Print Edition - 2015-06-07  |  Free the Words

Rubble and realpolitik

  • The republican government of Nepal has set a bad example for the people by its inability to manage the crisis
- Atul K Thakur
Rubble and realpolitik

Jun 6, 2015-

April 25 brought with it unimaginable destruction and proved to be a ‘doomsday’ for Nepal. Thousands died in the quake and many more were injured. The earthquake shook the nation and its people, who have been bereft of any sort of normalcy in their average day-to-day lives for a long time now, primarily because their chosen democratic representatives have been letting them down.

The losses the country incurred are just too big to be forgotten now or even in the long run. Sadly, Nepali politicians seem to be out of sync with the ground reality. Whereas ideally, they should be contributing more time and efforts in the aftermath of the disaster, they are busy hatching plans to maintain their hold over the power structure.

Political unwillingness

In fact, it was hard to see a political leader roll up his sleeves and dig his hands into the dirt in the aftermath of the quake.  It is possible that Nepali politicians feared people’s wrath. But even if their inaction did originate from their fear, they lost the opportunity to work for the people’s causes. The over-hyped claims about development just fizzled out like the bursts of cheap crackers in the quake’s aftermath.

Some leaders like KP Oli did try to emerge as heroes of the moment. However, in no time, it became obvious that they had the solid backing only of their own illusions—as they proved to be powerless in face of the situation. Oli should have known that it is the nation and the people who should be prioritised over personal and party interests.Similarly, the constant bickering between the parties and the endless compartmentalisation of a small nation’s affairs into many blocks further mocked the grim situation Nepal was facing. There was no reason to argue over the preferential treatment of any ethnic or political outfit when thousands had died and even those who had survived were not sure if they would live to see the next day.  Even if a headless democracy without constitution, Nepal deserves to have some elements of ‘realpolitik’ in its fold.

Thus, in the wake of the disaster, it was the people who were helping themselves and each other to pick up the pieces and move forward. Aid from around the world did reach the affected, but not before raising eyebrows from some quarters, and, in some cases, dragging to the forefront issues like endemic corruption and victims’ dignity.   

Questionable media

Additionally, in the absence of an effective government in Kathmandu, a handful of journalists seized the chance to burnish their self image, making it hard to determine if they were trying to inform the public or increase their public relation score. A stellar example of this was the unprofessional and insincere way in which some of the journalists working for the Indian media houses tried to play up the situation and treated the survivors, who were more interested in securing their basic needs, as mere news bytes. It was hardly surprising then that even Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s display of warm affection towards Nepal was seen critically.

Democracy, in its present format, is there to stay in Nepal for now, despite the disaster and despite the fact that those who are misusing the system and its founding tenets are not accountable to the people’s aspirations. But one cannot say what the future holds in such a tumultuous place.  

What the future holds

Democracy has reached to this stage in the country after undergoing a series of movements in the last 25 years, including the toppling of the monarchy after the Janaandolan II. The people voted for the republican system of governance expecting it to be the cure to the monarchial ills, not an addition to it. And since there is no reason for the people to delink themselves from the immediate history of the nation, Nepali politicians should not take it for granted that they are going to be in power forever.  

Nepal will be built again. But for the real rise to happen, its politics and politicians will have to be more accountable to the people.

For now, the prime minister and his cabinet colleagues should work to bring the country back on the track. Next, they should also deliver the elusive ‘constitution’ as soon as possible.

Thakur is a New-Delhi based journalist and writer

Published: 07-06-2015 07:57

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