Even as the cheerleaders of Nepal’s Loktantra were wallowing in triumphalism following the regime change of 2006, Kamal Thapa of RPP-N had warned anyone caring to listen of the ominous political dark days ahead with this prescient metaphor. Speaking of the unlikely – one would now have to say unholy – alliance of the parliamentary parties with the Maoists (the latter started the “peoples’ war” with the slogan that described the parliament as “a butcher’s shop where you put a goat’s head in display and sell dog’s meat”), Thapa said
“Two unlikely sets of passengers are in a bus that has reached Chitwan: one set wants to go to Kakarbhitta in the east and the other to Mahendranagar in the west. We just have to see which way the bus will go.”
Well, the Loktantrick bus is still stuck all these eight years at the Narayanghat crossroads and its cheerleaders, national and international, are running out of fig leaves that they can hide behind. This shortage of excuses is so severe that the current gas and electricity unavailability pale in comparison. In April 2006, they promised us a New Nepal through a Constituent Assembly that would draft a new constitution even better than (in their words) “the world’s best constitution of 1990”. Every day’s morning news was replete with their effusive assurances that it was just round the corner, that 80% of the work was already complete, that come the weekend we Nepalis would have it. They repeatedly failed to honour their pledges – in 2010 after two years of wrangling, and three illegitimate self-extensions later again in 2012.
Now they have failed again to live up to the word they gave the Nepali voters in the 2013 CA2 elections – to bring in a new constitution by January 22 and also to hold local elections by that date. A constitution howsoever incomplete must, if anything, be an organic whole like a new born baby. Unfortunately, what they claim to have been 80% complete is missing critical things like the brain (of state re-structuring), the heart (of federalism or secularism) and the kidneys of self-correction (the nature of the judiciary). If forcibly born on Jan 22 (or even two years earlier on the eve of the demise of CA1), it would have been stillborn dead! Having run out of excuses, they are now trying to pin the blame on anyone but themselves; and the people of Nepal are being forced to ask, “How often do you allow a student perpetually failing since 1990 for a quarter of a century to re-appear for ‘back-paper’ exams and how long should their lucrative tax-payer borne scholarships continue?”
Since the Loktantricksters did not do what they were elected to do, i.e. write a constitution and provide good governance (including local elections), they spent their time in the meanwhile doing what they were not supposed to do. They have just declared almost all of Kathmandu Valley and its villages as well as other peri-urban areas of Nepal as municipalities, making entire districts village-free. Even marginal farmers at the edge of the Shivapuri or Phulchowki forests, hours away from roads suddenly found themselves not villagers but city-dwellers under new taxation regimes! And nobody asked the people if they wanted to have their villages declared municipalities or not. What a brazen display of autocratic and oligarchic mind-set! The main beneficiaries of this hare-brained policy are going to be land-plotting real estate agents that the ruling parties depend upon for clandestine funding, as well as local VDC party bigwigs ‘whose land value now sky rockets’.
Given that those in power right now are members of an interim order under a much trampled and distorted interim constitution, they were also not supposed take decisions that would have a long-term impact on the country; or if they did, they would have to get a two-thirds majority parliamentary approval. In a country reeling under chronic load shedding for over 14 hours a day, they have gone ahead and signed away prime hydropower sites for export, completely ignoring national need for electricity. And in the process they have violated the letter and spirit of the old 1990 as well as current interim constitution that require parliamentary approval of such resource sharing treaties. Equally damaging has been the politicization of the bureaucracy where even promotion of secretaries of governments is now as per party loyalties, as are university department heads.
There is now a chill of empty nihilism that grips the country: the able bodied youth who have lost all hope of jobs and improved lives in Nepal are migrating out in droves, to the labour markets of the Gulf or Malaysia if uneducated and to the US, Europe or Australia if they have higher education. Such a society is condemned to long-term stagnation, economically and socio-politically; and this is what we are seeing in Nepal currently. This is also reflected in the total moral collapse of the main cheerleaders of the 2005 regime change, the highly partisan civil society of Nepal that consists of leading editors, university teachers, and professionals like lawyers, doctors and engineers as well as NGO bigwigs. Since the political idols and gods they promoted are now found to have feet of clay, our buddhijeevis are completely tongue-tied or in hiding or happy and quiet with the perks they traded their support for with their idols.
What is strange in the behaviour of the 2005 cheerleaders is their silence. Nanda Prasad Adhikary fasted himself to death to seek justice for his murdered son: his body is still lying in a morgue and the bulk of the 2005 cheerleaders cannot speak out against this travesty lest their prospects of becoming nominated to ambassadorships or other positions of perk be harmed. Water-related treaties have been signed with the lower riparian that will severely damage Nepal’s prospects for industrialization, long-term growth and even healthy regional cooperation; however, senior editors of corporate broadsheets will not print news of articles that challenge those harmful treaties lest the spigots of their advertizing revenue be turned off. Most comical was the demonstration they held before the CA2 at Baneshwar a few days before the January 22 deadline. It was obvious that no constitution could be drafted in the short time available, that all democratic procedures of public consultations would have to be violated if promulgated incomplete and in haste. However, it did not stop Their Civil Society Eminences from holding a noisy demonstration demanding that “jasari bhaey pani” (i.e. by whatever means fair or foul) a sheaf of papers be declared a constitution on January 22!
What is even more perplexing is how the 2005 cheerleaders pretend S D Muni never wrote that enlightening chapter in Nepal in Transition from Cambridge University Press that showed how their political idols, the Cash Maoists and Girija Koirala were had traded national sovereignty for a chance to come to power in a greater game of international destabilization of Nepal. There are many other books that have come out – Prayogshala, Chakrabihu Ma Chandrasurya, Maile Dekheko Durbar, RK Yadav’s Mission R&AW in 2014 or even the public interviews by Pranab Mukherjee to Al Jazeera as well as those of Prachanda, Baburam and Dina Nath Sharma that the parliamentary parties asked them to kill candidates to municipal elections called for by the King in February 2006 – which prove if proof were needed how the main leaders of the 2005 12-Point Delhi Deal and their ensuing street protests were mere pawns at the hands of their external handlers.
This chicanery lies at the roots of current doldrums and political impasse. It is this that has created total distrust among the big political parties in CA2: indeed how can anyone of them be sure the other parties have not done some secret 12-point deal with some international player that is not better and more lucrative for them than the secret assurances they have received from their foreign handlers? Given that they all committed political fraud in 2005/2006, what guarantee that one of their own will not do so again against them? Moral turpitude, loss of that high ground and total reliance on the politics of money and muscle lies at the root of the current malaise and until this failed lot is made to retire from public life, expect the doldrums to continue.