Old habits die hardWe are yet to see if the recent local elections bring about the much-desired change. But even as the first round has ended, it has allowed us to gauge the mood of the country. And it has left us with a few valuable lessons, too.
We are yet to see if the recent local elections bring about the much-desired change. But even as the first round has ended, it has allowed us to gauge the mood of the country. And it has left us with a few valuable lessons, too.
First, old habits die hard. It is hard to teach an old dog new tricks, especially so if it has already acquired a taste for wealth and power. Second, the whole hullabaloo about “hamro lai hoina ramro lai” turned out to be a sham used by politicians and voters alike. As the election results have made clear, we are yet to take the evolutionary leap and transform from sheep into human beings, at least when it comes to politics. Third, despite all the gloom and doom, a real change in people’s mindset is palpable, at least in the urban areas of the country.
Let us begin with the first lesson. Prachanda proved once again that he is better suited for where he was during the revolution than a civilised society. Although his allegiance to the values of democracy has always been shaky, think of the recent Supreme Court scandal, it broke all barriers this time around. While the whole country was watching with bated breath, a bunch of Maoist supporters destroyed ballot papers in Bharatpur. Reason? The prime minister’s daughter was falling behind her opponent.
The Maoist supremo, it seems, is yet to realise that the milk of human kindness which he curdled with the blood of tens of thousands of innocent Nepalis has bred hatred and disgust in many and that no amount of deceits or threats or political somersaults can wipe the stain off people’s memory. No, not even his partnership with the oldest democratic party in the country and its leader, Sher Bahadur Deuba, can redeem him and his party in the eyes of the people.
If the Bharatpur election was crucial for Prachanda to secure his political bloodline, it was a means for Deuba to ensure that the prime minister’s seat was his, even at the cost of his party, for the fourth time. Old habits die hard.
This brings us to the second lesson learned from the elections. Just as the leaders find it difficult to mend their ways, people, too, cling on to their old habits. Contrary to the popular belief that leading political parties might have to face a stiff resistance from new, better candidates this time around, most of those who stood for and won seats were the same old faces from the same old parties.
As they coasted to victory with little or no competition, it became clear that the roots of old political establishments run deep and wide in our country. The trickle-down effect of nepotism and corruption they have helped entrench, to ensure loyalty on part of their supporters, and promises they have distributed so freely means that it will take a long time and a lot of hard work to fell these old oaks.
The only ray of hope, which brings us to the third lesson, in this otherwise uninteresting episode was Kathmandu, where two new faces from recently established parties stood against candidates from the Nepali Congress and UML. Ranju Darsana and Kishor Thapa, from the Bibeksheel Nepali and Sajha Party, respectively, lost to Bidya Sundar Shakya from the UML, but not before giving their opponents a good run for their votes.
People like Thapa and Darsana are but little flies in the murky waters of Nepali politics ruled over by hoary giants who jealously guard the tradition of loot and favouritism handed down from the Ranas and Shahs. There was no way they could have won. But that does not mean they lost. They proved that the political tide in this country is finally turning; that some people are willing to consider alternatives to the status quo. We have to be grateful to them for that.