One fact of political life in Nepal is that it too follows a kind of “fiscal year” from one Dussain-Tihar-Chhat to another. If a bad political message has been given just before, during or after this period, it will determine public opinion, mood and the political agenda for the next political “fiscal year”. This is the time of the year when people return home in droves, those at home have brought in the harvests and have time free for rituals and celebrations, families and friends get together with neighbours and strangers, all to marinade in gastronomic orgies – and gossip. This is when political reputations of local, national and even international players are made larger than life or completely shattered. Woe unto a politician, a party or a government that goofs it just before Dussain: the mistake will go viral with little or no corrective redemption in the year to follow.
This year’s holiday season has been dominated by political personalities and events that indicate that the 12-point Delhi Deal of November 2005 is coming apart at the seams, with signs that even its very architecture, the warp and woof is becoming threadbare. The elected provincial officials, having no legal or administrative wherewithal to function, remain paralyzed. The officially mandated meeting of provincial chief ministers with the prime minister was cancelled some three months back because PM Oli felt they (who overwhelmingly were from his own party) were conspiring against him to win more decentralized power for themselves. The first federal government elected under the new 2015 constitution enjoys a two-third majority but shows no sign of functioning. Every good governance initiative it took was stymied by vested interests that control his party, its satraps and the government from the outside. The much-needed crackdowns on transport cartels (called “syndicates”) as well as the organized smuggling of gold at Tribhuban International Airport were called off as was the attempt to clean up the NGO sector of its “business by other means” activities by introducing a code-of-conduct. Reforms in sectors such as medical education, petroleum products and electricity are not only stalled but show signs of heading in the wrong direction. All this is happening because both the ruling and opposition parties (which have remained completely mute) have been thoroughly criminalized.
This holiday season gossips were dominated by confessions from two stalwarts of the 2005/06 agitations that ushered in the 12-point Delhi Deal and the political mess we are currently suffering. The first was by Amresh Kumar Singh in the political weekly Ghatna Ra Bichar (https://www.ghatanarabichar.com/124171). Singh, a Jawaharlal Nehru University product, was by his own many admissions a mouthpiece for the Mughlani spooks and who was nominated to the parliament by Girija Koirala to be used as the conduit to Maoist leaders. He had worked as a secretary to Mahanta Thakur (originally of the Kangress but weaned away to lead the Madhesh movement) but sabotaged Thakur’s elections to get himself elected through what would normally be considered suspicious means but which has become the norm in Nepal Tarai’s electoral politics. He also enjoys the notoriety for getting his estranged wife, a student of Poona’s famed film institute, arrested by Mughlani spookdom on terrorist charges and extradited to her in-laws in Nepal violating all established legal norms. But for the activism of her Indian feminist friends that got her released, she would in all probability have become just another statistics in dowry VAW.
With all this being his well-recorded political history, it came as a complete surprise when Singh in his interview confesses that it was a big mistake to hand power over to the Maoists by the means adopted in 2005/06 and the years that followed. He admits that the so-called peace process was a sham: the Maoists were never required to give up violence as a political means, were bribed with money for fake fighters that never existed to the tune of billions of rupees, given seats in the resurrected parliament equal to that of the UML without even going to the people, and were allowed to keep significant arms with themselves – arms that were used for political assassination in his constituency which now has “opened his eyes”. He admits the many sins committed by him and his Kangress puppet master Girija Koirala and the regret he now suffers, but he offers no credible means of absolution. And this is also the tragedy that his other Kangressi colleagues suffer because of which they remain politically paralyzed, checkmated by the street-smart Left.
The other bombshell interview was by Daman Nath Dhungana in the Onlinekhabar news portal (https://www.onlinekhabar.com/2018/11/718974). Dhungana started his political career as a Kangressi student leader during the Panchayat days and became the Speaker of the first parliament; but rather than discharge that duty as a dispassionate referee, he became the partisan voice of the UML against Koirala, stymieing all efforts by the government bench to introduce solutions through parliament (such as on the Tanakpur issue). He, together with Chief Justice Bishwanath Upadhyay, does bear some responsibility for the degeneration of parliamentary norms that led to its very rejection by the Maoists in the mid-1990s. Alienated from his parent party’s rank-and-file, he lost all subsequent elections and threw in his lot with the late Leftist Padma Ratna Tuladhar to become a civil society activist moulding the Loktantra of 2005/06. The duo became the darling of Western donors commanding their “peace funds” right till the collapse of the two constituent assemblies: in all practicality their Bhojan Griha efforts ended up politically corrupting Loktantra and its leaders, giving us the mess we have today.
In the Onlinekhabar interview, Dhungana admits in essence to being a Leninist “useful idiot” for the Maoists and their Mughlani handlers, including in acquiescing to the 12-Point Delhi Deal and its subsequent unfolding that sidelined the monarchy in a manner legalistic but totally illegitimate. He raises the issue of the sabotaging of the agreement done with the King on 24th April 2006 that has smeared the Mark of Cain on the current Loktantrick dispensation. This sense of guilt pervades all right-thinking Kangressis and shackles them from taking any political initiative to reform and lead. It was made pathetically obvious in an FM interview by the Young Turk Gagan Thapa a few days back: their attempt to reform the Kangress party, make it more democratic and less a hand-picked fiefdom under the total grip of old barons has failed. Now the only way new ideas and new leaders not beholden to their feudal overlords can emerge in the Kangress is either by breaking away and forming a new party (which will only benefit the UML in electoral calculus) or by defeating the undemocratically selected candidate at election time through antarghaat (i.e. sabotage by the rank-and-file). This is what happened in the last election and promises to repeat itself in any future one as well. The chances of Kangress winning a majority in future elections look increasingly remote without fundamental reforms that are just not going to happen unless the existing old leadership somehow disappears.
Things do not look any better within the ruling Communists. So far, the unity of the UML and the Cash Maoists brought about during last year’s Dussain has been limited to Oli and Prachanda only: the rank-and-file as more divided than before. Not only is there no political and ideological clarity behind this merger (the True Believers communists among them have already migrated in droves to the Baidya and Biplav factions), but also the sharing of the spoils of office has brought about strains that the current leadership is unable to handle given that their moral authority has been severely eroded. It has been made much worse by last week’s tamasha officially sponsored by Prime Minister Oli and managed by his party rival and former Prime Minister Madhav Nepal. That overhyped summit was organized by the Korean Unification Church internationally known as the Moonies, an evangelical group regarded as a lunatic fringe by mainstream Christians. What the world witnessed, and which has most of our Nepali Marxists hanging their heads in shame, is the descent of Nepal’s mainstream communists from Marxism to Moonism. The demise of Left ideology within the mainstream communists, sacrificed at the pecuniary alter to benefit its neo-feudal party bosses, is now complete. Statements by the most vocal and hardnosed ideologues of the Left such as Ghanashyam Bhusal and Khagendra Sangraula has only added to the flood of mea culpas that portends an unceremonious end to Loktantra as we have known it these last dozen years.