Nepal | October 22, 2020

Nepal’s war on multiple fronts: Saviour needed

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So what is the way forward in such times of uncertainty? Some personalities who have earned credibility should steer the sinking ship out of the troubled waters. This will not only awaken the government and opposition from their deep slumber but also pave the way for the emergence of a viable alternative to the governing and opposition parties, which is so lacking in democratic Nepal at the present

Nepal is at the receiving end of multiple whammies, one of them being political irresponsiveness and the other being the pandemics at the moment.

The political irresponsiveness is glaringly seen in the infighting spree in the ruling party that has been going on for more than six months now. The political leaders have been so absorbed in a mudslinging campaign that it has been shameful even to the spectators.

Differences are bound to surface in a political party, but they are best addressed in closed circles.

The second is the corona pandemic, which has brought the country on its knees with the ever increasing infection and the accompanying deaths.

What is frightening is that it has now entered the capital city that has almost 4 million people. The government appears to be in a state of honky dory despite the enormous sufferings of the people.

A fleeting glance through the political history of Nepal will reveal that the Nepali people have always been taken for a ride despite their steadfast adherence to democracy and liberty.

The people fought shoulder to shoulder in the National Revolution in the early Fifties, but the party that swept the country in the polls was dumped by King Mahendra, nipping the nascent democracy in the bud. It ultimately led to the banning of multi-party democracy. What followed was the partyless Panchayat democracy that functioned with handpicked politicians lacking the people’s popular support.

In its three decades of existence, it could not distribute anything more than sweet nothings.

The people again rose to restore multiparty democracy in the Nineties, but the failure to offer good governance to the people gave birth to the Maoist rebellion.

It drove the country in a state of coma for almost a decade. The absolute monarchy raised its ugly head as it had in the Sixties and put the parliamentary leaders behind bars. The people again rallied behind the coalition of the parliamentary as well as rebelling forces, heralding the country to an era of Republican Nepal.

The constitution was drafted by a Constituent Assembly, and the King was ejected this time to a point of no return. The national elections were held, and the Nepal Communist Party was given a throbbing twothirds majority by the people.

People had great expectations from this government. They thought that it would rid the country of the stigmatic poverty so rife everywhere and bring changes in its face and façade. But the government could do nothing substantive.

Its leaders reveled in making empty slogans aided by proverbs and folklore, which gave the impression of an open air humorous rendezvous more than serious nation-building.

If this is the state of the government, the state of the opposition, the government in waiting, is still worse. It does not seem to have yet recovered from the worst ever defeat in the election by an astronomical margin. Instead of coming bravely out of the ashes and enacting the role of the classical mythic bird, the phoenix, it has gone into doldrums. Its septuagenarian leaders are still at each other’s throats, little knowing that the ship that they have boarded is heading for the fate of the Titanic.

Nepal could have handled the pandemic much better. New Zealand has shown how the corona pandemic is yet another paper tiger if approached properly. New Zealand is not a solitary reaper in this regard. Vietnam has done exceedingly well in combatting the pandemic.

Whilst they mobilized the party volunteers for this job, their counterparts in Nepal spent time doing virtually nothing. Whilst the lockdown period was primarily for preparing for the worse to come, the government got mired in the morass of controversial bills that also dragged the revered office of the President.

Instead of mobilising the existing institutional mechanism, it put in place a quixotic high sounding committee, which was unfamiliar with the prevailing rules and regulations of the country. Whatever little headway made in this respect smelled foul marked with irregularity and corrupt practices. No wonder then that the kits received for the testing of the pandemic were incompatible and not fit for use.

Despite such a horrendous state of affairs in the country, the topmost leaders of the reigning political party are engaged in an endless feud even now.

What is surprising is that there is no dearth of other leaders providing chorus to the gruesome duet song of the towering leaders.

The fringe parties generally come in the rescue of the country in such difficult times. But they are no better than multi-headed chimeras fighting with one another for supremacy in the party. The civil society is another likely saviour in such times of crisis. But they are like the ivory towers not coming together and presenting the much needed sense of direction to the government.

So what is the way forward in such times of uncertainty? Some personalities who have earned credibility should steer the sinking ship out of the troubled waters. But these personalities are focussing on significant but petty issues from a national perspective.

Dr. Govinda KC has just ended his umpteenth round of hunger strike. Another personality Kul Man Singh Ghishing is still seeking to be the managing director of Nepal Electricity Authority. In fact, such personalities should form a viable alternative to the parties headed by the government and the opposition.

Jaya Prakash Narayan had precisely done this back in the Seventies in India when the country was in similar disarray. No wonder then that he was known as Lok Nayak. This will not only awaken the government and opposition from their deep slumber but also pave the way for the emergence of an alternative to the governing and opposition parties, which is so lacking in democratic Nepal at the present.

A version of this article appears in print on October 14, 2020 of The Himalayan Times.

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