Political chaosTensions currently engulfing Nepali politics could be a distraction created by the NCP to cover its shortcomings.
After almost six decades of political instability, Nepalis had hoped that having a stable government with a two-thirds majority in Parliament—which has been expected to last a full five-year term—would finally help us achieve the much touted dream of ‘Prosperous Nepal, Happy Nepali.’ However, the unfolding political events signal quite a different situation.
There perhaps has never been a situation similar to the present day in Nepali democratic history, where the opposition is so weak and in total disarray. Meanwhile, the Prime Minister seems to be more busy with book-launches and seminars than with actually running the country. According to the government’s progress reports, we have the most amicable relations with our immediate neighbours and other foreign friends. Remember, we are supposed to have railway linkages with China, waterway networks with India, and air linkages with everyone. However, in spite of this politically favourable situation—to the amazement of everybody—tensions are mounting in this mountainous country. The government has barely completed a year and there are already talks of a Cabinet reshuffle.
The Maoist faction headed by Comrade Biplav is in full fight mode. The number of general strikes called for have been on the rise. The Rastriya Janata Party Nepal (RJPN) has withdrawn its support for the government, and has been rumored to have courted the Federal Socialist Forum Nepal to do the same. This, along with the signing of the 11-point accord with CK Raut and the life imprisonment sentence of MP Resham Chaudhary, means that the Tarai may be in for a tense period.
The pro-monarchists, under the garb of Hindu nationalism, are rallying for a referendum on federalism and secularism, while the former king has been keeping busy worshipping Hindu shrines and temples: the political discourse remains silent on the matter.
For a political analyst, the chain of events is beyond comprehension. No distinct pattern can be observed. Take the case of Pushpa Kamal Dahal’s recent visit of the United States. Officially, he was there to support his ailing spouse through her medical treatment. Unofficially, however, his trip may have had other agendas. These could include attempts to garner American support to oust the Oli government, to apologise in some form for his careless comments on Venezuela, or to test America’s stance on the crimes committed during the decade long civil conflict.
Some analysts observe political changes as a product of a recurring decade-long pattern. That is, we are bound to have political changes after every decade. If this is true, and we have already cleared the decade that began with the People’s Movement II in 2006, we are in for some form of political reconstruction.
Others predict political changes to occur after big natural disasters. We have also passed this phase in 2015. Had it not been for the great earthquake in that year, we would perhaps still be drafting a constitution. Do we have mother nature to thank for pulling us out of the abyss that was the drafting process? What about the state of the economy? In a way, we are immune to economic shocks. The reason is that we have exported a large number of potentially dissenting unemployed youths to foreign lands. With the majority in Parliament and the numbers to potentially impeach anyone, the government seems immune to upheavals. In such a situation, where is the chaos and instability coming from?
One plausible explanation can be the upcoming Indian general elections. One can fairly assume tensions in Nepal, particularly the areas in the Tarai, are somewhat affected by the political winds blowing in from India. Such noises are not necessarily created by politicians in India, and are rather created by the politicians in Nepal. Politicians in Nepal seem to be signalling their counterparts in India that the noise they create can influence Indian politics as much as political noise in India finds itself influencing Nepal. Remember, the debates on the citizenship bill, the case of whether Nepal is a Hindu state or not, border encroachments and flaring up of Maoist activities inside Nepal—all have deep ramifications with the Southern neighbour. One political analyst has predicted that the two-thirds majority government is sure to fall once the elections are over in India, no matter which party comes to power. The ongoing political cacophony is to counter such a scenario.
Another explanation could be the distraction of opponents—both inside and outside the ruling party and the government. Unlike other creatures, politicians thrive and survive during times of chaos and disorder. They love to remain in ambiguity. Just read the deliberate use of the ambiguous words ‘Jana Abhimat’ in the 11-point accord signed with CK Raut. Imagine the ripples it created. It is far easy to invent a bigger problem to distract the process of solving an immediate problem. Perhaps all recent developments have been a ruse to distract us from the fact that the ruling party is not a unified, cohesive entity yet.
Manandhar is a freelance management consultant.