Print Edition - 2015-12-24 | Oped
- The Nepali political class has yet to embrace the value of meritocracy
Dec 24, 2015-
Home Minister Shakti Basnet admitted that he had erred in sending, among other CPN-UML and UCPN (Maoist) favourites, his daughters and Pushpa Kamal Dahal’s granddaughter to China to attend an earthquake-related programme instead of genuine quake victims. This is a miracle because our politicians hardly ever admit that they have made a mistake. Basnet actually ‘apologised’ to the UCPN (Maoist) Central Committee.
For his part, Pushpa Kamal Dahal said that he did not know that his granddaughter was visiting China. We might have believed him if he had not committed any acts of nepotism in the past.
When Dahal was the prime minister in 2009, during his visits to Norway and Finland, he appointed his son Prakash as his secretary. Had Dahal understood meritocracy, he should have advertised for such a post and invited open competition. Instead, as his secretary, Prakash visited those two countries at the government’s expense only because he happened to be the prime minister’s son.
Later, when the UCPN (Maoist) leader Baburam Bhattarai became prime minister, Prakash joined the ‘Lumbini-Sagarmatha Peace Mission 2012’, Everest expedition team of the UCPN (Maoist), for which the government was ready to provide Rs 20 million. Prakash claimed that this Everest-ascent would help to accelerate the promulgation of the new constitution! Because of public criticism, the expedition did not accept the money. Bhattarai as prime minister, who had earned a good reputation as finance minister in Dahal’s government, spent billions of rupees on the party’s cadres and trivial concerns.
Though Bhattarai thundered while giving speeches, he could not survive pressure from his wife Hisila. Through free competition, Prayag Lal Joshi had won the position of Chairman of Kathmandu Upatyaka Khanepani Limited. Joshi had 30 years of experience in the drinking water sector. Barely 11 months later, he had to surrender the post to Timila Yami. While Joshi presided as an expert, Timila qualified as the sister of the prime minister’s wife.
The Nepali Congress fares just as badly on nepotism. The late Girija Prasad Koirala, while serving as the chief executive, shocked many when he proposed that the country should have a female prime minister. The candidate for the post was none other than his daughter Sujata Koirala. This lady may indeed become the prime minister of our country someday. Since her father is no longer alive to pull strings on her behalf, when Sujata does one day reside in Baluwatar, it will be because of her political skills, not nepotism.
The Vice-President of Nepali Congress, Ram Chandra Paudel, gained notoriety for pressurising the Cabinet in 2014 to appoint his son Chintan Poudel as the Executive Vice-Chairman of Poor Family Identity Card Management Board. The UML ministers in the Cabinet did not know Chintan was Ram Chandra’s son. It would have been much better if Chintan, an MBA graduate from India, had secured the post through free competition.
Previously, Ram Chandra Paudel had succeeded in winning his in-law Yubaraj Bhusal the post of the Nepal Administrative Staff College Chief. Similarly, Paudel tried hard to get a prominent position for his relative Parameshwor Pokhrel.
Sher Bahadur Deuba got his wife into Parliament though someone else had won the proportional representation vote. Some Madhesi parties have followed his example, and thus we have women parliamentarians who would rather knit than endure politics. UML’s lawmaker Rajya Laxmi Golchha has admitted that the party chose her mainly for the money she could provide.
We can excuse the Rana rulers for promoting nepotism because their survival depended on getting their relatives and ‘yes-men’ to become loyal cronies. Kings showered favours on sycophants who helped preserve their autocratic rule. Tej Bahadur Prasain states that during her visit to Nepal, Queen Elizabeth had brought a medal for Prime Minister BP Koirala. King Mahendra had already sacked BP before the queen’s arrival. So the Zonal Executive Officer Bishnumani Aacharya received the medal meant for BP because he had carried Mahendra’s letter to Ratna Rajya Laxmi and her epistles to Mahendra before they got married.
During the time of king Birendra and Gyanendra, some people gained prominence as power brokers because they were related to the royal family. In his book, Maile Dekheko Darbar, Vivek Kumar Shah writes that Sarad Chandra Shah went to Bangalore to fetch Tulsi Giri for king Gyanendra. In return, Sarad received larger royal favours than his superiors.
During the Panchayat days, getting into the Royal Nepal Army or the Nepal Police and moving up the ranks meant knowing the right seniors. One Army officer quit in disgust because in spite of the various trainings he had taken, he remained a major for 20 years and could not find favour either in the eyes of his generals or their ‘ranisahibs’ (wives) to earn a promotion.
Old habits die hard
In his classic, Fatalism and Development, Dor Bahadur Bista argued that the ‘aafno manche’ (my person) mentality prevails in our society and hinders progress. Democracy relies on meritocracy to flourish. Nepotism promotes despair because it bypasses worthy people. Many Nepalis have gone overseas because they did not find fairness in their own country.
Nepali politicians, both communists and socialists, have yet to treasure meritocracy. The Maoist Home Minister Shakti Basnet is not the first one to practice nepotism nor will he be the last. The quicker our politicians value meritocracy, the stronger will be our democracy.
Khatry is executive director of Association for Theological Education in Nepal
Published: 24-12-2015 09:49