Heil comrade Supremo!Oli emerged as the direct beneficiary of the wave of xenophobia and jingoism sweeping over Nepal.
The Delhi elections were keenly watched in Kathmandu. Most Nepali observers, however, seemed to have misread the underlying message of the verdict—the real winner of the polls was the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and its ideology of belligerent Hindutva. A pious Hanuman-bhakta triumphed over the tired group of Ram-bhaktas. There is nothing strange in such an occurrence. In Hindu mythologies, it’s perfectly normal for presiding deities to concede defeat in their contests with dedicated devotees.
By allowing the Gujarati team of Narendra Modi and Amit Shah lose crucial polls in the national capital, the RSS Chief Mohan Bhagwat succeeded in sending at least three unambiguous messages. It seems the RSS is now looking for a new line-up of political leaders from the cow belt to strengthen its stranglehold in the populous states of Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Bihar. Modi and Shah have served their purpose exceedingly well and have become expendable.
Even though the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is the political arm of RSS, proponents of Hindutva are more interested in establishing ideological hegemony. That can only happen when leaders of the opposition also begin to flaunt their sacred thread, recite the Hanuman Chalisa and practice majoritarian politics. Occupying the oppositional space is an essential component of ideological domination.
Last but not least; the RSS has succeeded in demonstrating that the ideologies of political economy have little meaning in Indian politics. Secularism, which has been one of the foundational principles of the Indian constitution, has become more or less superfluous as politicos vie with each other in displaying their religiosity. Socialism has lost its appeal but few have the courage to openly vouch for classic capitalism as the ruling party in India swears by the Swadeshi economy.
Despite his impressive victory, Arvind Kejriwal has been reduced to the level of a municipal leader mainly concerned with issues of local development and public welfare. De-monetisation demobilised soldiers of free-market fundamentalism. The reconstitution of Jammu and Kashmir, the introduction of Citizens’ Amendment Act (CAA), and the implementation of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) have together delimited political space. No matter how freely political parties move within these boundaries, the ideology of RSS shall reign supreme.
Meanwhile, in Nepal, Prime Minister KP Oli asserted that he has done quite well over the last two years in office. Implicit in his contention is the assumption that the persona of a politician is more important than their performance.
The claims of the prime minister about ‘index and impression’ aren’t baseless. His two years in office should be judged on the basis of what was expected of him rather than what he actually promised to deliver.
Physically ailing, politically failing and psychologically insecure, the dotard at Baluwatar was impressed upon by his cronies in 2015 that fast-tracking a divisive charter in the middle of the Gorkha earthquake aftershocks will ensure his place in history.
BP Koirala is known to be the pathfinder of parliamentary democracy. GP Koirala spearheaded the republican order. Sushil Koirala wanted to be the ‘father of the constitution’ in a hurry and committed political hara-kiri in the process.
Irrelevance of liberal democracy is the underlying theme of the statute which seeks to institutionalise ethnonationalism even when paying lip service to inclusivity and federalism. Supremo Oli emerged as the direct beneficiary of the wave of xenophobia and jingoism sweeping over the constitutionally-created Khas-Arya group in the wake of the 2015 earthquake. That’s the reason he should be judged on the basis of expectations from him as the chieftain of an ethnonational group in office, rather than that of the chief executive.
On the social front, the Supremo has managed to strengthen the cross-party fraternity of the dominant ethnicity. Many supporters of Nepali Congress are more loyal to him than their own faction-leaders in the Grand Old Party, now flirting with Hindutva. He has succeeded in fragmenting Madheshi unity, sowing seeds of self-doubt in the minds of Janajati activists and shattering Dalit aspirations for equality and justice. That’s no mean achievement for an ethnonational chieftain.
Oli’s political accomplishments are equally illustrious. He has proved that the former Maoists have only a secondary role in the political outfit rechristened as the Nepal Communist Party (NCP). Congress has been forced to accept a supportive position and negotiate for its meagre share of crumbs from the resources of the state. Upendra Yadav of Samajbadi Party stands politically dishonoured, and the image of Rastriya Janata Party Nepal stalwart Rajendra Mahato has been irrevocably soiled for nothing.
The Supremo gauged early on in 2010 that the civil society of White Shirt variety held Congress in utter contempt, considered the-then UML to be a shield of Maoists but feared Pushpa Kamal Dahal. He has been able to convince them that he is the last person standing between the rehabilitation of Sher Bahadur Deuba and re-establishment of Dahal in body politic. Caught in a bind, the bien pensant of Kathmandu is ready to forgive KP Oli’s thousand failings to stop Dahal from retaking the political centre-stage.
Despite slurs that the Supremo keeps heaping upon the media, it helps him find scapegoats and shield the image of their ethnonational chieftain from direct censure. The self-declared human rights community of the country is happily helping Supremo Sharma Oli in intra-party contestations by focusing solely on violations perpetrated by the Maoists. Security forces committed far more excesses during the decade-long armed conflict and subsequent Madhes uprisings.
As long as remittances keep flowing in, no Nepali politico needs to worry too much about the economy of the country. There are some simple formulae that the apologists of the regime have perfected to an art form. If investments fail, blame federalism. Local governments can be found guilty of buying too many ball pens and indulging in extravagance even when federal ministers routinely fly around in helicopters.
Corruption is what the other politicians do; it’s par for the course in crony capitalism of ‘Oli-garchs’. The mascot of Visit Nepal Year 2020, an imaginative samurai-lookalike that should be called ‘oli-yeti,’ is the perfect symbol of crony capitalism and the power of the plutocrats in appropriating public property.
There is an inverse relationship between the size of a country and the importance of its external relations. Realising the centrality of foreign policy for the longevity of his rule, the Oli has perfected the fine art of looking London, talking Washington and firmly walking towards Beijing. He has managed to garner near-consensus in the country for the pro-China tilt in Nepal's foreign policy.
Apparent anti-Hindutva has managed to placate the Western lobby, something that the Chinese endorse whole-heartedly. Indians needn't worry as long as Brahmins control the reins in Kathmandu. After all, hasn't Pushpa Kamal Dahal turned out to be a worshipper of buffaloes and an ardent acolyte of public performer Jaggi Vasudev?
It is his own success that the Supremo needs to fear rather than his failings. It’s all quiet on the political front. Oli needs to pay attention to his personal health and wait until the Permanent Establishment of Nepal (PEON) finds a suitable alternative.
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