots aspirations for jobs and a decent life articulated by new and younger leaders. This messy framework suits the rulers and their international backer fine, hence the comfortable acquiescence with the prolonging of the interregnum. In 1990, the leaders of that change first agreed on a framework (making the multiparty parliamentary constitution in six months) and then only going for competitive politics. And even then the sailing was not smooth.
This time around, because the 2006 regime change was not their doing but was externally inspired, the Loktantricksters immediately entered competitive politics without an agreed framework, mainly to prove who was more loyal to the diktats and vision of external masters. As a result, the framing of a new constitutional order has fallen victim to competitive politics. It cannot be salvaged simply because the much-bandied “consensus” runs against the grain of competition. Indeed, if a constitution were drafted and promulgated by the current government, would not all the credit go to the ruling duo and not the others, mainly the Maoists who, proxy war from Noida notwithstanding, claim to have brought about this “revolution”? So why bother, one and all, when their perks and comprador bourgeois commissions continue unhindered?