A forgettable yearLeaders have turned politics into a rat race, whose endpoint is Baluwatar.
As we have long been used to doing, we welcomed the year 2021 with little hope about our politics, economy or social life changing for the better. As we bid adieu to the year, there is little we are going to miss about it. We might miss the political drama that kept us distracted amidst the gloomy second wave of the pandemic, but we would rather that something positive happened to us other than the coronavirus.
We started off on a low note, with KP Sharma Oli dissolving Parliament at the fag end of the previous year after a failed attempt at keeping control of the twin positions of party chair and prime minister. After the Supreme Court invalidated his "unconstitutional" move, he was expected to act sensibly. But he continued to up the ante against the parliamentary process, dissolving Parliament for a second time in May. The Supreme Court came to the rescue once again, defenestrating Oli and bringing in Sher Bahadur Deuba as prime minister. But it soon became clear that the top court's dealings were fudgy too—at least in terms of the allegations of moral corruption levelled against Cholendra Shumsher Rana. As we welcome a new year, we continue to be haunted by the worry that all is not well with our judiciary, which is a pre-eminent institution tasked with upholding democracy.
But then, nothing seems to have been right in the year gone by. Like in the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic, the government seemed helpless and hopeless even as thousands of people died as hospitals ran out of oxygen and medical staff tended to patients in the corridors. As we stare at a possible third wave, the government seems to be as clueless as ever when it comes to preparing in advance, and the people as careless as ever when it comes to maintaining minimum safety precautions. Thankfully, 33 percent of the people have been inoculated as of today, which might be helpful to prevent mass-scale deaths like before. But a third wave, which will possibly be brought about by the Omicron variant, might be equally, if not more, disastrous to the economy and social life. And yet, there is no indication that we have learnt any lesson from our past disasters.
If the conventions of the country's political parties are any indication, little has changed in terms of making the top leaders accountable for their misadventures. The CPN-UML convention ended up making Oli ever more powerful, the Nepali Congress convention showed Sher Bahadur Deuba continues to rule the roost although a few young leaders dented Deuba's plans to exercise total control over the party, and the Maoist Centre showed little inclination to revamp itself, although some questions have been raised about Pushpa Kamal Dahal's continued hold over the party for over three decades.
If politics failed to exude any confidence in the people about a better future, so did the incidents of continued violence against socially marginalised communities. Dalits continue to be punished for marrying outside the caste, women continue to face violence and discrimination, and the poor continue to struggle to put food on the table. It is as if, like the mythical character of Sisyphus, we the people are condemned to "ceaselessly rolling a rock to the top of a mountain, whence the stone would fall back of its own weight". At the end of the year, we are at the foot of the mountain again, and the only option we have is to start our upward move all over again—perhaps with the hope that each of our journeys towards the top is a notch better than the previous one.