Another way

  • Nepal’s political elites are engaging in a ‘survival game’ instead of upholding the spirit of electoral politics
- Niranjan Koirala, Atul K Thakur

Apr 18, 2017-

The Nepal government’s handling of the Tarai issue is like Philippine President Duarte’s handling of drug addicts: The state creates a problem which forces people to become drug addicts, and then shoots them saying they are drug addicts. The alienation of the Tarai people from the centre was a problem created by Kathmandu years ago. It went from bad to worse over time. And now the illness has reached almost a terminal stage. Instead of accepting the fact, the state resorts to blaming the patient for the illness. We find this a case of total negligence and irresponsibility. It will be the ‘doctor’s fault’ if the patient dies.

The Kathmandu ruling elite should not play with fire by making ‘discriminatory citizenship’ a firm constitutional norm. Madhesis look forward to ‘better representation’ in all walks of life for themselves. They want to prove effectively that their aspirations are aligned with the finer ideas of nation and nationalism. A profound sense of belonging to the country, which firmed with a ‘shared past’, qualifies a Madhesi to be identified as a common Nepali citizen.

A clear trend

For one nation, there has to be single citizenship. Further, any twists and turns would make the problems of this tiny country become extra large. Offering lip service or half-willingly making a few technical changes in the controversial constitution is apparently not helping the cause. In order to keep the house in order, narrow considerations have to be abandoned. As ideology holds secondary importance for Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda in his attempt to avoid the treatment of the law against his past, he is finding his ‘rescue route’ in supporting the strong political oligarchy of Kathmandu. 

The trend is very clear, and one can read it on the wall: Nepal’s political elites are engaging in a “survival game” instead of upholding the spirit of electoral politics.

Nepal is now at an unusual crossroads by betraying genuine demands for constitutional amendments. This is likely to fuel reactionary tendencies in the Madhesi Morcha, which is a unit without cohesion of a few dangerously ambitious leaders. Surviving on directionless activism and thriving on paranoid anger, they know how to score well in their favour. Since the abolition of the monarchy and Nepal’s transformation into a ‘near republic’, Madhes-based parties have been enjoying extraordinary support on the ground. People shifted their loyalty to resist medievalist tendencies among Kathmandu’s political elites, but they attained nothing except dangerous polarisation and fake revolutionary promises.

Fool’s paradise 

In order to find an alternative in Nepali politics, the Nepali Congress (NC) has to regain lost ground in the Tarai. The NC will have to reinvent itself if it does not want to go into oblivion. One way is to aggressively project itself as a truly national socialist party by seriously taking up the genuine issues that relate to the Madhesi movement. For Nepal’s democracy-in-transition, the NC remains the bedrock of politics, and it’s the lone pacifier that can run the show. Its revival will be a bright spot for the country.

Baburam Bhattarai’s Naya Shakti is giving too many reasons for him to move away from the original impulses that initially drove the Maoist party. He should show a certain degree of political maturity by sticking to the development agenda. Naya Shakti appears to be more promising than its peers in solving the country’s pressing ills. Bhattarai is someone capable of understanding the structural weaknesses of Nepal where industrialisation was never given its due. Sajha Party, a newly launched party by former BBC journalist Rabindra Mishra, gives hope as well. Course correction is the need of the hour, and if a political coalition aims to take on that mantle and support it with deeds, it deserves a chance.

Poverty, hunger, inequality, 

unemployment, migration, exploitation and a low Human Development Index (HDI)—these are the challenges before Nepal. The NC along with Naya Shakti and a splinter group of progressive Madhesi leaders should come to terms with them. Stepping into an ethnicity cobweb or forging an unholy nexus with political opportunists in the hills or the Tarai will not provide mileage for anyone. What will make a leader tall is being committed to basic causes and fulfilling mass aspirations. 

Political overplay is a detested thing, and it should worry all political players who have messed up the country beyond imagination. Kathmandu needs to offer something much better to the whole of Nepal, as the people don’t live in a fool’s paradise. Nepal today needs more than ever before an idealist and a visionary like Bishweshwar Prasad Koirala and a statesman like Man Mohan Adhikari. Amid a looming crisis, relooking at the political fundamentals clearly shows that an urgent progressive political experimentation is needed. The NC should come to the forefront with other like-minded parties. The time is now. 


Koirala is a senior member of the Nepali Congress; Thakur is a New Delhi-based journalist and author

Published: 18-04-2017 08:10

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