Mudslinging in Nepali politics has almost touched the sky, especially in the aftermath of the dissolution of the parliament.
The present leaders, especially the top brass of the communist party, have been saying things to each other which are embarrassing to the listeners than to the tellers. The mixing of negativity with humour, followed by sheer vituperation, is mostly unworthy of the leaders who had at one time donned the premiership of the country
The two factions of the Nepal Communist Party appear to be at daggers drawn with each other when both of them were hand in glove just three years back.
The other parties are also not wide off the mark in this political misbehaviour.
The people have been unfortunately caught in this crossfire as their developmental aspirations have been significantly damped by this unwarranted war of words.
This is occurring at a time when the country is passing through a grave crisis due to several factors but mainly because of COVID-19. In such a situation, the politicians should have been more sensitive to the plight of the people instead of indulging in factional fights. It led to the dissolution of the parliament, which is being questioned in the Supreme Court at the present.
The dumping of garbage like remarks at one another during the political rallies has violated all norms of political diplomacy. Diplomacy is about saying the worst of things in the best of the language, not the best of the things in the worst of the language.
Mudslinging can be defined as verbal attacks meted to the competitors.
Mudslinging or negative campaigning, however, has a long history, going as far back as before the Christian era.
In 64 BC, Quintus Tullius Cicero wrote to his brother running for the post of Consulate to indulge in negative campaigning in order to remind the people of what scoundrels the opponents were.
He also mentioned that this would provide an opportunity to smear them at every occasion with the crimes, sexual scandals and corruption that they were associated with.
Kirat King Patuko was reigning in Nepal approximately during that time. He is said to have his palacebehind Krishna Mandir of Patan, which is now under an earthen heap known as Patuko Dhisko.
He must also have faced fierce mudslinging from the Lichhavis as 800 Kirats are said to have died in the fight against them in the neighbourhood of Chyashal, Patan after the Licchavis resorted to pouring of wasps on the unfortunate Kirats. This is said to have occurred near the Kwalakhu Ganesh junction in Patan.
Mudslinging attained dizzy height in the United States when John Adams and Thomas Jefferson locked horns in the presidential election of 1800.
Through personal attacks in newspapers or secretly funded pamphlets, Americans were warned that murder, robbery, rape, adultery and incest would be openly practised if Jefferson were to win the election.
Jefferson hit back by saying that Adams was a hideous hermaphroditical character, lacking neither the firmness of man nor the gentleness of woman. Then King Rana Bahadur Shah in Nepal also must have practised intense negative campaigning with several people like Damodar Panday being sent to the gallows.
Donald Trump during his presidential campaign said that Hillary Clinton lacked the stamina required for the presidency of the United States when she collapsed in one of the election campaigns.
When he was the President, he practised mudslinging by labelling Barrack Obama as one of the weakest presidents of the United States, which even a few refused to agree.
He also uttered words like crooked Hillary, low energy Jeb, lying Ted and fake news.
It has been found that people give more weight to negative information compared to a positive one.
People invariably say that a glass is half empty and barely half full. So people indulge in negative campaigns to attain popularity.
Negativity or conflict increases even the newsworthiness of stories according to communication research.
It thus prompts journalists to report on negative news. Politicians thus revel in passing negative comments or at mudslinging.
There had been intense political rivalry in Nepal in the past also. But the actors always maintained the decorum. This is reflected in the statement of Ganesh Man Singh of the Nepali Congress in a reference to Tanka Prasad in one of the political rallies on the eve of the 2015 BS general election.
He said that people voting for Tanka Prasad would invite mishaps. His logic was that it would be dasa prakatam if his name was recited in reverse, meaning the occurrence of mishaps in the country. It drew huge laughter from the crowd.
Similarly, then Prime Minister Surya Bahaduar Thapa said that he would not be afraid of the paper tigers painted on the walls of the Belayati Baithak, then the parliament building.
He uttered these words when his opponents said that if the Prime Minister was shivering with fear by just looking at the mural painting of the tigers, how would he fare when he confronts real tigers like the opposition leaders? But the present leaders, especially the top brass of the communist party, have been saying things to each other which are embarrassing to the listeners than to the tellers.
The mixing of negativity with humour, followed by sheer vituperation, is mostly unworthy of the leaders who had at one time donned the premiership of the country.
The allegation of one leader over the other as a promoter of his off-springs and the response of not being childless speaks volumes about the mudslinging underway in Nepali politics.
Gates to heaven are believed to be closed for childless people, which everyone aspires after death in Nepali culture.
Politics is about projection of opposing views.
But it would be much better had it focussed on problems plaguing the country than on individual politicians.
Erring politicians should be targeted, but the observation of a minimum level of decency is expected by the people in the country rather than the washing of dirty political linen in public.
A version of this article appears in the print on February 15, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.