High Places

Political events are influenced by what we see in and around us. One has only to look at what is taking place in India

Dec. 28, 2022, 12:13 p.m. Published in Magazine Issue: VOL. 16, No. 09, Dec.30,2022 (Poush 15. 2079) Publisher and Editor: Keshab Prasad Poudel Online Register Number: DOI 584/074-75

After President’s call to form a government, neither alliance was able to attain a majority and a situation of ‘What to do’ resulted? Finally following the breakdown of the existing Gathbandan a new government was formed with friends or cronies in high places. It seems the Bahuns / Chettris are still running the show in the major parties. Is it simply ‘Old wine in New Bottles’? Is the new coalition a re-alignment of broken down groups or an Aatiuttam Gathbandan? Only time will tell.

As Nepal was introduced to the 20th Century world by the then Western Germany, let me state some facts about political culture there. It was with the help of Willy Brandt, then West Germany’s Chancellor that BP Koirala’s Nepali Congress became a member of Socialist International, stepped onto the world stage and earned its political feathers. A concise summary of a united Germany is worthwhile to understand the functioning of national politics there.

After the reunification of Germany in Dec. 1990, a ruling coalition of the CDU/CSU and the FDP was formed in the national interest, to administer the country with Helmut Kohl as Chancellor. In 1998 this coalition lost the election and subsequently Gerhard Schroder of the FDP, an opposition party but a constituent of the ruling coalition became the new Chancellor. In the 2005 Federal elections, the CDU/CSU and the FDP won the same number of seats and could not form a government. A grand coalition was formed with Angela Merkel as Chancellor and equal participants from the two groups from 2005-09. A grand coalition of the two large groups CDU/CSU and FDP was again formed for Merkel’s third term 2013-18. In 2018-21 Angela Merkel formed yet again a grand coalition with Olaf Scholz’s SPD. After 2021 election Scholz came to power with a coalition of his own. One notes too that Germany has a proportional representation system both at the federal and state levels.

Another country to look at is the Republic of Lebanon which has a long chequered history of many centuries. It has an interesting governance set-up. The National Pact of 1943, though unwritten, states that its President must be a Maronite Christian, the Speaker of Parliament a Shia Muslim, its Prime Minister a Sunni Muslim, the Deputy Speaker of Parliament and the Deputy Prime Minister must be Greek Orthodox. Such is a system gives representation to all sections of society.

Political events are influenced by what we see in and around us. One has only to look at what is taking place in India. The President of India is the Head of State and Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces but there are no specific requirements for this. The President is elected by the Electoral College of the country which consists of the National Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha members plus other members of the Vidhan Sabha of the various state assemblies. Each category member carries a differing number of votes as per his/her status. Since India was proclaimed a Republic in 1950 of the fifteen presidents who have been chosen so far, eight were from the Indian National Congress, two were from the Bharatiya Janata Party, four were Independents and one from Janata Party. Looking at it from a gender perspective, there have been thirteen men and two women. Over all there have been 3 Muslims, 1 Sikh and 3 from Schedule castes. The first president Rajendra Prasad was the only one who served two terms. The current president is Droupadi Murmu who is from a tribal community.

In Nepal it was customary after 1950 for the King to appoint a PM and a cabinet of ministers who represented different ethnic groups. However it has been seen during monarchical times and even later that certain sections of the community seemed always to have the upper hand. Though the cabinet did have some non-Brahmin or non-Chetri members it was mainly run by these two groups.

Bahun /Chettris have become PMs of the country again and again, some even five times! We should copy the political culture of the UK, where the PM or the opposition leader of any party resigns if s/he loses an election!

Following the declaring of the Republic the Maoists suggested the division of the country on an ethnic basis and at one stage the names suggested for the various provinces exemplified this. A glaring result of this is that even after five years Pradesh 1 was not able to give a name to it.

Current situation, after the passing of our constitution is that:

Our first President Dr. Ram Baran Yadav, like Lord Krishna was a Madeshi kshetriya and served for seven years. His Vice President, a Madhesi Brahmin Permananda Jha, was a retired lawyer who had taken his oath of office in Hindi as he stated that he could not speak Nepali! For some reason a bomb was planted at his residence, but thankfully only the compound wall suffered minor damage.

Our second President is a female Brahmin Bidhya Devi Bhandari nee kshetri Pandey and her Vice President is Nanda Bahadur (Kishor) Pun, of indigenous ethnicity, both of whom are serving their second terms.

There are currently discussions in the press as to who the next president should be. Major political parties all have an aged political leader in mind. A common thought amongst the lay public is that with the experience of former NC and UML incumbents is that political individuals should not be in these two high posts. Politicians naturally think otherwise! A current thinking is that someone with a legal background should fill this post and ‘No Not a Politician Again’! Demands are for a legal oriented lady or someone who is from either a Newar, Janjati or Dalit community. The Electoral College has 884 members - 275 + 59 of the Federal set-up and 550 of the Pradesh Assemblies with 79 votes for each Federal seat and 48 for each Provincial one. One must get 50% of vote and a run-off is arranged between the first two if this does not occur.

No Constitution is perfect and needs to be revised periodically to changing times to cater for citizenship rights. Whether the Pradesh set-up, put on our shoulder by our Western well-wishers is something we can afford or not is a glaring question. Whether the existing election set-up with the FPTP and the Comprehensive Proportional Representation are compatible or not is another question. Queries regarding other posts e.g. PM and House Speakers are whether there should be specific qualifications for these too?

In Western societies there are ‘Old wives tales’, in Nepal it is ‘Buda Netako Katha’ with the country going down the drain. May Lord Pashupatinath guide us.

The author is a retired medical doctor and writes fiction under the pen name of Mani Dixit also. Website: www.hdixit.org.np. Twitter: @manidixithd

Dr.Hemang Dixit.jpg

Hemang Dixit

The author writes fiction under the name of Mani Dixit. Website: www.hdixit.org.np. Twitter: @manidixithd

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