Why vote?

  • I will never endorse anyone blindly; my endorsement will depend on past records and personal demeanour
- Pramod Mishra

Nov 9, 2017-The million-dollar question of who I should vote for in the upcoming parliamentary election stands before me, and I am sure many of you are facing a similar dilemma. I also know that many others have already made their decisions, for either the right or wrong reasons. A right reason would be casting a vote for a particular candidate who belongs to a party, and therefore who carries the party’s policies, ideology, and programmes that the voter finds appealing. It may also be the case that many others would vote for a specific candidate, despite the fact that the party to which the candidate belongs may not be worthy of one’s vote. But in many cases, both the party and the candidate would hold enormous promise for an individual. In such cases, the voter would be either a hardbound party worker who is lucky to have found a candidate to his or her liking, or a swing voter enamoured now by emerging parties and their clean and idealistic candidates.  

History speaks

In this election, I may have my own favourites, but I will never endorse anyone blindly. My endorsement will be based on how a party and its candidates can address and resolve the country’s intractable problems and restore the common Nepali’s faith in the electoral system, the political parties and, most importantly, the politicians. I will make this decision based on past records and personal demeanour.

The nature of democratic politics means that politicians are generally reviled by one group of people or another. However, in Nepal, the general public has come to have a deep antipathy towards political parties and their politicians, especially since the advent of the multiparty system. They believe that the environment of open Nepali politics is so corrosive that whoever joins it is corrupted and compromised. And very frequently they give the examples of the Maoists.  In fact, even Baburam Bhattarai has come to be viewed as a man who has lost his bearings and compromised his values. 

Many told me this past summer that I didn’t need to idolise Bhattarai, because I don’t know the full story. It is one thing for people who, for their allegiance to the ancient regime, their class, their historic loss due to the transformation the 2006 People’s Movement brought about to the Nepali political landscape and due to BRB’s policies to hate him, but it’s quite another if serious journalists begin to question the integrity of a man who turned his back on what might have been a quick road to riches had he chosen a straightforward career path after his stellar records as a student. It is because of his early history that I endorse BRB’s candidacy, despite his inability to inspire the hearts and minds of people since his departure from the Maoist party. BRB has much to offer to Parliament and to public policy in terms of resolving Nepal’s intractable problems.  

For the country 

The records of most Madhesi politicians have not been stellar. In the past, many have tarnished their image by indulging in corruption, nepotism, and factionalism to the extent of splitting their parties and, therefore, weakening the cause of the marginalised. Many don’t know how to articulate their policies and programs effectively in the media and most fail to sell them successfully even to their own constituencies to garner votes. Save for a handful of Madhesi politicians whose merits far outweigh their shortcomings, I didn’t have high opinions about them. Yet, their cause is genuine. Their struggle for the rights of the marginalised to make Nepal’s public sphere an equal playing field is worthy of accolade. What the Maoists abandoned midway, the Madhesis have taken up. The rights for equality of the Madhesis, the Pahadi janjatis, the Dalits and women depend on the successful outcome of their struggle. Besides, they have in the past months shown signs of learning from their past mistakes and have begun to form alliances, leaving behind chasms of caste, creed and clan. Thus, by virtue of their cause and their taking to heart the lessons of the recent past, they earn my endorsement, and they are deserving of the endorsement of all others who want the marginalised to have an equal playing field in Nepal.

For long I have thought that the new generation of anglophone, foreign-educated and experienced Nepalis had no role in Nepali politics. The bureaucracy and the judiciary belonged to the lower middle class Bahuns from the hills who were raised on gundruk bhat and the Bhanubhakta Ramayan, the security forces to the Rana-Shah-Chhetri elite of Kathmandu even though the rank-and-file came from the janjati groups. And politics belonged to the older generation of lower middle and middle class hill castes who struggled against the Rana oligarchy and Panchayat autocracy, and then to their sons who were raised in Nepali-medium schools and colleges, doing politics and getting beaten up by the police and going to jail rather than burning the midnight oil studying books and excelling in intellectual pursuits. In this scenario, the English-medium schooled, America-, Australia- and Europe-educated progeny of the middle class who eventually returned to Nepal were nowhere to be seen. To be sure, some became journalists, intellectuals and corporate honchos but their role in policy making was all but nil.  

They possess innocent hearts, their minds have been nurtured on world fiction and non-fiction, very often on overseas university campuses, their souls are not yet corrupted by their fathers’ roles in the old regime, and they have the idealism to do something about the chaos the main parties have created. For these reasons I endorse the Bibeksheel Sajha party. It is true that they have yet to walk through the muddy Madhesi villages with bare feet, or through the uphill-downhill of hills and mountains for work and struggle, but it is also true that with their head above the dirt and filth of traditional Nepali party politics, and their hearts as yet unsoiled by expediency of state power, they have much to offer if they bring to use their global outlook and local commitment while keeping alive their innocence.  

It is my hope that young leaders of the three main parties will win seats, but I do not want the parties to which they belong to win a substantial number of seats in the election. What I also hope for is that the dinosaur party leaders lose in the elections so that they can honourably retire as early as possible. And instead of ruling the country, can make morning constitutionals and evening prayers to whomever they may wish, be it Marx, Mao or Mahadev.

- Mishra is department Chair of English Studies at Lewis University in the United States

Published: 09-11-2017 08:09

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