The ruling party has failed in rulingIt seems that constant infighting among ruling party leaders is severely disrupting governance.
It is a question that can and should legitimately be asked by all of us: Why does the entire country have to be on tenterhooks because of an internal party squabble that has absolutely no bearing whatsoever on any of the issues the country is grappling with. Yes, I am referring to the seemingly never-ending quest of Bamdev Gautam’s to return to power any which way he can, and the equally never-ending opposition to such a possibility by powerful sections of the ruling party.
If anyone wants to understand the chronology of this particular saga of Bamdev’s, the comment in setopati.com, ‘Bamdev Felled by the Two Chairpersons’ Assurances and Betrayals’, can prove a pretty comprehensive source. Gautam may be the main protagonist in that account but it is one that also lays bare the treacherous world of Nepali politics. There is no one in the story who stands out for anything resembling probity, driven as they all are by pure and simple self-interest. It is well known that Gautam, the recently inducted vice-chair of the ruling party, is haunted by the knowledge that he alone among his peers from the erstwhile Communist Party of Nepal (Marxist-Leninist) has not made it to the prime ministerial chair. Given that the remaining cast of characters in this drama are these same prime ministers, past and present, it provides for somewhat depressing reading as well. And depressing it was to read every morning, until this issue blew over, that the top honchos of the ruling party had been focused on outdoing one another in a game of political one-upmanship that would have no effect on us common folks.
Bamdev Gautam is not someone unknown to us, and nothing in his track record suggests his presumed prime ministership would be any better or worse than what we have experienced so far. During his first term as home minister and deputy prime minister in the mid-1990s, he tried his best to enact an anti-terrorism law aimed at controlling a still-budding Maoist insurgency, but that would also have seen our most prized fundamental rights at the mercy of the state. In fact, this same approach, which can be likened to someone with a hammer seeing nails everywhere, was also evident during one of his later tenures as home minister, when he made sure that all Kathmandu restaurants and nightclubs closed early—ostensibly in a bid to curb night-time crime. (Since this crackdown on nightlife coincided with the height of popularity in Nepal of the Indian yoga guru, Ramdev, a wit had then observed that life in Kathmandu had become onerous with Bamdev sending you to bed early and Ramdev waking you equally early.)
Claims have been made by his supporters about why it is essential for someone like him to be sent to Parliament. I have now come to agree with this line of thinking not because, as outlined above, Gautam is no miracle-maker, but because having him in Parliament would stave off unnecessary disruptions like the one the entire country had to experience together. Just as in hindsight, it was probably our bad luck that the other equally ambitious politician, the current Prime Minister, KP Sharma Oli, was forced to stay on the sidelines during the first Constituent Assembly (CA). The persona of the dog in the manger he adopted, Oli did everything he could to delegitimise the first CA and the progressive agenda of the time through actions such as encouraging the politicisation of the army, raising the ethnonationalist rhetoric to a fervour, and coddling India. He succeeded so well that there has been no public discussion about his India connections of the time and he has instead cultivated credentials that can only be called anti-India.
Despite the massive mandate to lead the country he has not been able to rise to the occasion, revelling instead in the petty politicking that brought him to prominence in the first place. To take one very unfortunate example, it is a wonder that for someone who has all the time in the world to conduct lengthy parleys to secure his own political future, he has just not found the time to fill positions in the different commissions the constitution has mandated to realise a more just and equitable Nepal. The ‘Other Commissions’ mentioned in the constitution are seven in number: National Women’s Commission, National Dalit Commission, National Inclusion Commission, Adivasi Janajati Commission, Madhesi Commission, Tharu Commission and Muslim Commission. Since the Oli government was formed more than two years ago, not a single commissioner has been appointed to either the National Women’s Commission or the National Dalit Commission (see screengrabs alongside for what their websites look like) while the other five were granted a Chairperson each but with no one else appointed to support them with their work (and the chair of the Inclusion Commission has since resigned).
Even if it is known that the latter five commissions were included in the constitution as a sop to these marginalised groups in the rush to pass the constitution through the second Constituent Assembly CA, one would have expected some kind of formality at least in terms of filling all the positions demanded. That these five commissions are an anathema to many in the ruling elite is no secret and the prime minister is no exception. But one does wonder why the women’s and Dalit commissions are having to bear the brunt of this antagonism even though they have been around since 2001. The prime minister could actually have filled all these positions had he sat down with cabinet colleagues instead of engaging in any one of those lengthy and meaningless diatribes he launched into without warning. Actually, that might have been possible even between the two birthday parties he found time to celebrate in Kathmandu and in his birthplace in Terhathum.
What jars is that Oli claims that he has no time to lose. That is partly because he says he is sick. Hopefully, the success of his second kidney transplant will enable the prime minister to see life in a different light and adopt a more generous attitude towards everyone—even Bamdev Gautam. For the country can scarcely afford distractions that have no rhyme or reason.
What do you think?
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