Political avatars

  • The current political imbroglio can be attributed to rivalries within parties as much as between parties
- Narayan Manandhar
Political avatars

Feb 23, 2015-

While browsing blog comments on Nepal’s ongoing political imbroglio, I made a serendipitous discovery. To be honest, the idea behind this article triggered after reading an interview with senior journalist Kishor Nepal on a blog. In the interview, Nepal was quizzed on whether it was appropriate to call him a Nepali Congress converted into a Maoist or the other way round? Amusingly, he responded by asking a counter-question: what would you say of Pradeep Giri, a senior leader within the Nepali Congress (NC)? Let me dwell on something else before I come back to this point of discovery.

Musical chairs

Earlier, I would often hypothesise that Nepal’s politics has gone wrong simply because of subtle transformative processes that are taking place among the major political parties. Post Janaandolan I, the political scenario of Nepal moved something like this, in the fashion of a game of musical chairs: With the ousting of the royal panchas, the NC went on to take the seats vacated by the panchas, that is, the NC became very much like the royal panchas. Within the NC, they even have a special group which goes by the name of ‘Chaite Kangressi’ meaning newcomers, possibly deserters from the royal panchas camp. As the NC replaced the panchas, it was the turn of the CPN-UML to take the seats vacated by the NC. With the arrival of the Maoist party after Janaandolan II, they went on to take the seats vacated by the UML. This is to say, the Maoists became very much like the UML and the latter very much like the NC; and the NC like the old panchas. At this juncture, readers may be asking a question: who has taken the seats of the UCPN (Maoist)? As present, I see two factions of the Maoists—the Baidya and Biplav factions—jostling to occupy the seats vacated by the UCPN-Maoist.

These incidents have led me to believe that subtle transformative processes are responsible for the present-day political impasse. I call them subtle because, just like a fish inside a bowl—which will never be aware that it is swimming in water—our political parties will never be aware of such transformative processes. Even when they are aware of this situation, they will never admit it in public. If you take the fish out of the bowl and place it on the ground, it will start convalescing. To make the political parties undergo a similar experience, they need be taken out of their contextual environments. To be specific, they should experience periodic jolts in elections. Probably, the NC got a taste of this after the 2008 CA elections. The Maoists must have had a similar experience when they faced an unimaginable defeat in the 2013 CA elections. They now openly admit how sukila-mukila—the urban bourgeois—infiltrated the party to bring it to its present situation. I am sure the UML must have a similar experience to share. I used to hold this grand hypothesis to understand and also to explain why Nepali politics is not in proper order. With my new discovery, I have now realised how grossly mistaken I was to hold on to this hypothesis. Here is the new story.

Rivals within

Actually, it is not gradual transformative processes that are spoiling Nepali politics. The current imbroglio is a result of the fact that each political party embodies a feature of its rivals, thereby complicating the need for a unified stand. Within the NC, it is easy to find members behaving exactly like the UML or the Maoists or even the old panchas. Similarly, within the UML, one can find their members behaving like the NC, Maoists, or the panchas. The same holds for the Maoists and other political parties in Nepal. To put it simply, it is like having the NC-Maoists, NC-UML, NC-panchas, and NC-Madhesis within the Nepali Congress.

This is what fascinated me when Kishor Nepal hinted that Pradeep Giri, a senior NC leader, was playing the role of a leftist leader. If you recall, KP Sitaula of the Congress was once accused of being a Maoist minister without portfolio. Who knows if the Prime Minister and President of the NC Sushil Koirala is playing the role of the UML and UML President KP Oli playing the role of the NC? These days, Khum Bahadur Khadka behaves very much like an old pancha. It is no wonder that Baburam Bhattarai, a Maoist ideologue, is charged with being close to the NC’s ideology. Just recall how he was criticised by his own party members when he signed, or gambled, the Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (BIPPA) with India even as the NC was praising him for the move.

Births without rebirth

When a discordant within a one party dominates the discordant between the parties, it is pointless to search for inter-party consensus and coordination. This is the single reason why, in spite of so much hue and cry, political consensus has turned out to be so elusive. If this is so, what explains the intellectual drawings and discussions on party ideologies? I say the espoused political ideologies are just for public consumption. Some readers may argue that it is normal to have leftist, rightist, and centrist views within a political party. However, I do not suppose this to be a dominating theme today.

The recent nomination of Lharkyal Lama as a CA member by the UCPN (Maoist) underscores this point. Lama revealed his avatars by transforming himself from a NC sympathiser to a UML supporter, and now, he has turned into a Maoist. He is the embodiment of how an individual can possibly transcend political ideologies without a hitch in one lifetime. To incarnate as a political avatar, you do not need to undergo the process of birth and rebirth. As long as political parties in Nepal continue to embrace intra-party rivalries, we, the public, will be entertained by the birth and rebirth of persons like Lama.

Manandhar writes on corruption and governance issues


Published: 24-02-2015 09:07

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